Jul 10, 2024

From Cartoons to Show Tunes!

This Summer The Man of Steel returns to Cleveland with production now in full swing for the latest instalment in the Superman movie franchise SUPERMAN: LEGACY. Our hometown hero, Superman was created in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, debuting in Action Comics back in 1938. Almost 90 years on, Big Blue has done it all - comic books to cartoons, television to the silver screen but did you know Clark Kent himself has even dabbled in Broadway?

Today we’re diving into the world of musical theater inspired by cartoon characters as we celebrate the super celeb flying around town!  From the titles below it’s clear cartoons turned musical theater is a natural and captivating crossover that brings vibrant, larger-than-life, colorful characters and imaginative storytelling to the Broadway stage.


Superman, DC Comics legend and a Cleveland original, has been a symbol of justice and strength for decades. But did you know in 1966, this cartoon classic took to the stage in the Broadway musical IT'S A BIRD...IT'S A PLANE...IT'S SUPERMAN! The show, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, brought the Man of Steel's adventures to life with a lighthearted and comedic tone.

The story followed Superman as he battles the evil scientist Dr. Abner Sedgwick and the vengeful columnist Max Mencken, all while dealing with his complicated love life involving Lois Lane. Although the original run had a short-lived success, the musical has seen revivals and remains a nostalgic cult classic for Superman fans, showcasing the Big Blue in a more humorous and whimsical light.


Photo: NYPL Digital Collections 


Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, swung onto Broadway in 2010 with the ambitious and visually stunning musical SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK. With music and lyrics by U2's Bono and The Edge, this production aimed to capture the thrilling and web-slinging origin story of Spider-Man in a Superhero Rock Musical lead by HADESTOWN star Reeve Carney.

Despite facing challenges during its production, the musical was praised for its breathtaking aerial stunts and special effects as they brought Peter Parker to the world of Broadway.


Photo: Variety


Betty Boop, the flirty and charming cartoon character created by Max Fleischer, is an icon of the 1930s animation era. With her distinctive voice and jazz-age style, Betty finally made her way to the stage in BOOP! THE MUSICAL in 2023.

In BOOP!, Betty’s dream of an ordinary day off from the super-celebrity in her black-and-white world leads to an extraordinary adventure of color, music, and love in New York City—one that reminds her and the world, “You are capable of amazing things.” 

With a successful Chicago run in 2023 under her belt, this spit-curled songstress is now Broadway bound with a 2025 New York engagement recently announced.



Photo: Matthew Murphy 


SpongeBob SquarePants, the optimistic and ever-cheerful sea sponge from the hit Nickelodeon animated series created by Stephen Hillenburg, made a splash on Broadway in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL. Debuting in 2017, the musical features a score from artists, including Steven Tyler, Sara Bareilles, and John Legend.

The story follows SpongeBob and his friends Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks as they try to save Bikini Bottom from an impending volcanic eruption. The musical perfectly captures the whimsy and humor of the original show, complete with colorful costumes and imaginative sets.


Photo: Joan Marcus


No rundown of cartoon characters in the world of MT would be complete without mentioning Disney. The Disney franchise has a long and illustrious history of adapting its beloved animated films into successful Broadway musicals, many of which we have been lucky enough to welcome here to Cleveland in recent years. From the musical classics like THE LION KING and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to more modern titles like FROZEN and ALADDIN, Disney does Broadway best! And with each new Disney movie release all of us Broadway fans are immediately visualising how this one could translate to the stage. MOANA on Broadway please?



Photo: Playbill

So whether it's the superhero exploits of Clark Kent and Peter Parker, the vintage charm of Betty Boop, the underwater fun with SpongeBob, or the timeless magic of Disney, the cartoon to musical theater genre is Broadway staple that wonderfully showcases the enduring appeal of these beloved stars of animation.