Since the resurgence of the Broadway musical film adaptation in the early 2000’s, Hollywood has rarely gone a year without at least one stage-to-screen installment hitting theaters. In recent years, the frequency of this has only grown, with 2020 featuring the likes of Ryan Murphy’s The Prom and the filmed-on-stage releases of David Byrne’s American Utopia and Hamilton. Though quarantine may have doused the lights of Broadway proper, that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from putting new adaptations into production. Between now and 2023, there are tons of stage-to-screen adaptations within development – some going straight to streaming and some hoping to open in cinemas – and here is an exhaustive list of those upcoming releases.
In the Heights – June 11th
The first musical hitting screens is the same-day cinema and HBO Max release of In the Heights. Originally supposed to be released over a year ago, this adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical (which won the Tony for Best Musical before Hamilton even existed) was always destined to have a summer release – especially considering the musical’s plot, which unfolds over the three hottest days of the year in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Produced by Warner Bros. and directed by the incredible Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), the film boasts a cast of up-and-coming stars, led by Hamilton’s Anthony Ramos, Straight Outta Compton’s Corey Hawkins, and newcomers Leslie Grace and Melissa Barrera as Nina and Vanessa respectively. Miranda himself appears as the scene-stealing “Piragua Guy”, and will write a new Oscar-eligible song for the film (Miranda is only an Oscar away from the coveted EGOT collection of awards).
Dear Evan Hansen – September 24th
Announced in 2018, a big screen adaptation of the Tony for Best Musical-winning Dear Evan Hansen is coming, courtesy of Universal Pictures. The musical phenomenon will star the musical’s original Tony-winning star Ben Platt as 17-year-old Evan (despite, as the internet quickly pointed out, him being 27), as well as Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever as love interest Zoe, Oscar nominee Amy Adams as Cynthia Murphy, and Oscar winner Julianne Moore as Evan’s mother. The creative team is also solid, with Stephen Chbosky (writer/director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower) helming and Steven Levenson adapting his own script. Fun fact: Ben Platt’s father is successful film producer Marc Platt, who will produce this adaptation.
Diana – October 1st
In a very unique occurrence, Netflix will also feature the debut of Broadway musical Diana, based on the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, in October. While the film was shot on stage (like David Byrne’s American Utopia), the show will actually premiere on on Broadway in December (if all goes to plan) and therefore was performed without an audience. The musical, written by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan (Tony winners for Memphis) and starring Jeanna de Waal in the title role, had a run in California’s La Jolla Playhouse before its Broadway transfer was shut down by the pandemic. That run received mixed reviews.
West Side Story – December 10th
The biggest and most highly anticipated musical release of the year is undoubtedly Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story. Despite being the director of some of the most classic blockbusters in history, West Side Story is Spielberg’s first musical film and the adaptation is being written by Tony Kushner (who, besides being a Tony and Pulitzer-prize winner for his stage work, previously wrote Spielberg’s Lincoln). The classic musical, originally written by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim, is experiencing a bit of a renaissance these days, as Ivo van Hove’s radical revival opened on Broadway in Feburary, right before – well you know. This new film adaptation stars Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort as Tony and newcomer Rachel Ziegler as Maria. The coveted role of Anita (which has won previous actresses both Oscars and Tonys) will go to The Prom’s Ariana DeBose, while the 1967 film’s Anita – Rita Moreno – will portray a new character named Valentina. West Side Story hopes to hit theaters in December, after a year-long delay.
Tick, Tick…Boom! – TBA
Returning to Lin-Manuel Miranda, his adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s pre-Rent semi-autobiographical musical Tick, Tick…Boom! is set to hit Netflix this year. Miranda has a history with the musical, starring as the lead character of Jon in the 2014 Encores revival. For the film, that role will be filled by Oscar nominee (and former Spider-Man) Andrew Garfield. While this is his first musical role, Garfield is a Broadway veteran, appearing in and winning a Tony for the recent Broadway adaptation of the aforementioned Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Joining Garfield is Rent Live!’s Vanessa Hudgens and X-Men Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp. While Tick, Tick…Boom! does not have an official release date, it was recently included in Netflix’s 2021 upcoming films showcase.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – TBA
Also expected to hit in 2021 is Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, an adaptation of the West End musical about a young schoolboy who becomes a drag queen (itself inspired by the documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The film has been ready to go for over a year, but was delayed by COVID, and now has no set release date.
2022 and Beyond
The Color Purple – December, 2023
Continuing in the film-to-stage-to-film shoes of Hairspray, The Color Purple musical film will hit screens on December 20, 2023. Based on Alice Walker’s classic novel of the same name, The Color Purple was previously adapted into an iconic film starring Oprah Winfrey, a Broadway musical produced by Oprah, and a successful revival of that musical – which turned lead Cynthia Erivo into a star overnight. While it is hard to imagine anyone but Erivo taking on the role of Celie, (Erivo not only won a Tony for the role 5 years ago, but has since become a film star, starring as Harriet Tubman in the 2019 film Harriet), the film is set to be helmed by Blitz Bazawule, whose recent co-direction of Beyoncé’s musical film Black is King suggests the presence of the eponymous star, most likely as Shug Avery. In any case, expect to see a who’s who of Black Hollywood filling up the cast.
Merrily We Roll Along – 2041 or Beyond (No, Really)
After getting a taste of shooting a film in an unprecedently unusual way by shooting awards-darling Boyhood for a couple days over the course of 12 years, Richard Linklater is going all in for an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. Mirroring the musical’s plot, which takes place over 20 years, Linklater is set to have his actors age in real time, finally releasing the finished product a full two decades after shooting begins. Two of the trio at the center of the narrative are set to be portrayed by Evan Hansen-himself, Ben Platt, and Booksmart star (and Platt’s best friend) Beanie Feldstein. The third part is set to be played by Glee’s Blake Jenner, but the recent confirmation of his ex-wife Melissa Benoist’s abuse claims put his involvement (and the movie’s start date) into question.
Sunset Boulevard – Please, Dear God, Soon
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of the classic 1950 Billy Wilder film opened on Broadway in 1994, winning its star Glenn Close (who controversially replaced Patti LuPone, as LuPone will characteristically tell you) a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. In 2017, Close reprised her role as the iconic Norma Desmond in a Broadway revival at the age of 69 (closer to the original character’s age). Since then, the film adaptation has become somewhat of a hot topic in the awards subsector of the film world, as film legend Close has somehow never won an Oscar and it is widely accepted as fact that whenever the Sunset Boulevard film hits theaters, it’ll happen. Even Close herself has said that she’s ready for the film to materialize, and that the script is “fantastic”. In her own words “I can’t really put Norma to rest until I’ve explored her on film, so I hope that happens.”
Tomorrow Morning -TBA
An answer to the oft-criticized trend of casting Hollywood actors in musical adaptations instead of trained Broadway veterans, first time director Nick Winston will produce an adaptation of the off-Broadway musical Tomorrow Morning starring Samantha Barks and Ramin Karimloo.
Little Shop of Horrors – TBA
Love, Simon writer-director (and creator of the CW’s superhero Arrowverse) Greg Berlanti has stated his intention to adapt Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors into a new musical film for years. While the project has gone through numerous delays, the cast has been rumored in the past to include Josh Gad, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rebel Wilson and Lady Gaga. The most recent line-up is slated to be Rocketman’s Taron Egerton as nerdy lead Seymour, Black Widow’s Scarlett Johansson as love interest Audrey, Pose’s Billy Porter as plant Audrey II, and Captain America’s Chris Evans as the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello.
Matilda – TBA
Netflix has announced plans to direct a film adaptation of the musical, which is based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book. Newcomer Alisha Weir will star in the title role, while Emma Thompson will play the villainous Miss Trunchbull, which in the musical was always played by a man in drag. The film will be directed by Matthew Warchus, who has helmed the stage productions in both London and Broadway.
Wicked – TBA
Wicked has been the go-to topic of discussion for “upcoming movie musicals” for years and years. Gregory Maguire’s novel, an origin story to The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, was originally optioned as a non-musical film starring Demi Moore, before turning into a stage musical through the involvement of writers Winnie Holtzman and Stephen Schwartz. The release date has jumped around several times, but the lead role of Elphaba will be no doubt sought after by every actress with even passable vocal ability. The previously mentioned Jon M. Chu has been announced to direct.
While Disney’s track-record of live-action remakes suggests that songs from the Broadway adaptation will not be included, Chicago director Rob Marshall will take on a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid starring Chloe x Halle singer Halle Bailey as Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as the sea witch Ursula. Netflix (really monopolizing the musical film genre) are set to helm Jason Robert Brown’s 13 – currently conducting a national casting search for its pre-teen cast – while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is set to finally bring the long-gestating Gypsy remake to the screen. Disney+ has announced plans to adapt Once on This Island, produced by Mark Platt, while Paramount announced plans this year to adapt Spamalot.
The classic Sondheim musical Follies hopes to hit theaters in the next couple years, and acclaimed director Dee Rees is set to helm a new film adaptation of Gerswhin’s Porgy and Bess. Recent Broadway hits like Tina Fey’s Mean Girls and Joe Iconis’ Be More Chill have set plans for film adaptations, while lesser known gems like Jekyll & Hyde, The Shaggs, and Bare: A Pop Opera, also hope to have new life on screen.
And In the next few years, if all goes as planned, we’ll also be getting new big screen adaptations of The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof and – because nothing is sacred – The Wizard of Oz. We’ll try to keep you updated as all of these announcements come fast and loose. Until then, we’ve got a great selection of films to look forward to this year.