Can’t Hardly Wait is being turned into a stage musical

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Can't Hardly Wait
Can't Hardly Wait Credit: Supplied

Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, Cruel Intentions, Bring it On and Bend it Like Beckham have all made the transition from screen to stage.

There’s something about a late-nineties-early-noughties teen movie that proves irresistible to theatre producers, and now it’s Can’t Hardly Wait’s turn.

The co-writer and co-director of the movie, Deborah Kaplan, announced on Instagram that a stage musical was in the works and was coming soon.

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Released in 1998 during a teen movies revival, Can’t Hardly Wait had a bumper cast of young 90s stars as well as then-up-and-comers.

The story followed six high schoolers (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Lauren Ambrose, Seth Green, Charlie Korsmo and Peter Facinelli) on the night of their graduation at a blow-out party.

They’re trying to finally act on long-held crushes, settle old scores or contend with what life means after the social structures of high school.

Scenes from Can't Hardly Wait.
Scenes from Can't Hardly Wait. Credit: Columbia Pictures

Can’t Hardly Wait was notable for its huge ensemble of small roles played by actors who would go on to have bigger careers, including Jason Segel in his debut movie, Selma Blair, Clea Duvall, Chris Owen (American Pie), Sean Patrick Thomas (Cruel Intentions), Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under), Nicole Bilderback (Bring it On), Amber Benson (Buffy), Jaime Pressly (My Name is Ear), Leslie Grossman (Popular) and Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under).

It also featured cameos from Jerry O’Connell, Melissa Joan Hart, Breckin Meyer and Jenna Elfman.

At the time, the film was embroiled in a rating controversy as the American classification board objected to there being no parental supervision at the party and scenes of drug use and drinking, and threatened to slap it with a R rating, which would’ve locked out its core teen audience.

The movie was recut by the studio which included replacing a beer bong with a balloon, and shortened scenes which were originally centred on a watermelon filled with vodka (with Segel) as well as longer sequences with pot brownies (featuring Balfour) and a stoned girl fondling a banana (Benson).

Scenes from Can't Hardly Wait.
Scenes from Can't Hardly Wait. Credit: Columbia Pictures

Kaplan and her writing and director partner Harry Elfont, aren’t directly involved in the project, but is “watching from the sidelines”, she told Deadline.

Instead, the production will be directed by Kate Sullivan and written by Sinead Daly with musical arrangements by Jesse Vargas.

It sounds like the Can’t Hardly Wait stage production will be a jukebox musical, drawing on nineties and early noughties hits from Primary Wave and Sony Music’s song libraries.

The original film had an excellent soundtrack and several scenes built on needle drops would naturally lend itself to a musical format.

There was the scene of the nerdy William (Korsmo) who becomes a party god when he throws himself into a lip sync of Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City. There was also Denise (Ambrose) sitting at the party by herself while Thelma Houston’s Don’t Leave Me This Way blasts.

There’s the intro of Amanda (Hewitt) to iconic 90s indie pop hit 6 Underground by the Sneaker Pimps and, of course, Preston’s (Embry) obsession with the Barry Manilow song Mandy. The party disperses when the cops turn up and the chaos is scored to Blink-182’s Dammit.

The movie soundtrack also included Run DMC’s Tricky, two Smash Mouth ditties (Walkin’ on the Sun and Can’t Get Enough of You Baby), Nazareth’s Love Hurts, The Three Degrees’ When Will I See You Again and Yazoo’s Only You.

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