Theatre mad? Read on for our list of musicals based on novels.
There are many reasons why novels make good musicals. Novels typically have strong plots, well-developed characters, and memorable dialogue. These elements can be easily translated into song and dance, making for a more exciting and engaging theatrical experience. Additionally, novels often explore themes that are universal and timeless, which can resonate with audiences of all ages.
Novels have been adapted into both stage and cinema musicals for a long time. Some of the most famous and successful musicals of all time, such as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and The King and I, are based on novels. These musicals have been performed all over the world and have won numerous awards.
Here are twenty novels that have become the most successful and enduring musical plays and films:
The Wizard of Oz (1902)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a 1900 children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum. It is the first novel in the Oz series of books. The story follows Dorothy Gale, a young farm girl from Kansas, who is swept away to the magical Land of Oz by a tornado. Along the way, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion, who join her on her quest to find the Wizard of Oz, who they believe can help them all achieve their goals.
The novel was adapted into a musical for the stage in 1902. It was a success and ran for over 200 performances. It has since been revived several times, most notably in 1975 and 2003.
The novel has also been adapted into several films, most notably the 1939 film starring Judy Garland. The film was a critical and commercial success and is considered a classic of American cinema.
The novel, musical, and film adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have all been popular and have helped to make the story a classic of children’s literature.
Show Boat (1927)
Show Boat is based on a 1926 novel, Show Boat , by Edna Ferber that tells the story of three generations of performers on a floating theatre aboard a steamboat, Cotton Blossom. The story follows the family from the Reconstruction Era in the 1880s to the Roaring Twenties as they visit small towns along the Mississippi River.
The novel was adapted into a successful Broadway musical in 1927, and it has also been made into several films. Show Boat is considered one of the greatest American musicals of all time, and it is known for its groundbreaking use of African American performers, its complex characters, and its timeless songs.
The musical became a huge success, running for over 500 performances and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It has been adapted into several films, including silent films in 1929 and 1936, and a colour film in 1951.
Show Boat is considered one of the greatest American musicals of all time. It has been praised for its groundbreaking use of African American performers, its complex characters, and its timeless songs. The musical has been performed all over the world and continues to be a popular choice for theatre productions.
Porgy and Bess (1935) by DuBose Heyward and George Gershwin
The novel Porgy, written by DuBose Heyward and published in 1925, is the basis for the musical Porgy and Bess. The novel tells the story of Porgy, a crippled street beggar living in the black tenements of Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s. He meets Bess, a drug-addicted woman who is involved with a violent man. Porgy becomes a positive influence in Bess’s life, and they eventually fall in love.
The novel was adapted into a play by Heyward and his wife, Dorothy, in 1927. The play was a success, and it ran on Broadway for over 300 performances. In 1935, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin adapted the play into an opera. The opera was also a success, and it has been performed all over the world.
There have been several film adaptations of Porgy and Bess. The most notable adaptation was released in 1959 and starred Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Porgy and Bess is a powerful and moving story about love, loss, and redemption. It is a classic American work of art that has been enjoyed by audiences for generations.
South Pacific (1949) by Rodgers and Hammerstein
The musical South Pacific is based on the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1949, tells the story of several American and Allied military personnel stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II. The musical explores themes of love, loss, racism, and colonialism.
The musical was adapted into two films, a 1958 film starring Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi, and a 2001 film starring Glenn Close and Raúl Esparza. Both films were successful, but the 1958 film is considered to be the more faithful adaptation of the musical.
In 1992, Michener published a novelization of the musical, which retold the story from the perspective of the characters. The novelization includes additional details about the characters’ lives and relationships, as well as background information about the historical events that inspired the musical.
The King and I (1951)
The musical is based on Anna and the King of Siam, a semi-fictional novel by Margaret Landon, based on the diaries of Anna Leonowens, a British woman who was employed as a governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the 1860s. The novel was first published in 1944 and has been adapted into several films and a musical.
The musical, The King and I, was first produced on Broadway in 1951 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has been revived several times on Broadway and in London, and it has also been adapted into a film in 1956.
The novel and the musical have been criticized for their historical inaccuracies, but they remain popular and have been enjoyed by audiences around the world.
The Sound of Music (1959)
The Sound of Music is based on the post-war memoirs of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers – 1949, is a musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It tells the story of Maria, who takes a job as governess to a large family while she decides whether to become a nun. She develops a close bond with the children, and falls in love with their widowed father, Captain von Trapp. The family flees from the Nazis to Austria and goes into exile in Switzerland.
The musical was adapted for the stage in 1959 and ran for over 1,400 performances on Broadway. It has since been performed in countless productions around the world. In 1965, the musical was adapted into a film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film was a huge box office success and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The von Trapp family was a musical group that rose to fame in the years following World War II. Their story has been told in many different forms, including the musical The Sound of Music.
Man of La Mancha (1965)
The musical Man of La Mancha is based on the Spanish novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. The novel tells the story of Alonso Quijano, a middle-aged hidalgo who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and believes himself to be a knight-errant named Don Quixote. With his sidekick Sancho Panza, Don Quixote sets out on a series of adventures, tilting at windmills and believing ordinary people to be noblemen and damsels in distress.
The musical Man of La Mancha tells the story of Don Quixote as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as they await a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1965 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has been revived several times on Broadway and in London, and it has also been adapted into a film twice, in 1972 and 2000.
The musical Man of La Mancha is a celebration of the power of the imagination and the importance of dreams. It is a reminder that even in the face of adversity, we can all be heroes if we believe in ourselves.
The Jungle Book (1967)
The Jungle Book is based on a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, first published in 1894. The stories are set in the jungles of India and feature a young boy named Mowgli who is raised by wolves. Mowgli must learn to survive in the jungle and face the dangers of animals such as Shere Khan the tiger and Kaa the python. The stories have been adapted into many different forms, including films, television shows, and stage musicals.
The first musical adaptation of The Jungle Book was produced in 1967 in London. The musical was a success and ran for over a year. A second was produced in 2000 in New York City. This musical was also a success and ran for over two years.
The Jungle Book has also been adapted into several films, including a 1967 animated film by Walt Disney Pictures, a 1994 live-action film, and a 2016 live-action/CGI film. The animated film was a critical and commercial success and is considered one of the greatest Disney animated films ever made. The live-action films were also successful, but they were not as well-received as the animated film.
Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is based on Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car, a children’s novel by Ian Fleming, better known as the creator of James Bond. It was published in 1964 and tells the story of Caractacus Potts, an inventor who buys a used car that he names Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The car turns out to be magical and has a variety of special features, including the ability to fly, swim, and walk. Caractacus and his children use Chitty to have a series of adventures, including a trip to the fictional land of Vulgaria.
- The novel was adapted into a musical for the stage in 2002. The musical has been performed in London, the United States, and other countries.
- The novel has also been adapted into a film twice. The first film, released in 1968, was directed by Ken Hughes and starred Dick Van Dyke. The second film, released in 2005, was directed by Beeban Kidron and starred Matthew Macfadyen.
Oliver is based on Oliver Twist, a novel by Charles Dickens about an orphan boy who is forced to live in a workhouse and then falls in with a group of pickpockets. The novel was first published in 1838 and has been adapted into numerous films and television shows. The most famous adaptation is the 1968 musical Oliver!, which won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The musical was written by Lionel Bart and is based on the novel’s plot and characters. It features songs such as “Food, Glorious Food” and “Consider Yourself.” Oliver! has been performed all over the world and is considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. It premiered in London in 1960 and ran for over 4,200 performances. It has been revived numerous times, including a 2009 production that starred Rowan Atkinson.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was published in 1964. It tells the story of a poor boy named Charlie Bucket who, upon finding a Golden Ticket in a chocolate bar, wins the chance to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory along with four other children. The factory is a magical place full of Wonka’s incredible inventions, but not all of the children are able to behave themselves and they are eventually expelled. Charlie, however, is a kind and respectful boy and he is rewarded with a lifetime supply of chocolate.
The novel has been adapted into two films, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). There has also been a musical adaptation of the novel, which premiered in London in 2013. The musical features new songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979)
The original novel that the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is based on is a penny dreadful serial titled The String of Pearls by Thomas Peckett Prest, which was first published in 1846-1847. The story follows Sweeney Todd, a barber who murders his customers with a straight razor and gives their corpses to Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, who bakes their flesh into meat pies. The tale has been retold many times since in various media, including a 1979 musical adaptation by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, which won multiple awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical has been revived in many productions as well as inspiring a film adaptation in 2007.
Les Misérables (1985)
Les Misérables is based on a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862. It is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. The novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-criminal Jean Valjean and his journey towards redemption.
Les Misérables has been adapted into numerous forms, including a musical for the stage, which premiered in 1985. The musical has been performed all over the world and has won numerous awards, including eight Tony Awards. There have also been several film adaptations of Les Misérables, including a 1935 film starring Fredric March and a 2012 film starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.
The novel and its adaptations have explored themes of social justice, redemption, and the power of love. Les Misérables has had a lasting impact on popular culture and continues to be a popular read and performance.
The Phantom of the Opera (1986)
The musical, The Phantom of the Opera is based on a 1910 French novel by Gaston Leroux. It tells the story of a deformed musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opera House and becomes obsessed with a young soprano named Christine Daaé. The novel has been adapted into several films and a musical.
The musical adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart, premiered in London in 1986 and on Broadway in 1988. It has become one of the longest-running musicals in history, with over 140 million people seeing it worldwide.
There have also been several film adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera, including a 1925 silent film, a 1943 film, and a 2004 film directed by Joel Schumacher.
The Phantom of the Opera is a classic story of love, obsession, and revenge. It has been enjoyed by audiences for generations and continues to be a popular choice for stage and screen adaptations.
Into the Woods (1987)
The musical Into the Woods is based on a number of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. The musical intertwines the plots of these stories, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. It was first staged at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California, in December 1986, and opened on Broadway in November 1987. It went on to win three Tony Awards, including Best Score of a Musical and Best Book of a Musical.
The musical has been adapted into a film twice, in 1991 and in 2014. The 2014 film adaptation was directed by Rob Marshall and starred Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Pine.
Rent is a 1996 rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by Jonathan Larson. The musical is an adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohème, set in Lower Manhattan’s East Village in the thriving days of bohemian Alphabet City, with its thriving arts scene and an influx of HIV/AIDS, which is itself based on the 1851 novel, Scenes of Bohemian Life by Henri Murger. The musical follows a group of seven artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City.
Rent premiered off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop on February 13, 1996, and transferred to Broadway on April 29, 1996, where it ran for 12 years, becoming the 11th-longest-running Broadway musical of all time. The musical has won numerous awards, including four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Album.
There have been several film adaptations of Rent. The first, a straight-to-video film directed by Chris Columbus, was released in 2005. A second film adaptation, directed by Michael Mayer and featuring the original Broadway cast, was released in 2010.
Wicked is based on a 1995 novel, Wicked, by Gregory Maguire that tells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The novel is a revisionist fantasy that explores the nature of good and evil, and it has been praised for its complex characters and thought-provoking themes.
In 2003, Wicked was adapted into a musical for the stage. The musical has been a huge success, winning numerous awards, including three Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Actress in a Musical.
Mary Poppins (2004)
The musical Mary Poppins is based on the novel of the same name by P.L. Travers. The novel was first published in 1934 and introduced the world to Mary Poppins, a magical nanny who arrives in London to care for the Banks children. The novel was followed by seven sequels, the last of which was published in 1988.
In 1964, the novel was adapted into a Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The film was a critical and commercial success, and won five Academy Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”
In 2004, a stage musical adaptation of Mary Poppins opened in London. The musical was written by Julian Fellowes and features music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, the same team that wrote the songs for the film. The musical has been a critical and commercial success, and has been performed in London, New York, and around the world.
The novel, film, and musical have all been praised for their heartwarming stories, memorable characters, and catchy songs. Mary Poppins has become a classic of children’s literature and is enjoyed by audiences of all ages.
A Christmas Carol (1994)
A Christmas Carol is a novella by Charles Dickens first published in 1843. The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted miser who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The ghosts show Scrooge the error of his ways and how his actions have affected those around him. By the end of the story, Scrooge has been transformed into a kind and generous man.
The novella has been adapted into many different forms, including a musical for the stage. The musical version of “A Christmas Carol” premiered in 1994 and has been performed annually in New York City ever since. The musical features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.
The musical and film adaptations of A Christmas Carol have helped to keep the story alive and relevant for generations of audiences. The story’s message of redemption and the importance of kindness and compassion is as important today as it was when Dickens first wrote it over 175 years ago.
The novel Matilda by Roald Dahl tells the story of a young girl with magical powers who uses them to stand up to her cruel parents and headmistress. The book was published in 1988 and has been adapted into a stage musical, a film, and an audio book. The musical adaptation, which premiered in London in 2011 and on Broadway in 2013, has won numerous awards, including four Olivier Awards and five Tony Awards. The film adaptation, directed by Danny DeVito and released in 1996, also received critical acclaim.
And this concludes our list of musicals based on novels, What’s your take on these – have you read any of them, or seen them performed on stage?