Let’s Get Lit-erary: Book to musical adaptations  

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Musicals are often adapted from movies, as well as books. In this article, we discuss many different musicals that first began as literature and progressed into musicals that we know today. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

Just as movies are often adapted from books, so are musicals. Drawing from the vast literary canon, creators can bring characters to life and push music toward the forefront, serving as the primary vehicle by which the story is delivered.  

First and foremost is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2015 musical, “Hamilton,” which was inspired not by a work of fiction, but by Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Although drawing from Hamilton’s life and the American Revolution, show creator Miranda put a spin on the story, notably casting non-white actors as historical figures and utilizing hip-hop as the show’s primary genre of music.  

Turning to fiction is “The Phantom of the Opera,” a 1986 musical based on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 French novel of the same name. “The Phantom of the Opera” is currently the longest-running show on Broadway, although production is expected to end in 2023.  

“Les Misérables” is an adaptation of yet another esteemed French novel, this one by novelist and politician Victor Hugo. 32 years after the musical’s original release came a film adaptation starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried.  

In the realm of parody falls John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick’s “Something Rotten!” While not an adaptation per se, the musical comedy sets its scene during the Renaissance, when playwrights Nick and Nigel Bottom attempt to outshine the wildly successful William Shakespeare.  

Scattered throughout the musical are references to various Shakespeare plays. For example, one character mistakenly reads “Hamlet” as omelette, leading to a production of “Omelette: The Musical.” Even the title “Something Rotten!” is a reference to the character Marcellus’ line in the original tragedy, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”  

Another musical parody is “A Very Potter Musical,” a “Harry Potter”-inspired show originally run by StarKids Productions in 2009. Actor Darren Criss, best known for his work on “Glee” not only played Harry Potter in the musical but was also one of the show’s lyricists.   

Moving into a more fantastical realm is the 2003 musical “Wicked,” which tells the story of the witches in Oz, a world developed in L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Inspired by Baum’s book and its 1939 film adaptation, author Gregory Maguire released his novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” In turn, the Broadway show was technically adapted from Maguire’s book, though it obviously carried over elements of Baum’s original story.  

Another fantasy-based musical is “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” inspired by the works of Rick Riordan. The musical covers the first book of the “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series, in which newly-discovered demigod Percy embarks on a quest to find Zeus’ lightning bolt and stop a full-scale war between the Greek gods.  

On the other hand, there is “Dear Evan Hansen,” a book that was directly inspired by the hit Broadway show of the same name. Author Val Emmich takes the opportunity to further explore Evan’s dilemma and the mounting pressure that builds throughout the narrative. While emotions can certainly be represented in a musical via song or dialogue, there is something unique about first-person narration that only a book can fully capture.  

“Legally Blonde,” “The Color Purple,” and “Matilda” are just a few other works that began as literature — the list of adaptations is endless. In case it was ever doubted, musical adaptations are a form of storytelling just as valid as movie adaptations; musicals keep viewers on their toes, telling narratives in a fun and catchy way.  

3 COMMENTS

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  2. Reading books is quite an exciting process. But it is not always convenient for you to take a book with you to read it in your free time. To make it easier for you, I recommend you to use this site. There you can find and download all the books you are interested in and read them directly from your phone! I think this should be the best solution for you!

  3. Reading books is quite an exciting process. But it is not always convenient for you to take a book with you to read it in your free time. To make it easier for you, I recommend you to use this site. There you can find and download all the books you are interested in and read them directly from your phone! I think this should be the best solution for you!

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