Screen to Stage: Movie into Musical Success Stories

By Benjamin Solomon
16 Aug 2013

Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray

Hairspray (2002)

Another cult classic by an iconic cinematic auteur, the 2002 musical version of Hairspray was part of the first round of screen-to-stage adaptations following the runaway success of the The Producers. The campy 1988 film on which it was based, about an overweight girl who makes it onto an American Bandstand-style show in a racially divided 1950s Baltimore, won critical raves — if not commercial success — when it first hit movie theatres as kitsch director John Waters' most mainstream piece of work. While the film failed to garner long-term traction outside of cult fame, its rock 'n' roll vibe was prime for adaptation. So it was no surprise that when composer Marc Shaiman and writer Thomas Meehan adapted the film for the stage, it quickly became a modern classic, winning eight Tony Awards, including Best New Musical, and running for six years. Adam Shankman's film version of the stage adaptation went on to become one of the highest-grossing musical films of all time.