Hollywood and Broadway have a long history of borrowing from each other. When a film becomes a hit, it is often quickly adapted for the stage. More often, a successful play is given broader fame when it is shown on the big screen. Doing so has brought wild success to these two performance venues.

With so much cross-adaptation, it is sometimes hard to remember which production style came first. Usually, both film and stage are so good and different from each other that it doesn’t matter which came first. Here are a few play-to-movie and movie-to-play adaptations; can you guess which format came first for each?


First opened in 1996, this musical follows the lives of eight 20- and 30- something year olds as they struggle to make ends meet in New York at the end of the 20th century. It won many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, for its raw look at protests, AIDS, drugs and other prevalent issues during the 1990s.

It was first produced as a: Play

The film adaptation was released in 2005, directed by Chris Columbus, to mixed reviews. It truly was a play put on film, with six of the eight main characters coming straight from the stage to the silver screen. With tracks like “La Vie Boheme” and “Seasons of Live,” the soundtrack is one of the most iconic of any Broadway musical.

The Producers

One of the biggest goofballs in the entertainment industry first got his start writing and directing this iconic classic, first opening in 1968. One of its biggest appeals to critics is the fact that it is all about (and makes fun of) the entertainment industry. It won awards for its originality and launched the then-unknown producer into stardom.

It was first produced as a: Film

The director’s name? Mel Brooks, one of the funniest men in Hollywood. In 2001, the film was adapted into a Broadway musical, staring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. It was wildly popular, earning 12 Tony Awards, and was itself adapted into a Hollywood film, staring the same two actors.  

West Side Story

Based on Romeo and Juliet and set in New York City’s Upper West Side, this story follows two rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks in the 1950s. Trouble only intensifies when the leader of the Jets falls in love with the sister of the leader of the Sharks. As you may imagine, this production, first released in 1957, ends in bitter tragedy.

It was first produced as a: Play

The original Broadway musical was adapted for the big screen in 1961, where it won 10 Academy Awards. Tracks like “America” and “I Feel Pretty” have further solidified West Side Story’s place in the annuls of entertainment history.

The Lion King

This is another production based on a Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet. The story follows a fictional lion prince’s path to find himself and eventually reclaim the kingdom from his wicked uncle, who killed the king. With music by Sir Elton John, The Lion King is a classic that parents and children alike can enjoy together.

It was first produced as a: Film

The Disney film, released in 1994, was an instant classic. It was brought to stage in 1997 with beautiful costumes and giant puppets. In 2014, The Lion King became the top-earning production for stage and film ever. The title was recently held by The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber (which itself was play before a film), the first combined production to reach $6 billion.

As you can see, the theatre has had huge impact on Hollywood; in fact, most film and television actors start their career on stage. If you or your child is interested in getting involved with local theatre, consider attending one of our summer camps. With so many options, there is sure to be a camp that fits your interests.