Musicals I Love based on Books

A number of musicals are either based off a book, movie, or opera. There are times when literally, the musical is much better than the book. Now, what are some of my favorite book based musicals?

Les Misérables

This is one of Victor Hugo’s masterpieces. It is one of those musicals that is quite faithful to the book. Yes, there are a few differences, but I do love the changes. I love how Marius’ relationships are different in the musical. He is best friends with both Enjolras and Eponine the musical. As a matter of fact, I love that he is closer to both of those characters. Marius’ friendship with Eponine develops the love triangle even further- these two create one of my favorite musical friendships. Just like I love Eponine and Marius’ relationship, I also love the relationship between all the students: making Marius one of the main revolutionaries in some ways further develops Marius along with Enjolras. Those two relationships actually is deeper meaning that there would be more of an emotional punch in “A Little Fall of Rain” and creates a wonderful solo for Marius- “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”.

Les Mis is such a powerful, epic, passionate, uplifting, and inspiring musical. The songs perfectly complement the characters.

This was probably one of the hardest musicals to adapt from the book. You are literally creating a musical that is based of a 1000+ book.

Wicked

Well, the musical and book really aren’t faithful to each other. The book is more of a tragedy while the musical is more of a comedy. The friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, and the love triangle between Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero aren’t exactly present in the book. I actually feel a stronger emotional connection to the musical. The fact that the musical centers around the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda makes Wicked a powerful musical. I really think the love triangle adds a lot more- we see a more drastic transformation happen with Fiyero. The love triangle does strengthen the friendship: after all, you can truly see Elphaba and Glinda’s loyalty in the love triangle.

Phantom of the Opera

Yes, I never read the book. All I know is that the novel reads more like a gothic and horror genre. My favorite characters in the musical are Raoul and Christine- I really love their romance. The musical has such a mysterious, beautiful, and angelic love triangle.

Oliver

I actually saw the stage show before reading the book- however don’t remember that first experience. So I eventually saw the musical again, but that time through the film. I learned to love Nancy even more in the musical- you really get to see her affection for Oliver grow, and with the addition of “As Long As He Needs Me” makes you care for that character even more.

Man of La Mancha

Don Quixote is one of my favorite books. The musical can be a bit confusing due to ” story within a story concept”. You really feel like you are in Spain due to the hispanic sound of the song. I loved how Aldonza is actually a character- it almost in some ways makes Don Quixote a better character in some ways. Don Quixote was the first tragicomic character I came across- still don’t fully understand that concept, but it does fascinate me.

Joseph

Shows based on stories found in the Bible count. I actually was introduced to this musical in elementary school- I was in the children’s choir at church, and for our end of year performance, we sang songs from Joseph. However, I didn’t fall in with the musical until this year- love those songs.

Godspell

While still on the topic of the Bible, Godspell is one of them. This is just one of three Stephen Schwartz musicals I love. It takes place during the last couple of days before the crucifixion. It almost feels as if they inserted the story into a modern setting- that has to do with the costumes.

What about you, what are some of your favorite book based musicals?

My love for Charles Dickens

One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. My favorite book of his is “A Christmas Carol”. I was raised on the George C. Scott movie- that became a family tradition to watch the movie during the Holidays.

The vast majority of the classics I read are Charles Dickens. The ones below are David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Nicholas Nickleby, Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House. I read all of them, but two- Hard Times and Bleak House (which I recently started).

Both Dickens and Hugo are so similar in their writings, but so different: both of them were authors of Romanticism, focused on the lowest rungs of society (from orphans to the poor to prostitutes to convicts- as examples). In addition, they wrote off of things they actually witnessed allowing their books to feel well “real”.

Let me talk about the Charles Dickens books I love:

A Christmas Carol

Obviously, this is my favorite Dickens story. Part had to do with the story being connected to my childhood. Crazily enough, I found a parallel between Sarge and Scrooge: the funny thing about that is that one is a protagonist and the other an antagonist. Sarge is the antagonist of Tale of The Cattail Forest- who is a bully because of his abusive and tragic past.

What I love about Christmas Carol are the characters- from Scrooge to Tiny Tiny to the entire Cratchit family to Fred, etc. There are just so many to fall in love with. What I do love is that it ultimately shows the spirit of Christmas. It all started on Christmas Eve when Scrooge was visited by three spirits: Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Future Christmas. Through this, Scrooge learns why he became the way he is, the spirit of Christmas through the present ghost and what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. There are just a lot of amazing things about this story.

Tale of Two Cities/Great Expectations/David Copperfield

I put these together because I could not figure out why I loved these books.

Tale of Two Cities

Tale of Two Cities takes place in London and Paris during the French Revolution. It is very easy to get mixed up with what city you are in. It even is difficult to figure out the plot. I almost feel as if I need to read this book again.

Great Expectations

As far as Great Expectations goes, I can say one reason why I loved it. I loved Pip, the protagonist. I really don’t know why: part might be because we are introduced to Pip as a child- and eventually as a young adult. I found lots of articles that say Pip is annoying, but in my eyes I don’t see him that way.

David Copperfield

David Copperfield is actually Charles’ Dickens favorite book he wrote. I don’t know why I loved this book.

As for as ALL three of these books go- sometimes you just know when you read a good book even if you don’t know why.

Oliver Twist

I first came across Oliver Twist by the musical. I first saw Oliver in Summer of 2007 at the Bartor Theater in Abingdon, VA. The annoying thing is that I have no memory of seeing it.

So, I eventually decided to read the book. I literally was grabbed by three pages. Oliver is such an incredible protagonist- he is so good and sweet that no one has the capability to corrupt him. You strongly saw that happen when Fagin and Bill Sikes were trying to turn him into a pickpocket. At first I didn’t know what to think of Nancy, but loved her at the end of her story- I fell in love with this character even more once I finally watched the musical movie. Weird how just an incredible book can start with a few words: “Please Sir, I Want some More”. All it took was for Oliver to say those few words that lead into such an incredible plot.

Nicholas Nickleby

Now, this is a book I strongly can say why I loved it. For one thing, you have an incredible protagonist: he is extremely compassionate and does have his flaws. Like usual the best characters tend to be flawed: Nicholas does have a temper- you mostly saw this unfold when he was trying to defend someone from being hurt. His relationship to Smike is incredible- Smike, despite being mistreated and abused, has a strong spirit. The moment Nicholas leaves the school, Smike literally follows. Smike asks Nicholas something around the lines of “wherever you go, I will”. From that moment on, you see this incredible friendship form: such an intimate and special bond. Nicholas is always with Smike- no matter what.

Originally I did not know what to think of Kate Nickleby. However, when I saw the RSC do a 9hr production of the story, I learned to like her. Don’t worry: I wasn’t watching the stage show for 9hrs in a row. It is split into four movies- so I watched one a day.

Along with Kate, there are a number of good guys- just right now, can’t think of the names.

There are a LOT of villains in this book: Ralph Nickleby, Squeers- and so on. For whatever reason, Ralph is always hating his nephew. For what- nothing made sense. I really loved Nicholas so why would his uncle hate him?

Bleak House

This is the main exception to those I love. Bleak House is the Dickens book I recently started. So, I have not formed an opinion on the story yet. I actually was surprised to learn that this story is more well-known than it appears. Bleak House centers on Esther. One of things I love about this book is the list of characters I saw in the front of the book. I already discovered that this book has two narrators: Esther and an unknown narrator. So far, the plot hasn’t exactly kicked off.

Character Names

Well, why do I mention this? Well, Charles Dickens really knows how to create amazing names of characters. From Oliver Twist to Artful Dodger to Nancy to Fagin to Bill Sikes to Smike to Nicholas Nickleby to Kate Nickleby to Scrooge to Tiny Tim to Esther to Ada to Pip to David Copperfield- that list continues. There is just something about the character names that make you remember them- including who they are.

Consider Yourself

We all are aware of the classic authors. This next musical is based of one of Charles Dickens’ book. Welcome to the world of Oliver- I actually first saw it in 2007 (but don’t remember) and in the past year or so saw the film and really enjoyed it. It was like falling in love with it all over again. What makes Oliver so incredible?

Songs

Those songs are classics. From “Consider Yourself” to “I’d Do Anything” to “As Long As He Needs Me” makes it such a classic musical. There are those exciting number, but when you reach “As Long as Needs Me”- heartbreak enters, and it CAN hit you like a pile of bricks (I was crying when I heard this when I saw the film). You want that variation in songs in musicals- in real life, people experience both positive and negative emotions, which is why it is important musicals highlight both.

The Story

This story is coming from Oliver Twist, a classic and famous Charles Dickens book. Do I really need to say much more? There is just something about those stories that pull you in- the moment Oliver says those famous lines “Please, Sir I Want Some More”, you automatically are drawn into the story- crazy how just a couple lines can do that. I really do not need to say much- it is a famous Charles Dickens’ story.

The Characters

Oliver- I love that kid. He has such a good heart. You can tell. The fact that no matter what gets in his way, he still stays true to himself. All he wants is to be loved and doesn’t know what that is- the song, “Where is Love” highlights that. He may be innocent, but no one no matter how much they try to corrupt him make him lose his innocence, heart, or goodness.

Nancy- To be honest, when I first read the book, I didn’t know what to think of her. It can be easy to dislike her in some ways, but after seeing her in the film, I developed a HUGE new opinion. I actually saw her fondness for Oliver even though she will still stay with Bill Sikes. I loved her actions at the end- that truly showed how much she wanted Oliver to have a better life. It gave him a family.

Fagin- While I honestly dislike Fagin, I like him more than Bill Sikes. He has a comic side and honestly treats everyone better.

Bill Sikes- Here’s why I said, I like Fagin more. This guy is abusive and cruel- you clearly see that through how he treats Nancy. So at least Fagin treats the kids a bit better. So, I easily get terrified of him especially with that dog.

Favorite Protagonists of Musicals

One of the most crucial elements of a musical is the protagonist (the main character). It is their story that we want to follow along with the various subplots. Who are some of my favorite protagonists?

  1. Elphaba/Glinda
  2. Aladdin
  3. Belle
  4. Simba
  5. Elsa/Anna
  6. Jack Kelly
  7. Christine
  8. Jean Valjean
  9. Annie
  10. Oliver
  11. Harold Hill
  12. Maria- the Sound of Music one

Why do two have two protagonists listed. Frozen and Wicked just happen to have two main characters in them, and I wouldn’t choose one over the other to be the primary protagonist.

Heartbreak in Love for Musicals

Romance is a common theme for musicals. It is a beautiful emotion filled with fragility, vulnerability, and innocence. The innocence comes from the young characters. What happens when a character deals with unrequited love, breakup, and betrayal. The nature of heartbreak enters- that deals with even more emotions: sadness and anger and heartbreak. Of course you are hurt, but the way these characters deal with it vary. What are examples of some of these songs? This time- coming from movies and stage shows.

Major Spoilers

  1. I’m Not That Girl
  2. I’m Not That Girl (Reprise)
  3. On My Own
  4. If I Can’t Love Her
  5. If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)
  6. Evermore- this is Beast’s version of If I Can’t Love Her from the 2017 Beauty Live Action movie
  7. This Nearly Was Mine
  8. All I Ask of You (Reprise)
  9. As Long as He Needs Me
  10. Somewhere
  11. True Love-I listened to this song before a couple of times, but can’t believe they are cutting it from Frozen. It is a pivotal and important moment for Anna- after Hans confesses he doesn’t love her (so after he betrays Anna). Just by listening to the song alone, I knew the song was heartbreaking and where it happened. Cutting it almost makes it seem as if she wasn’t one of our two protagonists. Hopefully it stays in the Original Broadway Soundtrack.

This is the list of heartbreaking love songs. A lot of young characters. Some are ironic (the ones where things improve) and some are non-ironic (the ones where nothing improves). Heartbreak is just as beautiful as the typical love songs. They just have more emotions and are more likely to drive you to tears.