We’ve covered movies made into musicals and musicals made into movies. Another interesting concept that has been quite popular is making animated series or movies into live action shows. We all know Annie, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, and Lion King along with Shrek as well. Here, we will look at some “lesser known” or less successful attempts at live action adaptations from animations.
Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury started in 1970. It began following the lives of a group of college students attending the fictional Walden College, though it ultimately became known for its political and social commentary. The strip was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1975, the first daily comic strip to be given that honor.
The characters in the strip had remained perpetually of college age, but in January 1983, Trudeau announced he would take a nearly two-year hiatus from the strip to bring his characters to Broadway. And notably, the musical Doonesbury marked college graduation for his characters. Trudeau set to work writing the book and lyrics, while Elizabeth Swados provided the music. Doonesbury opened on Broadway November 1983 with a cast that included Mark Linn-Baker (You Can’t Take It With You), Gary Beach (The Producers), Lauren Tom (A Chorus Line), and Kate Burton (Present Laughter). The show received mixed notices and closed after 104 performances, but a cast recording preserved the score.
Doonesbury the musical remains important in the history of the Doonesbury comic strip; following the musical adaptation, Trudeau began illustrating his characters aging in near real-time. The Broadway musical was the turning point.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Bono and The Edge, members of Irish rock super group U2, wrote the music and lyrics for this unique musical. David Campbell worked on the arrangements and Julie Taymor, Glen Berger, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the book. The inspiration for this superhero musical came from the original comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, first published by Marvel Comics.
The plot follows Spidey’s love for Mary Jane and his rival the Green Goblin. Unfortunately, the set designs and productions the creators had imagined proved to be difficult to produce. There were technical problems and performers were injured on set. At the premiere, there were disruptions, which caused the reviews to be negative.
After the show officially opened in 2011, the response from the critics were still mixed but more positive than after the previews. This musical is the costliest Broadway production ever but also held the top slot on record box office sales after pulling in nearly three million dollars.
In 2012 Spider-Man was nominated for two Tony Awards, one Drama Desk Award, and five Outer Critics Circle Awards winning two of the latter for Outstanding Set Design and Outstanding Costume Design.
It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!
Broadway’s first superhero musical was It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!, which opened on Broadway in 1966. Superman—or Clark Kent—first took flight in the pages of a comic book in 1933. He made the jump to television with 1952’s Adventures of Superman, which became extremely popular and ran through 1958. By the time producers decided to adapt the character for a Broadway musical in 1966, Superman had become quite the hot property.
But the musical adaptation of the Superman franchise took quite a different spin on the story of Clark Kent. It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!, with a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (Bye Bye Birdie) and a book by David Newman and Robert Benton—who would also go on to co-write the screenplays to Superman and Superman II in 1978 and 1980, respectively—found a good deal of campy comedy in the Superman story. The musical dispensed with many well-known Superman characters—most notably Lex Luthor—in favor of new characters created for Broadway. In fact, of the characters in It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, fans would only recognize Clark Kent/Superman, his love interest Lois Lane, and his boss Perry White.
Despite positive reviews, the original production had only a brief run of 129 performances. A drastically shortened version of the show was presented on TV in 1975, starring Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane. The show was revised again in 2010, premiering at Dallas Theater Center with a new book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa who re-introduced elements from the original comic. Ultimately, the show’s biggest success has been the song “You’ve Got Possibilities,” originally sung by Linda Lavin, which broke out and became a standalone hit (and can be seen in the current Broadway revue Prince of Broadway.)
SpongeBob has not yet opened on Broadway, although the musical adaption of this popular Nickelodeon cartoon show began previews on November 6, 2017. The stage adaptation, which tried out in Chicago, features many of the characters from the cartoon, but the story is completely original. The musical tells the story of SpongeBob and his starfish best friend, Patrick, and their efforts to save their underwater city of Bikini Bottom from Armageddon, in the form of an underwater volcano.
Unlike the other musicals on this list, SpongeBob flaunts an extensive list of writers. Kyle Jarrow wrote the book, and the score reflects a compilation of songs by pop and rock artists, including Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! at the Disco, They Might Be Giants, David Bowie, and more. Tina Landau co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau the production with choreography by Christopher Gattelli.
Fans of the show eagerly anticipating its performances are in luck—the cast recording is now available.