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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
From movie-making to making music
By Victoria Lindrea
BBC News Entertainment reporter

Lee Evans in The Producers
The Producers success marked a growing trend in "movicals"
The opening of Lestat on Broadway in 2006 highlights the flourishing relationship between film studios and the stage.

Lestat, inspired by Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, is the inaugural production of Warner Bros Theatre Ventures, launched in May 2003 to exploit the many library titles and characters owned by the studio.

The film studio Warner Bros is developer and producer of the Elton John-penned musical, a position which will make the most of the rights that gave it the hit film Interview with a Vampire in 1994, and the sequel Queen of the Damned in 2002.

Film studio MGM set up company MGM on Stage for similar reasons - developing and licensing vintage MGM films for stage production.

Set up in 2002 by two MGM executives, a former Broadway performer and a theatrical lawyer, current productions include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Theatre of Blood and the Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Legally Blonde, Moonstruck and the Pink Panther are other MGM projects currently in development for the stage.

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde is one a number of hit films heading to the stage

The commercial momentum has been fuelled by the number of musicals dominating Broadway based on non-musical film scripts - "movicals".

The idea is not new. "Movicals" have been around since the 1950s, with the 1961 musical Carnival - based on the film Lili - often cited as the first commercial hit in the genre.

The birth of the talking picture in the 1920s opened up a new creative furrow to be ploughed by theatre producers.

Sweet Charity (1966) - a revival of which recently closed on Broadway - was originally inspired by the 1957 Fellini film Nights of Cabiria, while Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard took its original inspiration from the 1950 Billy Wilder film of the same name.

But for every hit "movical", there have been several misses.

Gone with the Wind, Some Like it Hot, Big and The Witches of Eastwick have all been made over for musical consumption, with limited appeal.

Liam Mower and cast in Billy Elliot
Working Title helped develop Billy Elliot: The Musical

But with hits like The Producers, the genre is seen as worth pursuing.

Mel Brooks' comedy began life as a film back in 1968, earning Brooks an Academy Award for best screenplay.

The film, about a shady theatre producer and his accountant whose plan to stage a musical flop backfires, became a cult hit.

More than 30 years later, in 2001, The Producers made its Broadway debut and proved an instant success, paving the way for a surge in "movicals".

Spamalot, based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Billy Elliot are just two movies-turned-stage shows currently doing good business on Broadway and the West End.

Hank Azaria (l), David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry (r) in Spamalot
Monty Python musical Spamalot won three Tonys in June

In an era that has few big name songwriters of the ilk of Cole Porter, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, the stage must increasingly rely on other familiar brands.

Lord of the Rings is the latest hit film bound for the stage, though one could argue that the production is based on JRR Tolkien's trilogy - not the Peter Jackson films.

But coming hot on the heels of Jackson's Oscar success, the musical will undoubtedly benefit from the book's big screen adaptation.

"A great story is a great story," Marc Shaiman, award-winning composer of the musical Hairspray, told the New York Times, rejecting suggestions that Broadway has become creatively stunted by its dependence on Hollywood scripts.

Also in the pipeline for 2006 are Tarzan, a revised version of The Color Purple and a musical version of Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer.

The Lion King
The Lion King musical has been seen around the world

Animated classic Shrek is also bound for the New York stage, with Sam Mendes as lead producer and the backing of Spielberg studio Dreamworks.

It follows the musical version of Disney classics The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

Between them, the Disney productions have made more than $3.3bn (1.8bn) in tickets alone and play in up to 16 cities around the world.

And just to make one's head ache, the commercial possibilities do not end there.

The musical versions of original movies Sunset Boulevard and The Producers are also lined up for remakes - on the big screen.

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