There’s something magical about seeing your favorite book brought to life on stage and set to music. Brimming with drama and intriguing characters, literature has often inspired composers to adapt the written word into live theater.
Here are five amazing musicals based on, inspired by or adapted from novels. Read the books and then sing along to the original score!
Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 revisionist look at the characters in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the musical is told from the perspective of the witches from Oz. It tells the story of their unlikely friendship and the Wicked Witch of the West’s eventual fall from grace. Wicked made its debut in San Francisco’s Curran Theater in 2003. Soon after, the original Broadway production skyrocketed Idina Menzel (Elphaba) and Kristen Chenoweth (Glinda) to worldwide fame, with their onstage chemistry and Tony-award-winning performances.
2. The Color Purple
Originally a novel by Alice Walker, then a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, it was brought to life on the Broadway stage first in 2005 and then revived again in 2015 by one of the movie’s stars, Oprah Winfrey. The musical has been described by critics and theater goers as uplifting and life-affirming, just like the book.
Currently the toast of Broadway, the idea to write the musical Hamilton came to creator Lin-Manuel Miranda from reading Ron Chernow’s 2004 book, Alexander Hamilton, on a flight. Originally created as a concept album, Miranda staged an off-Broadway production of the musical early in 2015 and soon found a home in New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre. The musical combines various musical genres and has been lauded as “transformative theatre” by critics and theatre fans alike.
4. Les Misérables
Based on Victor Hugo’s 19th century novel of strife and redemption, it was brought to musical life on the Paris stage in September 1980 and soon after, the West End and Broadway. Multiple stagings of this production have marveled audiences worldwide, and a 2012 film adaptation helped its 2014 Broadway revival have one of its most successful runs in the show’s history. With its iconic songs and top Broadway stars, the story of Jean Valjean’s life of hardship against the backdrop of the French revolution makes Les Mis one of the most beautiful adaptations in musical history.
5. Fun Home
A musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name, debuted off-Broadway in 2013 and moved to Broadway in 2015, quickly winning a Tony for Best Musical and Best Original Score in the same year. The first musical with a lesbian protagonist, it’s a semi-autobiographical story about Bechdel and her relationship with her gay father, and the journey to unlocking the secrets in her father’s life.