I’m off to New York City this weekend with my best friend, and one of our primary objectives is to see as many shows and musicals as possible (secondary objective: eat lots and lots of delicious food!).
Another priority of mine when I visit NYC is to do as many literary things as possible (check out the itinerary from my visit last year). So when I looked at what’s currently showing on and off Broadway, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of the shows are based on books. This is nothing new, or course. Les Miserables, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, The Wizard of Oz — there are lots of famous musicals based on books, but I like that it’s still a trend.
This got me wondering if there are any book-based musicals I’d missed. The answer? Yes, many! Here are the eight that intrigued me the most:
American Psycho, a musical based on the 1991 novel by Brett Easton Ellis, premiered on Broadway in spring of 2016 and only ran for 54 regular performances. The plot centers on the life of Patrick Bateman, a narcissistic investment banker with a penchant for Phil Collins and… killing people!
I haven’t read the book (honestly, I’m a little nervous to read it because I’ve heard it’s disturbingly violent), but I love the movie, so I’m bummed the musical didn’t have a longer run. One of the songs is called “Cards” and it’s the hilariously ridiculous business-card “showdown” scene set to jaunty synthesizer music – I would have loved to see that!
Until I researched for this blog post, I had no idea that Anne of Green Gables was a musical! Seeing as it’s one of my favorite books on the planet, this news was very happy-making, and I started listening to it right away. Based on L.M. Montgomery’s book, Anne of Green Gables has been performed continuously since 1965, and in 2014 made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as Canada’s longest running musical. With songs about Anne’s first time trying ice cream and kindred spirits, it’s quite a delight to listen to.
You probably know Matilda was turned into a musical, but what about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The musical, based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, premiered in New York this April and a US tour is planned for 2018. Apparently, the Broadway version is a good deal darker than the West End version and parts of the original story have been changed significantly. I’m not sure why the writers would do this, since the book is so good already. Thankfully, the musical does include some of the best songs from the 1971 movie, like “The Oompa Loompa Song.”
A musical rendition of the Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was adapted for stage in 2008, but sadly, it didn’t do very well. Overall reviews were negative and it doesn’t seem like the cast was even able to make an official recording of the production. The only parts of the musical I’ve been able to listen to are from short news clips about it on YouTube. Gone with the Wind ran for only 79 performances and plans for a New York production have been “put on hold.” My feeling is that tomorrow isn’t another day for this musical.
Real talk: I would love to see the brooding Byronic Edward Rochester belting out showtunes! And it turns out he did in the Jane Eyre musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2000. Unlike some of the other lesser-known musicals based on books, this one actually got good reviews and was nominated for a few Tony Awards. Alanis Morissette, a close friend of the show’s composer/lyricist Paul Gordon, bought $150,000 of tickets in an effort to prolong the run, but it only helped a little. Performed a total of 209 times, Jane Eyre closed just a week after the 2001 Tonys.
I loved Natalie Babbitt growing up, especially Tuck Everlasting, with its cautionary tale of immortality. The musical version, however, was very mortal. It only ran for a month on Broadway in 2016 before getting axed. Apparently, Tuck just wasn’t flashy enough to draw crowds and didn’t sell enough tickets. I checked out some of the highlights on YouTube, and it seemed cute, but what caught my attention was the first comment on the video: “Tuck Neverlasting.” Cue the sad trombone music.
Here are the basics: the musical version of Rebecca is in German and closely follows the story of the the book by Daphne du Maurier. It ran in Vienna, Austria for three years and was performed in various other countries such as Korea, Finland and others.
Beyond the basics: One country Rebecca will not be performed in anytime soon is the U.S. The reason why is pretty bonkers. A Broadway production of the show was announced in 2012, but it turned out that the show’s investors were completely made up. The FBI launched a criminal investigation, which resulted in the arrest of the middleman who fabricated the non-existent investors. In April this year, the producers went to trial against the show’s publicist in the New York Supreme Court, where it was revealed then that they had lost the rights to the show. Cue even more sad trombone music!
There have been a bunch of different theatrical renditions of J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, but the one reviewers will remember (and not kindly) premiered in Toronto in 2006 and then had a 13-month run in London’s West End from 2007-2008. The show cost £25 million to produce, and critics did not believe it lived up to its price tag. “Bored of the Rings,” and “more middle-of-the-road than Middle Earth” are just a few of their choice words about the musical.
All in all, it seems that a fair few of these musicals are lesser known because they tanked at the ticket office, but being the booknerd that I am, I would still go see them if they toured near me!
What musicals based on books have you enjoyed? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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