Guess Which Came First: The Movie or the Play?
They may be on opposite coasts, but Hollywood and Broadway have always intermingled. With plays making their way to the big screen and feature films being adapted to the stage, can you guess how each of these stories started?
Danny and Sandy’s high school romance is one for the ages, with an iconic soundtrack that clearly worked well for both stage and screen. But where, oh where, did the Pink Ladies and T-Birds strut their stuff first? According to the Internet Broadway Database (IBDB), Grease first landed on Broadway in 1972, while the feature film version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John didn’t hit theaters until 1978. Fun fact: Jeff Conaway, best known as Kenickie in the movie, was the understudy for Danny Zuko and a host of other male characters when it debuted as a musical. Find out if this classic made the top 10 best musicals of all time.
With music by the incomparable Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sunset Boulevard wowed audiences on Broadway beginning in 1994 at the Minskoff Theater. The film, however, premiered 44 years earlier in 1950, starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden. It makes sense that a Hollywood story would have laid its roots in Tinseltown, but the masterful drama always seemed destined for the live stage.
Based on the New York City newsboy strike of 1899, Newsies feels like a musical that would have origins on Broadway. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. The story, directed by Kenny Ortega of Dirty Dancing fame, first enamored audiences on the big-screen in 1992, which a young Christian Bale among its stars. The musical didn’t arrive on the stage until 2014, with music by Alan Menken.
The 2006 feature film Dreamgirls made a star of American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson and allowed Beyonce to test her acting chops alongside Jamie Foxx. Although the movie made a huge impact on audiences, it was actually based on the 1981 Broadway musical of the same name. According to IBDB, Dreamgirls had its opening night on December 21 at the Imperial Theatre in New York. Feeling a little behind on your Broadway musical knowledge? Here are 20 classic productions worthy of your time.
Ricki Lake was the first actress to take a turn as Tracy Turnblad, the vivacious teenager who feels empowered to educate 1960s Baltimore on integration. But did Ricki first play the role on film or the stage? Hairspray, directed by John Waters, landed in theaters in 1988. The Broadway musical didn’t kick off until August 2002 at the Neil Simon Theatre. It dazzled audiences until the curtains closed in 2009.
West Side Story
“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way” to the Great White Way where the musical made its 1957 debut at the Broadway Theatre. The film adaptation didn’t hit theaters until 1961; it starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as Maria and Tony, respectively. The musical has been brought back to Broadway many times over the years, taking home two Tonys in 1958 for Best Choreography and Best Scenic Design, according to Broadway World. If you love the show, you really need to read about how West Side Story led to a couple’s own forbidden love story.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Set in New York City during the Roaring ’20s, the story follows the life and times of one Millie Dillmount who has embraced life as a “modern” gal in style but sets her sights on marrying her wealthy boss. Julie Andrews originated the role of Millie in the 1967 feature film whose tagline touted it as “The Happiest Motion Picture of the Year!” Decades later, in 2002, Thoroughly Modern Millie found a home on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre.
Where did audiences first fall in love with Once, a musical about a couple who craft beautiful songs that detail their romance? If this one has you stumped, you’re not alone. The sweet story screams both Hollywood and Broadway, but the big-screen got it first. The film premiered in 2007 but the stage show didn’t debut until 2012, enjoying a three-year run plus a touring production. Check out our list of the best movie-musicals of all time.
It’s almost impossible not to think of Barbra Streisand when you hear the title Funny Girl. She’s synonymous with the lead character Fanny Brice, which earned her a Best Actress Oscar (she tied with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter). But before she earned the Academy Award, Streisand starred as Fannie on Broadway, originating the role in the stage version in 1964.
A musical comedy about the trials and tribulations of Broadway must have started on the stage, right? Nope: 42nd Street began as a Hollywood motion picture in 1933, becoming an instant classic. It wasn’t until 1980 that the story jumped off the big-screen and onto the stage at the Majestic Theatre. The show enjoyed a revival in 2001 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.
While 42nd Street provided some incredible music, learn more about these movies with outstanding soundtracks.
A Raisin in the Sun
A poignant story about an impoverished black family living in the Southside of Chicago, A Raisin in the Sun made its Broadway debut in March 1959. Playwright Lorraine Hansberry adapted the piece for film, and it premiered on the big screen in 1961. The movie, which starred the legendary Sidney Poitier, was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards in 1962, but it failed to take home a statue.
This Kevin Bacon vehicle had audiences tapping their toes and singing along with its quintessential ’80s soundtrack. Footloose opened in movie theaters in 1984. The cult classic even inspired a remake in 2011—but it hit Broadway in October 1998, premiering at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Here are classic 80s movies that everyone should watch.
Meet Me in St. Louis
Meet Me in St. Louis has that sort of old-timey style that feels perfectly suited to Broadway. But, no—the Judy Garland flick was on MGM’s slate of films released in 1944. A Broadway production didn’t appear until 1989 and, in fact, only enjoyed 252 performances before closing approximately seven months later in 1990, according to IBDB. If you’re a Broadway buff, don’t miss these 10 hidden lessons from beloved musicals.