7 Famous Novels That Became Musicals
A good story is a good story is a good story. That’s why most great novels are adapted into films and plays and even musicals.
Musicals? Of course!
Now, sometimes, the execution of said story into another format is lacking. Or maybe the particular story just isn’t a good fit for a visual medium. That’s why, to date, we haven’t seen an Infinite Jest film. But Blood Meridian? Would someone please film Blood Meridian?
But back to musicals. When I started this project, I had no idea how many famous novels had been adapted into the realm of Broadway. It’s pretty impressive.
But, I kid not, when I say nearly every book on this Time list has had at least some attempt at a musical.
Here’s just a few that stand out:
Ragtime: This is a classic musical. And though I haven’t read it yet (it is on the Time list) it sounds like a novel that was perfectly fit to be transformed into a musical. Ragtime originally appeared on Broadway in 1996 and made a comeback in 2009.
An American Tragedy: Um, depressing much? I can’t imagine watching this as musical. But it was headed for Broadway in 1995 when one of its co-collaboraters died and the musical died with him. The musical actually made it to stage in 2010 when it was performed at Muhlenberg College.
The Lord of the Rings: Singing hobbits, people. Singing hobbits. I don’t know why, but I find this fascinating. The London version of The Lord of the Rings musical had 492 performances over 13 months before ending in July 2008.
Gone With The Wind: Another novel that kind of makes sense as a musical. Let’s just hope Scarlett can sing. This production ran in London in 2008 to mostly negative reviews.
Animal Farm: Wait a minute. A musical about barnyard animals? Well it hasn’t happened yet, but Elton John is working on it. ”It’s a difficult, very difficult thing to write and make into a musical but that’s the challenge,” Mr. John told The One Show in Britain. “I’ve been asked to write a lot of musicals since Billy Elliot and I’ve turned them down because they’re too easy and they’re not the sort of subject matter I want to write about. This is really dark.” Well, I guess if they can make a musical about cats…
A Clockwork Orange: This musical played in London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Anthony Burgess’ novel last year. Burgess actually wrote the music for the stage show years ago. Andrew Biswell, who directs the Anthony Burgess Foundation, told the BBC that the musical is similar in tone to West Side Story.
The Great Gatsby: How has this novel never been transformed into a Broadway musical? It was originally slotted to become a musical in 1969, but Gatsby never made the stage. Recently, The Great Gatsby musical was performed twice at The New York Musical Theater Festival. Someone…take this show to Broadway.
Of course, the list goes on and on and on. Prominent musicals like Le Miserables, Oliver!, Wicked, The Color Purple, Big River, and South Pacific all came from famous novels.
And Animal Farm? I’ve got to say that I can’t wait to see what Elton John does with that one.
Do you have any favorite musicals that were inspired by novels?