Many original musicals start on Broadway and then travel to Hollywood, but some musicals originate on the big screen before moving to the stage

After being a dominant film genre from the time that moving pictures became "talkies" through the mid-'60s, the Hollywood movie musical went out-of-fashion. The 1970s ushered in an era of gritty realism in film that left no room for the flights of fancy that characterize the musical form. But after years of being sidelined for being too "corny" or "unrealistic," the original movie musical slowly began to come back to the big screen in the late '80s and early '90s. And some of them have even gone on to Broadway incarnations - while others have not.

Original Movie Musicals Reappear on the Hollywood Scene in Many Different Forms

You could say it started with the comeback of Disney animated films. Largely due to the fine work of musical theater writers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Disney cartoon movies The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast succeeded in being big office successes in the late 1980s and early '90s. Melodic songs like "Under the Sea" and "Be Our Guest" caught the ears of audiences all over, and slowly people became more open to the idea of enjoying a few great big showtunes in the middle of their movies.

Of course, singing cartoon characters is one thing - watching live people break out into song is another matter entirely. But in 2001, Aussie director Baz Luhrmann tried an interesting experiment with his film Moulin Rouge - and it paid off in a big way. Luhrmann essentially created a lavish new musical, complete with big production numbers and intimate love songs. But rather than having an original score written for the movie, he had his stars (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor among them) singing well-known pop tunes like Elton John's "Your Song" and Madonna's "Material Girl". The movie was a big hit, demonstrating that people were becoming more willing to suspend their disbelief at the movies in much the same way that they do in the theater.

In recent years, the biographical musical, which also uses existent songs, has done well - notably Walk the Line and Ray. In these movies, the stars are playing well-known musicians like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, and they are singing their songs as a part of the action of the movie. But because the characters they are playing are actual musicians, the fact that they are breaking out into song seems very natural.

Original Live-Action Hollywood Musicals Slowly Gaining Ground

Although the above-mentioned movies are types of original Hollywood musicals, none of them are both live-action and featuring an original story and score. In the "old days," Hollywood used to churn original musicals out like crazy, especially in the '30s and '40s, when talented performers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were major film stars and songwriters like Irving Berlin were writing for the movies. But a couple of recent Hollywood hits have created hope that full-fledged original Hollywood musicals are returning. Enchanted, a (mostly) live-action movie which played off the formula of Disney animated films, had a brand new score with infectious original songs like "Happy Working Song" and "That's How You Know". And most promising of all is the mammoth High School Musical franchise, which boasts all original tunes and stories. The first two High School Musical installments were on TV, but the third one was made for the big screen, and it made hundreds of millions worldwide. With the younger demographic that Hollywood likes to cater to finally embracing movie musicals, surely there will be more to follow.

From Movie Musical To Broadway Musical

When a movie musical succeeds in Hollywood, it never takes long before people start saying, "Hey, they should put that on Broadway!" High School Musical is a great example of a musical that began as a movie and THEN went to attain big success on the stage as well. Though it hasn't made it to Broadway, the High School Musical movies have licensed stage versions that are being performed at schools and regional theaters everywhere. The 1960s family film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was recently produced on Broadway, and there have been rumors that both Moulin Rouge and Enchanted could be on their way to Broadway at some point.

The original movie musicals that have made it to Broadway have been primarily Disney movies. The animated features Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King, and most recently The Little Mermaid have all gone from being Hollywood hits to Broadway hits, and the older live action musical classic Mary Poppins has also gone from film to a major Broadway production. Both the non-Disney cartoon movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the old live action Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye movie White Christmas have gone from beloved Christmas films to seasonal Broadway shows. And though it hasn't come to Broadway, The Wizard of Oz has been turned into a stage extravaganza that is touring the nation.

Not quite musicals but related to the musical genre because songs figure so prominently into their stories are "soundtrack" movies. Two prominent examples from the '80s, Footloose and Dirty Dancing, were movies about the power of dance, so popular music was an integral part of the drama (except that it played over the action, rather than having the actors actually sing the songs). Both of those movies have been adapted for the stage - Footloose played on Broadway, and Dirty Dancing (which has already played in other cities) is rumored to be on its way - and Broadway may see more of these Hollywood films adapted for the stage in the future.