The idea for musicals has to come from somewhere, and it's not really surprising that books offer a vast store of inspiration. Even so, you'd probably be surprised to learn that some of the best-known musicals are based on books. So if you've never thought about where the idea for a musical came from, you might enjoy reading the books that inspired them …
Cabaret is one of the best-known and most enduring musicals, frequently performed on stage and of course there is the marvelous movie version. But most people haven't read Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, which provided the source material for the musical. Cabaret is not a direct adaptation, but you'll recognise the characters, especially Sally Bowles.
If you loved the books of Roald Dahl as a child, you should check out the musical version of his beloved work Matilda. It was one of his last books, and tells the story of Matilda's battle against the fearsome headmistress Miss Turnbull. And if you've seen the musical but not yet read the book, it's never too late to pick up a copy.
Writers often use work by other writers as inspiration; they might tell the story of a minor character in more detail (Wide Sargasso Sea gives Mr Rochester's mad wife a back story). Wicked is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West before she became wicked. The book is called Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Macguire.
Even people who don't much care for musicals can probably hum a few songs from Oliver! Everyone's seen the movie version, but it's also worth catching a live show if you get the chance. If you find Dickens too depressing, you're bound to think that the musical is a big improvement, with lively songs such as the title song and 'Consider Yourself'.
Your mom or grandma might love this Rogers and Hammerstein musical, and insist on watching it every time it's on. But she probably doesn't know that it's based on a novel by James Michener, just one of many novels based on a geographical location. South Pacific is set against the backdrop of World War II, and explores some important themes such as racism.
This is another favorite musical among the older generation, so if you haven't seen this classic you should check it out. It's based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam, which was based on the memoirs of a governess to the King's children. The musical continues to be performed over 60 years since its premiere.
This has to be one of the strangest novel-to-musical adaptations! It's not surprising that Bret Easton Ellis's tale of murderous banker Patrick Bateman was made into a movie, but it doesn't really seem like something you'd want to sing about. But if they can turn Sweeney Todd into a movie, then pretty much anything goes …
So if you haven't read the book, or you've not yet seen the movie version or a live performance, check out these musicals and the books that inspired them. It's interesting to compare the musical to its source material, and you're bound to enjoy at least some of the songs. Which books would you like to see turned into a musical?
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