9 Screen-to-Broadway Disney Musicals

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Photo Source: Joan Marcus

Disney Theatrical Productions, sometimes known as Disney on Broadway, is responsible for some of the most magical moments you’re likely to experience on the Great White Way. When Disney vet Ron Logan first founded Walt Disney Theatrical in 1993, fresh off the success of “Beauty and the Beast,” he could only have imagined how far the onstage empire would extend; with musical greats such as Alan Menken and Tim Rice writing brilliant tunes for big-screen hit after big-screen hit, theatrical productions were a logical—yet thrillingly ambitious—next step.

Today, Disney’s run of critically and commercially successful screen-to-stage shows continues, and not just on Broadway. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has enjoyed several regional productions, and “The Jungle Book” has bowed in Chicago and Boston. Meanwhile, a slew of other movies are in varying stages of development as Disney musicals: “The Princess Bride,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Freaky Friday,” “Father of the Bride,” and “The Muppets.” Not to mention staged versions of Disney Channel originals “High School Musical,” “High School Musical 2,” and “Camp Rock.”

Below are the eight musicals (plus one bonus!) adapted from celluloid that have made it to the Broadway boards. Which are your favorites...?

“Beauty and the Beast”

It’s a tale as old as time. Or at least as old as 1991, when “Beauty and the Beast” became the first-ever animated film to nab an Oscar nomination for best picture (it also won for best original score and song). It opened at Broadway’s Palace Theatre with Susan Egan as Belle and Terrence Mann as the Beast, and didn’t close until 2007—one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. Stage productions have invited audiences from around the world to be their guest, performing in 21 countries and being translated into eight languages!

“The Lion King”

The third longest-running Broadway production of all time, “The Lion King” also bears the distinction of receiving practically unanimous raves. Adapted from the equally beloved 1994 film, the Elton John– and Tim Rice–penned musical has grossed over $6 billion worldwide, more than any other stage work or film in history. Its success is credited largely to the original production’s wildly visionary director Julie Taymor, the first-ever female winner of the Tony Award for best musical director. You can feel the love—tonight!—at the Minskoff Theatre, where “The Lion King” will probably continue to play for as long as Broadway exists.


Phil Collins’ high-flying musical took to the Broadway stage in 2006, adapted with a few alterations from the 1999 animated film. Directed and designed by Bob Crowley, with a book from David Henry Hwang, the visually sumptuous show at the Richard Rodgers Theatre starred Josh Strickland in the title role and Jenn Gambatese as Jane. Due to middling ticket sales, however, “Tarzan: The Musical” ran on Broadway for only 35 previews and 486 performances.

“Mary Poppins”

With music and lyrics by the Academy Award–winning Sherman Brothers and a script from Julian Fellowes, the stage version of “Mary Poppins” is generally thought of as super(califragilisticexpialidocious). Combining the 1964 film sensation starring Julie Andrews, the original children’s books of P. L. Travers, and lots of impressive technical work enabling actors to fly onstage, the musical took the West End by storm before opening on Broadway in 2006, starring Ashley Brown. The production didn’t close until over six years later. Have you heard about the upcoming film reboot starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda?

“The Little Mermaid”

When “The Little Mermaid” splashed into movie theaters in 1989, it was heralded as a Disney Renaissance. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote some of the best music of their careers, while Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, and Pat Carroll took voiceover performance to a new level; it was a triumph practically begging for live adaptation. It wasn’t until late 2007, however, that Broadway went under the sea. The dazzling original production at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre was helmed by Francesca Zambello and starred Sierra Boggess, Tituss Burgess, and Sherie Rene Scott.

“Sister Act”

One-time Disney Studios president Peter Schneider left Disney to produce his own theater, which is how the musical adaptation of “Sister Act” came to be. Bowing on Broadway in 2011 with Disney Theatrical Productions as associated presenter, the story of a lounge singer-turned-nun drew heavily from the 1992 film of the same name starring Whoopi Goldberg. Both the original West End and Broadway productions of the musical were produced by Goldberg, and featured the brilliant Patina Miller as Deloris Van Cartier. Although the Broadway run ended in a little more than a year, “Sister Act” has become one of the most frequently produced musicals across the globe.


With music by Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the stage version of the 1992 cult classic film starring Christian Bale was sure to be a hit. “Newsies” was not originally intended for Broadway, but after glowing reviews at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, it leapt to the Nederlander Theatre. The Jeff Calhoun–directed production starred Jeremy Jordan and Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and featured stupendous choreography that won Christopher Gattelli a Tony Award; the show earned a whopping eight nominations total. “Newsies” closed in 2014, but not before the arrival of another stage-to-screen Broadway hit....


Currently going strong at the New Amsterdam Theatre, everyone’s favorite street-rat-turned-prince took his bow soon after “Mary Poppins” shuttered. Menken supplemented his classic songs from the 1992 film, including “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World,” with several new ones, and James Monroe Iglehart won a Tony Award for playing the Genie. If you haven’t had a chance yet to visit Agrabah, you should take that magic carpet ride.

No, it’s not on Broadway yet. But after the stunning success of the 2013 computer-animated “Frozen” (over $1 billion in worldwide box office sales) it was only a matter of time that Disney would let it go—onstage. Elsa and Anna will likely premiere in New York in spring 2018, with Alex Timbers as director and Peter Darling as choreographer, as well as music from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the Oscar-winning songwriting team from the film. Who do you think should star in this highly anticipated Broadway production?

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