The Quick 10: 10 Broadway Musicals Based on Books
By Sara Newton
Broadway in Chicago recently held a conference on the topic of transforming books into Broadway Musicals, partially due to the success of "Wicked," the longest running Broadway Musical in Chicago history. But "Wicked" wasn't the first work of literature to be interpreted through song on the stage. Here are ten Broadway musicals based on books.
3. "The Woman in White," written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Weber into a musical in 2004. Original star Michael Crawford, who played the grossly obese Count Fosco, had to be replaced by his understudy when he fell ill from over-sweating in the fat suit.
4. "Jane Eyre," a musical based on the novel by Charlotte BrontÃ«, premiered in Wichita, Kansas, with many locals cast in chorus roles and the main characters performed by Broadway professionals. After the small-stage success, the musical slowly transitioned to the Broadway stage in 2000. "Jane Eyre" featured songs about blindness, because at the end of the novel, Mr. Rochester is stricken blind after his estate burns down.
6. Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical "Little Women" got the musical treatment as well. The show went through 55 previews before finally premiering at the Virginia Theatre on Broadway in 2005. Unfortunately, the reviews and reception were not positive and after 137 performances, Marmie, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy sang no more.
7. "Dracula" the musical, based on the novel by Bram Stoker, included such song favorites as "Fresh Blood." Composer Frank Wildhorn, generally skewered by the Broadway community, also composed the score for "Jekyll and Hyde." This attempt at a musical Victorian novel was met with disdain as well. Critics found the lyrics "unoriginal" and the plot hard to follow for those unfamiliar with Stoker's novel. Only after the musical moved to Austria did it meet critical and commercial success.
8. "Lord of the Rings," J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy series, has been adapted for the stage, complete with songs, several times. Despite being categorized as "musicals," the creators scoffed when asked if their productions were "musical theater," saying they created "theatrical adaptations with vital musical elements." Regardless, it's singing hobbits. Cincinnati, Ohio produced and staged all three books (LOTR, The Two Towers, and Return of the King) of the series, and gained much success
10. "My Fair Lady" is based on "Pygmalion," a play written by George Bernard Shaw that tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney Englishwoman who learns how to pass as lady of society under the tutelage of Henry Higgins. The play opened in 1956, starring Rex Harrison and a previously unknown Julie Andrews, and soon earned the rave review of: "The Perfect Musical." The musical's title refers to one of Shaw's provisional titles for "Pygmalion,"—Fair Eliza. Producers wanted to call the show "Lady Liza," but soon realized that the marquee would read "Rex Harrison in Lady Liza" and soon settled on "My Fair Lady."