The Best (And Worst) Stephen King Stage Adaptions

There’s been some brilliant adaptions of Stephen King novels: It, the Children of the Corn, Shawshank, to name just three. But not every one of the almost 100 separate films, TV Shows, stage productions or comic books has been a hit.

In fact, some were total stinkers.

The Langoliers anybody?

No, thought not.

With a stage version of The Shawshank Redemption hitting the Blackpool Winter Gardens in November, here’s the best and worst stage adaptions of Stephen King classics:


Now we all know the original 1976 hit movie, but there have also been numerous stage versions, and even musicals, of Carrie White’s highly murderous flirtation with telekinesis, as she transitions into womanhood.

However, the 1988 Broadway version was a huge flop. The TV trailer (Above) might help explain why. Despite receiving standing ovations on some nights the closing curtains were accompanied by plenty of boosas well as cheers.

Carrie was a example of something absolutely panned by critics that became a bit of a cult classic. (Among a tiny hardcore of fans).

After opening night, the production lasted a total of three days and lost a record $7million.

New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich compared the musical to the Hindenburg disaster. It’s still talked about in hushed tones, used as a warning to any foolhardy writer, director or producer of fake pig’s blood.

Ghost Stories

Based on a collection of King’s short tales, Ghost Stories contains a mass of different shorts, including some selections from Pet Sematary.

[Sorry about the video. I had too]

Included in the collection was a zombie story called  “The Return of Timmy Baterman,” the story of a campus serial killer called “Strawberry Spring,” there was the battle between a bereaved father and a very real bogeyman, “Grey Matter” about a campus serial killer and, “Uncle Otto’s Truck,” where a man is genetically mutated by a rogue bottle of beer.

With so many short stories written by King over the years Robert Pridham’s cherry-picked collection was always bound to be a hit. It may not have been a Broadway production but it did tour all over the States and Canada in the 90s.


Another example of a flop adaption of Stephen King’s work is Shane Black’s version of Rage. It never got anywhere near Broadway or even out of its home state of Indiana. Initially set to launch in the town Jasper, it had to move to Santa Claus due to venue problems. All a little am-dram I’m sure you’ll agree.

Rage is the story of a high school shooting written in 1977 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. King allowed it fall out of print after a raft of school shootings in the following decades.

Black’s version only ran from April 23 to May 1 before its cancellation.


Now, we all know the success of the 1990 film version of Misery, the story of a psychotic fan who captures the writer of her favourite novels and forces him to re-write the fate of the central character Misery Chastain. But, there was a stage version in 2005, by the same man who wrote the film, as well as a 2015 revival.

The 2015 version starred none other than Bruce Willis and was slated by The Guardian, who mentioned him wearing an earpiece in previews and frankly looking disengaged throughout. It seemed to walk a weird tightrope between absurd and reasonably competent.

There’s also a musical version lurking somewhere on the internet, just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

This is a musical actually written by King himself. A Southern Gothic ghost story about two brothers who hate each other, forced to stay in a haunted cabin, where they are visited by the ghosts of other brothers with a similar distaste for each other’s company.

Commercially it didn’t quite work, although, it wasn’t half as bad as shows like Rage and Carrie. Esquire magazine referred to it as a musical ‘written by men for men’ and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution saw the main issues to be in King’s script, rather than in John Mellencamp’s music.

An album was released on the back of it and partly you wonder if that was the point all along.

It ran for a month.

The Body (Stand by Me)

This is an incredibly local example. The 2014 version of The Body (Stand by Me) was a full-on English am-dram performance, sanctioned by Stephen King himself and performed in Derby, of all places.

The Derby Telegraph commended the Chellaston Players for resting the performance on the shoulder of four young teenagers, calling it a ‘memorable and refreshing piece of theatre.’

The story, one of four young boys losing their youth, whilst on an adventure to to find a dead body; rumoured to be a day or so’s walk out of town, deserved the respect it was given.

If this one hadn’t been a stunner it might have ruined many people’s childhoods.

The Shawshank Redemption

Directed by David Esbjornson this stage version of a movie, consistently voted as Britain’s favourite, is playing at the Winter Gardens from the 14-19 of November.


Of course, Shawshank started life as the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption but it was the 1994 movie staring Tim Robins and Morgan Freeman, that, despite being an box office disappointment, propelled the tale into a classic.

The plot of Andy Dufresne’s wrongful imprisonment and subsequent, masterfully-engineered, escape, should hardly need any introduction. Esbjornson’s version has already received a rave review from The Hollywood News over in LA.

Starting Ian Kelsey and Patrick Robinson as Andy and ‘Red’, and an excellent supporting cast, tickets for the production start at just £14 and are already on sale here.

Oh, and about The Langoliers…

Remember that awful adaption I mentioned at the start? Well, It’s the story of armies of giant fleshy Pac-Men eating up time. Check it out. It’s three hours long and has “Al” from Quantum Leap in a leading role.


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