Fall Preview 2023: 5 Movies for Theater Lovers

Each of the following movies slated for release in cinemas and/or streaming services before the end of the year may be of interest to legitimate theater fans because it directly adapts a stage play or musical; or tells the story of a theater artist; or features beloved theater people who…moonlight.

Adaptations of a stage musical or play.

The Color Purple

In cinemas Dec 25, 2023 
A film adaptation of the Broadway musical based on Alice Walker’s novel about the life-long struggles of an African-American woman living in the South during the early 1900s. It features some veterans of the Broadway musical including Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Danielle Brooks as Sofia. Colman Domingo, who seems to be dominating the Fall movie schedule, portrays Mister.

Dicks: The Musical
In cinemas Sept. 29
Metacritic score: 62

Adapted from the stage musical “Fucking Identical Twins,” which debuted at  Upright Citizens Brigade in 2014, the movie features Nathan Lane as the father of identical twins who scheme to get him back with their mother, portrayed by Megan Mullally (who is a four-time Broadway veteran, although that’s not how she’s best known.)

What Happens Later

In cinemas Nov. 3
Meg Ryan and David Duchovny portray long-ago  lovers who get snowed in together at an airport overnight and start to wonder whether this accidental reunion was fate. Ryan directs this adaptation of “Shooting Star” a play by Steven Dietz that premiered at Austin’s Zach Theater in 2009.

A movie about a theater artist

In cinemas Nov. 22, on Netflix Dec. 20

Metacritic score: 81
Bradley Cooper portrays Leonard Bernstein, conductor, composer and Broadway gamechanger. Tony nominee Carey Mulligan portrays the actress Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, the maestro’s wife.

A movie made by theater artists

In cinemas Nov. 3, on Netflix Nov. 17

Metacritic score: 68

A biography of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, directed by New York stage stalwart, Tony-winner George C. Wolfe, starring New York stage regular Colman Domingo, and featuring the most honored Broadway stage actress in history, Audra McDonald.


In Cinemas Nov. 22
Ariana DeBose last performed on a Broadway stage in 2018, and she’s since won an Oscar for her role in the film of West Side Story, but I am not willing to give her up completely to Hollywood; after all, she spoke so eloquently about the theater when she was host of the Tony Awards and the guest on Saturday Night Live. In this Disney animated film, she voices a heroine who battles a king with the help of a cosmic force and a goat. Maybe Disney will turn it into a Broadway musical.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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