As you may have noticed on my blog, I’m a big fan of both books and the theatre. While live theatrical productions are currently on hold, I’m waiting for the day when I can see a live performance again. In the meantime, I’ve been spending my free time reading and reminiscing about some of my favorite musicals. Books are a great source material for inspiration, even for musicals. Here are some of my favorite musicals that are based on books.
Matilda was written by Roald Dahl and first published in 1988. The book is about a little girl named Matilda who loves to read but has to overcome obstacles of frustrating adults like her parents and the Trunchbull while discovering she has powers of her own. A movie adaptation premiered in 1996, with the setting moved from England to the United States. Matilda made its musical premiere in 2010 on West End, and made its Broadway debut in 2013. Netflix is currently in the development of a movie adaptation of the musical for its streaming platform.
Wicked was one of the first musicals I heard about. The musical is based on the same story line of “The Wizard of Oz” from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. I didn’t realize this telling of “The Wizard of Oz” was also based on a book; “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” was written by Gregory Maguire and Douglas Smith and published in 1995. The musical first premiered on Broadway in 2003, it’s still in performances to this date (aside from all Broadway performances being on hold for the pandemic).
Hamilton: An American Musical
I’ve gushed before about my love for Hamilton, and there’s a good reason why. While Hamilton: An American Musical is based on the real-life events of Alexander Hamilton (aka the ten-dollar founding father), it was a biography about Hamilton that ultimately shaped the musical. Alexander Hamilton’s biography by Ron Chernow, originally published in 2005, was picked up by Lin-Manuel Miranda as a book to read on vacation. Chernow even served as an advisor for the musical adaptation of his book.
Little Women: The Musical
Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott and first published in 1868. It tells the story of the March sisters: Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg about their lives during and after the Civil War. The musical first premiered on Broadway in 2004, and had 137 performances before it closed. In the past, there have been at least four play adaptions of Little Women. One of my favorite songs, “Astonishing,” is included in this musical.
Ragtime is another favorite musical of mine, and most people don’t know it’s based on a book. Ragtime was written by E.L. Doctorow in 1975 and tells the story of America during the 1910s from three different groups of Americans: African Americans (represented by Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Harlem musician) upper-class suburbanites in New Rochelle, NY (represented by Mother, the matriarch of the family), and immigrants who just arrived in America (represented by Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia). Ragtime premiered on Broadway in 1997 on Broadway, and also was revived on Broadway in 2009 for a limited run of 65 performances.