BROADWAY: Stage VS. Film

I was eight years old when I saw my first Broadway show. My parents took me to New York City for my very first time to celebrate my eighth birthday with my best friend and her parents. We saw “Beauty & the Beast” on the Great White Way; I was completely captivated. It helped, of course, that the play was based on one of my favorite Disney movies. Scenes that played fondly in my head in soft animation exploded in front of my eyes in a dazzling display of pyrotechnics and choreography. Broadway has held a special place in my heart ever since; I’ve seen approximately a dozen shows and there’s only been a handful that I haven’t loved. It’s an amazing experience each and every time. The success of certain stage shows has been helped along by film versions for years now, but only recently have I started to truly enjoy comparing the two. There are movies I’ve seen and loved even without even having the experience of the stage to back it up (like “Rent” and “Sweeney Todd”). Just this month alone, I was able to do some of that comparing twice. On June 18, I saw “Aladdin” on stage. On June 26, I saw “Jersey Boys” on film. So I decided to do a quick breakdown of all the Broadway shows vs. movies I’ve seen. Ya know. For fun.

Beauty&theBeast1. Beauty & the Beast (1995)

What worked: The “Be Our Guest” dinner show has been unmatched in any show I’ve seen since.

What didn’t: The beast in the film is scary. The beast on stage was scary-ugly. That costume could’ve used some work.

Which was better: The movie. Don’t get me wrong, the show was amazing. But there’s a reason why the Disney generation holds those classic animation films on such high pedastals.

TheLittleMermaid2. The Little Mermaid (2007)

What worked: My all-time favorite Disney movie came to life before my eyes. Enough said.

What didn’t: Having the actors roll around on Heelys really didn’t create the illusion that everyone was underwater.

Which was better: The movie. This show didn’t last very long and I can see why. Plus, anyone but Jodi Benson singing “Part of Your World” just doesn’t feel right.

Hairspray3. Hairspray (2008)

What worked: Harvey Fierstein reprised his Tony-winning role as Edna Turnblad. He was hilarious.

What didn’t: There was less of an emotional connection to the characters, especially Tracy.

Which was better: The show. The movie is undoubtedly one of my favorites, but the show’s finale was one big dance party.

Mamma Mia4. Mamma Mia (2009)

What worked: The music was fan-freaking-tastic.

What didn’t: The three possible fathers were a little hard to tell apart without having famous faces like Stellan, Pierce, and Colin.

Which was better: The show. While the movie has Meryl Streep, the play has an infectious energy. We were still singing “Dancing Queen” long after we left the theater.

5. In the Heights (2010)

The show was decent. No film adaptation yet.

Mary Poppins6. Mary Poppins (2011)

What worked: The set design was phenomenal. The roof lifted right off the house to reveal the upstairs bedrooms, which I thought was pretty cool. Mary also flew over the audience on her umbrella.

What didn’t: It was kind of a snoozefest.

Which was better: The movie. I don’t particularly like it that much, but at least it has Julie Andrews.

7. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2012)

I went when the stage show had Darren Criss in it, because I was a big fan of his back then. There’s a 1967 film, but I’ve never seen it.

The Lion King8. The Lion King (2012)

What worked: The stampede scene was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Whenever you think something won’t translate well to stage, don’t doubt the set crew.

What didn’t: The lion head costumes were a bit on the strange side. It was the best way they could do it, but it didn’t stop me from focusing on their human faces instead of their big lion heads.

Which was better: The show. Again, the Disney movie is a favorite, but the play had so many African influences infused into it and the music gave me chills every time someone opened their mouth. It was also pretty funny. This one is at the top for me.

Jersey Boys9. Jersey Boys (2012)

What worked: The lead actor’s voice was spectacular. People were giving standing-Os before the show was even over.

What didn’t: I wasn’t a fan of the constant narration.

Which was better: The show. Even though it had the same lead actor, the movie was a little too slow-moving.

Rock of Ages10. Rock of Ages (2012)

What worked: It had the energy of a concert, more than a play.

What didn’t: Strangely, it was a little boring.

Which was better: The movie. Julianne Hough should stick to dancing and Tom Cruise should stick to weird futuristic thrillers, and even still, the movie.

Newsies11. Newsies (2013)

What worked: For me, the subject matter was a major draw.

What didn’t: The set was dull and monochromatic. There was little to no flair.

Which was better: The show. No offense to Christian Bale, but it was easier to root for these guys.

Aladdin12. Aladdin (2014)

What worked: The magic carpet ride and “A Whole New World” gave me goosebumps on goosebumps. It was beautiful. And the cave of wonders was an amazing set.

What didn’t: While I sometimes enjoy the breaking of the fourth wall, I thought the genie accidentally pulling a Statue of Liberty souvenir instead of the lamp out of his pocket was a cheap laugh.

Which was better: The show. This is yet another top favorite Disney movie and they did it justice. (It helped to have the same actor who voiced Jafar in the movie playing the role on stage!) The set simply glittered. It was hysterically funny. We all left the theater with big smiles on our faces.


One thought on “BROADWAY: Stage VS. Film

  1. Only spent a few days in NY once but didn’t get to see a Broadway play. Thus, my local L.A. theater has included – The Lion King at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Excellent show but for me it’s a toss-up with the classic Disney film. My wife saw Mary Poppins and said the play was great, but she likes the movie better. She also took my daughter to see Beauty & the Beast at L.A.’s Shubert Theatre (closed in 2002) back in 1995. I’ll have to ask my daughter which she liked best. A couple of years ago I saw the movie How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I was not impressed. Don’t remember a single tune. My all time favorite “play to film” is Fiddler on the Roof. The play is always great, but no one can compare to Topal in the movie.
    Side note: When I was dating my wife, my family got tickets to see Zero Mostel in the roll of Tevye. I gave my ticket away to spend a night out with my new love. I look back with a bit of regret that I missed the chance to see Zero Mostel, but by love became my bride and we are still going strong.


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