10 Musical Films Completely Different From The Live Show

Broadway is home to some of the most extravagant and decadent musicals the world has ever seen. However, with travel costs to factor in and rising ticket prices, not all musical theater fans can afford to see their favorite shows live on the Great White Way. However, Hollywood has no shortage of film adaptations of these stage sensations, with some being named the best musicals ever made and added to the National Film Registry.

RELATED: Top 10 Most Influential Musicals Of All Time, Ranked

That being said, not every stage-to-screen adaptation of a Broadway musical can truly capture the live theater experience. While some film adaptations remain faithful, others have completely changed the plot (and therefore the purpose) of the stage version.

Rock of Ages (2012)

On paper, rock of ages should have been a fairly easy musical to adapt. It’s a musical jukebox that surrounds rockstars, a grungy nightclub, and all the neon, spandex hair ties of the 80s. While some viewers favor the film adaptation of rock of agesthose who have seen the original musical might disagree.

As Rappler reported, there are key differences between stage production and big-screen adaptation. The film focuses more on Stacee Jaxx – played by Tom Cruise – rather than the romance between Drew and Sherrie. The German villains of the stage show are replaced by religious fanatics. There are new characters not present in the original, including Bryan Cranston’s Major Whitmore and his wife Patricia, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Most notable of all, however, is how the film waters down the content to maintain its PG-13 rating. For fans of the original musical, the film is a sanitized take on the rock and roll they know and love.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (2016)

Reeve Carney in Rocky Horror Picture Show

The 2016 remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show was the definition of chance. While it was interesting to see elements of the ’70s musical and movie together, there were a few creative choices that took way too far away from the experience that hardcore fans know and love.

RELATED: 5 Reasons The Original Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Is The Best (& 5 Things The TV Remake Did Better)

As noted by IndieWire, while new cast members like Laverne Cox have been able to put a new stamp on classic characters, the made-for-TV adaptation has often tried to lessen the shock factor of the original content by editing and by modifying sections. Kenny Ortega’s adaptation shares more similarities to the 1975 film than the original stage production, leading to a somewhat hazy take on the musical.

Into the Woods (2014)

Hello, little girl scene in the woods

To like Rock of Ages, in the woods seemed like a good idea during the development process. In the woods features plenty of likable characters played by actors with prior musical experience, including Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Johnny Depp, and it even earned three Oscar nominations. Despite that, it was still a far cry from the stage version that fans remember.

The film adaptation makes several changes to the original stage production, including cutting the song “Ever After”, dropping The Narrator/Mysterious Man character, and rewriting Rapunzel’s death. Casual viewers will find something to enjoy, but those familiar with the show might not find the same magic in the film.

Jersey Boys (2014)

Boys jersey is a stellar movie, and fans might be surprised to learn that it was directed by Clint Eastwood. To say it’s exactly like the Broadway show wouldn’t be an accurate statement, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

RELATED: 10 Best Musicals Based On Historical Events

Where the show is framed more like a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons concert, the film takes more of a biographical approach and doesn’t shy away from the tougher moments of the band’s journey. Although it lacks the stage presence and sparkle of the play, it breathes new life into the production’s storyline.

Anne (2014)

Annie - Worst Remakes

2014 Anne is another Silver Screen remake that differs greatly from the source material. There were already two film adaptations of the Broadway classic, but Will Gluck’s version gives viewers a modernized take on the beloved story.

However, if it weren’t for the same songs in the soundtrack, there would be few discernible ways to connect this film to the Broadway musical. Every aspect of the story is updated, character names and personalities have been changed. For example, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks is rebranded as Staxx. These changes are clearly aimed at appealing to modern audiences and making the content more accessible, but it does mean the film is a complete deviation from the beloved series.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Phantom of the Opera Close-up Phantom and Christine

As reported by Den Of Geek, Joel Schumacher was Andrew Lloyd Weber’s first choice to direct the film version of his timeless musical adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. However, the 2004 film only moderately captures the magic that thrilled Ghost fans for over 30 years. While it features the basic plot and framing of the original musical, some casting and design choices completely miss the mark.

RELATED: 15 Best Musicals Of All Time (According To IMDb)

The spectacle is a vibrant display of color and pageantry that absolutely overflows the scene, but the film’s design approach seems overly bleached, relying heavily on golds, whites and other hues that meld with the contrast. The film also casts Gerard Butler, who had no musical training until he was cast, in the lead role of the Phantom. This leads to a somewhat lukewarm performance compared to musical theater giants including Colm Wilkinson and Michael Crawford, who starred on stage.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

The film adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar is certainly a product of its time. Made in the 1970s, when studios were experimenting with new ways of filming, the film offers viewers a unique twist on rock opera reimagining a biblical epic. However, this leads to mixed results.

Some things from the stage adaptation do well on the big screen, like the dance breaks in “Simon Zealotes” and the praise parade during “Hosanna.” Meanwhile, things like Herod’s boat party and anti-war imagery were very creative liberties. Luckily for fans, those issues would be rectified with the 2000 remake, delivering a much more theatrical performance that’s more akin to stage spectacle.

Cabaret (1972)

Liza Minelli in Cabaret

Cabaret, while a stunning film, is far from a true recreation of stage production. While the film won Best Picture at the Oscars, became one of Liza Minelli’s biggest hits, and introduced many viewers to the work of Bob Fosse, anyone who’s seen Kander and Ebb’s original musical will know that there are several differences between the two.

RELATED: 10 Weirdest Broadway Musicals That Deserve Screen Versions

Not only were the nationalities of Sally Bowles and Cliff Bradshaw reversed making Sally the American adventurer and Cliff the nerdy British novelist, several characters and songs were also omitted from the film altogether – including Frauline Schnieder and Herr Schultz as well. than songs like “I don’t care” and “The Pineapple Song”. That leaves only the outrageous love story between the two leads that stays true to the source material.

Dear Evan Hansen (2021)

If there’s one musical in recent years that’s been on everyone’s lips, it’s Dear Evan Hansen. The film generated buzz for its differences from the stage show. As reported by Den of Geek, Dear Evan Hansen underwent some kind of transformation to make it to the big screen, including an altered ending. This led to a disappointing viewing experience for fans.

So many things have changed Dear Evan Hansen it can be shocking. Removing important songs like “Anybody Have A Map,” casting older actors in roles specifically written for teens, and rewriting the aforementioned ending are just a few of the transgressions that deviated from the stage production. On the scene, Dear Evan Hansen is an emotional coming-of-age tale full of self-reflection, but film often fails to capture it.

Cats (2020)

Labeled as possibly one of the worst musical adaptations ever made, 2019 Cats is another controversial stage-to-screen adaptation. With an all-star cast, including great actors Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Judi Dench, and based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved take on the classic work of TS Elliot, it seemed like the perfect combination. However, the film changes key elements from Webber’s original stage production.

While there admittedly isn’t a whole lot of solid plot to work with here, the film does a good job of recreating it. However, the direction taken with the costumes is the biggest difference between stage and film, and it’s hard to ignore. While the original production is known for its theatrical costumes and makeup that transform the stars into their feline form, the film relies on CGI and the results are somewhat surreal. Although the songs and characters are all there, some viewers may find the portrayal jarring.

NEXT: 10 Popular Musicals That Are Getting The Movie Treatment


Batman’s Best Villain Change Is Falcone (Not Penguin Nor Riddler)

About the Author

Previous The famous musical artist "Iman Tucker" takes on a successful life. - UBJ - United Business Journal
Next The 10 Best Performances in Musical Movies, According to Reddit