5 Books Transformed To Musicals


There is nothing I love more than books. They tell a story through words, there are no visual images, it is left to you to imagine the scenery with the words you are given. Films give you all of it, the dialogue, scenery, even music! Life is so different when you don’t have music playing in the background. For a while I have thought that theatre is a halfway between the two. While a lot of information is provided for the audience, props, costumes, sound effects, character’s features, there’s still a lot of gaps for us to fill in. One thing that I love immensely is crossovers. Don’t you always wonder, how would this book be played out as a film? What particular moments would create a good musical number?

As we know there are lots of books, many of which have been created into musicals and films. This would be the perfect opportunity to discuss a few of my favourite book to musical adaptations! So here are my top five bookish musicals.


Let’s start it off with a recent online favourite. Hamilton took the world by storm when it debuted on Broadway in 2015. The musical is revolutionary. Why? Almost every song is rap. In the last decade it has been quite difficult to find an original musical that sticks around for very long. However, Hamilton has challenged this in many ways and given a new meaning to the musical. It’s astounding to think that this rap musical was inspired by the biography, Alexander Hamilton. Using the book about the American Founding Father, Lin-Manuel Miranda made musical theatre history. I’m impressed, as are most people! Not only is the musical full of rap, it is also full of diverse characters, giving many people in the minority a chance to shine. I have not read Ron Chernow’s book myself, yet there has been a rise in people researching Alexander Hamilton’s role in history since the musical found popularity.

Favourite Song: The Schuyler Sisters

Show Boat

We’re going back in time quite a few years to 1927. Show Boat is a classical musical, one of the first and very controversial at the time. It is based on Edna Ferber’s 1926 book of the same name which explores inequality, and gave a voice for people of colour in a time when that would’ve been unheard of. The book and musical showed that there is a connection between the poor and rich, fortunate and unfortunate, and at the time, between the black and the white. This was during a time when segregation was still at large. Showboat was one of the first book musicals, and was the start of talking about this subject. Again, I have not yet read the book, however watching the musical has made me want to explore it more. The issues brought up are still relevant in our society today.

Favourite Song: Old Man River


If you’ve been on my Instagram then you would know that I have been loving the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats, a hell of a lot lately. This mega-musical has been a long-time favourite of mine. For years I had no idea that it was actually based on a poetry book by T.S. Elliot. In fact, it isn’t just based off of the stories; it is the poetry book in song form. The majority of the lyrics to Cats you can find in, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, apart from Grizabella’s songs which were written privately by T. S. Elliot. Perhaps you can argue that this musical is in fact a jukebox musical, maybe one of the first! From what I have seen there have not been any musicals based off poetry since, however I would love to see a new musical develop from a poem! The Lady of Shallot has always been a favourite of mine. Maybe that could create something? I’m sure lots of readers would like to see how Sylvia Plath would fare. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a bit of Shakespeare!

Favourite Song: Grizabella the Glamour Cat and Mister Mistoffelees.


Not one of the most successful book musicals, when Carrie first opened on Broadway in 1998 it flopped. Perhaps one of the worst in the era; it prompts the question, can a horror book be transformed into a musical? Most musicals are cheesy and bouncy right? Even if they’re not that, they’re very emotional. I discovered Carrie the Musical after I finished reading Stephen King’s book a few years ago. Carrie was and always will be one of my favourite novels. I loved seeing how the story unfolded, so I was incredibly excited to find that a musical existed. I’ve tried watching the bootleg of the original production; however, I didn’t enjoy it. Carrie is a very subtle, in the beginning anyway, book where the story unfolds slowly until BAM! Everything’s falling apart at once. The original was too dramatic yet not dramatic enough. However, I am pleased to say that the writers did a revival. Although it doesn’t quite do the book justice, the ending doesn’t contain the amount of umph it needs to, the build to the end is incredible. The musical explores everyone’s emotions, how they want to fit in, and how as strange as Carrie is, she is full of love. Carrie is a lot more emotional and heartfelt but this new perspective on the normally creepy book, gives the same message. Bullying is wrong, everyone is just trying to fit in, and we should be strong. We all have a way to shine. Maybe one day will tweak it a bit more and tour it, I’d love to see the show in action!

Favourite Song: I Remember How Those Boys Dance


This is the musical that spurred many retellings. Debuted in 2003, Wicked is based on the life of the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz, giving her more heart than she had in the original story. I find the transition from book to musical one of the most fascinating, as in this case, the musical is indeed very different to the book. Many parents take their children to see Elphaba and Glinda battle it out with the Wizard. Not to mention that we all swoon at Fiyero. However, you wouldn’t want your children reading Gregory Maguire's novel. It is quite a bit raunchier than its musical counterpart. Stephen Schwartz needed to make the musical appealing to a wide audience. Plus, a 500 page novel has to be whittled down into a 2 and a half hour performance. Of course subplots and characters are going to be lost! At one point Schwartz was considering cutting out the political animal storyline. This is one of the fundamental parts of the book! Despite being very different from the more serious and sarcastic novel, the story and points are all the same. I have found both very enjoyable, and recommend you explore both!

Favourite Song: For Good (and every other song in the musical, really I could I choose?)

That’s all for Show Sunday this week! It was very difficult to whittle this list down to five. There are so many musicals like this out there! I’d love to do a post like this in the future, perhaps being more specific. Most of the books mentioned in this post are for adults; however, lots of children’s books have been turned into musicals. Matilda being one of them! Oh how I wish I could see that again! Stick around and you might see a children’s book to musical post in the near future.

Now I’d love to hear more from you. What are your favourite musicals that are based on books? Also, what books would you love to be turned into musicals? 

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