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7 Christmas Movies That Would Make Great Broadway Musicals

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

Because what pairs better with Broadway than the holidays?

Nothing puts us in the holiday spirit quite like a yuletide story with a happy ending, and that may be why we look forward to Christmastime and the array of seasonal films that have become perennial classics. Many of these beloved holiday films have been adapted for the musical stage, including A Christmas Story, White Christmas, Elf, Holiday Inn, Meet Me in St. Louis and Miracle on 34th Street. As we inch closer and closer to the 25th of December, it is fun to consider what other holiday classics might make for a joyous Broadway stage musical.

The classic film ‘White Christmas’ has been adapted into a stage musical (Photo: ‘White Christmas’)

The classic film ‘White Christmas’ has been adapted into a stage musical (Photo: ‘White Christmas’)

The Santa Clause

It launched two sequels, but it was the original 1994 film The Santa Clause that started it all with festive, heartwarming fun. Scott Calvin, a divorced man with a little boy, accidentally knocks Santa off the roof on Christmas Eve, putting Saint Nick out of commission. After taking over the delivery of his Christmas packages, Scott finds out that he must assume the title as the new Santa Claus. Full of cheery music possibilities and the opportunity for elaborate sets and costumes, The Santa Clause has all the makings of a Broadway holiday spectacle.

The Bells of St. Mary’s

The 1945 film The Bells of St. Mary’s isn’t exactly a Christmas film, but one of its pivotal scenes centers on a Christmas pageant and a desperately needed holiday wish. The story follows a rivalry between a traditional nun and a priest who are trying to save an inner-city parochial school from being condemned and shut down. It’s a touching tale about two people at odds, overcoming their differences in the spirit of helping children. What could be more perfect for the musical stage at Christmas?

The Ref

Not every family Christmas is a happy one, and dysfunction abounds at the holidays. The 1994 dark comedy The Ref captures this kind of not-so-happy Christmas family with hilarity and heart. In the Connecticut home of Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur, Christmas is shaping up to be a nightmare. The tempestuous couple are on the brink of divorce, their son – who is on break from military school – is an extortionist, and Lloyd’s domineering, judgmental mother is on the way to hand out her opinions like candy canes. A robber breaks into the house and, through unconventional methods (which include tying up Grandma), serves as both marriage counselor and referee, putting the broken family back together again. The Ref has all the family neurosis possibilities that we find in such musicals as Falsettos and Next to Normal.

Christmas in Connecticut

After It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas in Connecticut may well be the most-beloved non-musical Christmas films there is. The 1945 classic starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet has charmed audiences for over 70-years with its tale of a single newspaper columnist who writes about cooking. In actuality, she has no talent in the kitchen, which poses a problem when one of her fans (a war hero) wants to meet her. Exacerbating the complications, she creates an elaborate ruse at a farmhouse in Connecticut to uphold the fictional persona she has created. Of course, her façade crumbles all around her when she finds herself falling in love with her admirer. It’s a funny love story and that often adds up to great musical comedy.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Disney certainly gave an interesting spin on the holidays when they concocted the Halloween-meets-Christmas musical The Nightmare Before Christmas. The story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who hatches a scheme to ghoulishly take over for Santa Claus, has a compelling story and a memorable Danny Elfman score. It would be a tall order to reimagine The Nightmare Before Christmas for the Broadway stage, but wouldn’t it be fun to see the denizens of Halloween Town come to life before our very eyes?

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Of the myriad film versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the most-festive and hilarious adaptation is arguably The Muppet Christmas Carol. You might ask, “How are you going to put the Muppets onstage?” However, we can leave that to the clever producers, directors and designers to figure out (Remember, we asked the same question about The Lion King). What we can count on is the infectious film score by Paul Williams, including such yuletide-inspired ditties as “Scrooge,” “Room in Your Heart,” “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” and “It Feels Like Christmas.” And who doesn’t love Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and the gang? 


For a more contemporary take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, there is always the hilarious 1998 Richard Donner film Scrooged. Television executive Frank Cross is the stand-in for Ebenezer Scrooge, a selfish humbug who is visited by three ghosts who teach him the spirit of Christmas. In the film version, Billy Murray played Cross, with a parade of ghosts making a hysterical case for his epiphany. It’s an unconventional spin on a classic that ushers in the holidays with the gift of laughter.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at


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