From Page to Stage
July 09, 2010
I don’t know about you, but when I read a book that I really, really like, I envision it as a movie. In my head, I cast actors, design sets, stitch costumes, and hire a director. I think we all know the thrill (and the fear) that comes when a favorite book is turned into a movie. But did you realize that there are plenty of people out there who read a book and hear music? Oh, they cast actors, design sets, stitch costumes, and hire a director in their heads, too, but they also write songs. Here are a few books that I bet you didn’t know became musicals… or maybe some musicals you didn’t know were books.
Anna and the King of Siam / The King and I
The true story of Anna Leonowens was brought to the public eye by Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, but it entered pop culture through Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 Broadway hit The King and I. While such familiar songs as “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance?” are not in the original text, the story of love and determination is as familiar as ever.
Ragtime / Ragtime
E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel Ragtime examines the explosive first decade of the 20th century with grit and caustic wit. When McNally, Ahrens, and Flaherty wrote the 1998 musical version, they remained gritty and caustic, despite the addition of some beautiful music. In both versions of the story, fictional and historical characters interact to paint a vivid of picture of the turn of the last century.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Big River
Mark Twain was—and is—known for his clever, all-American humor. A century later, country music crooner Roger Miller was renowned for his bizarre-yet-hysterical lyrics. Who better to transform Twain’s classic story into a blockbuster musical?
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats / CATS
T.S. Eliot was a world-famous poet, known for his deep and intellectual work. But he was also a doting godfather, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was written to amuse his young godchildren. The poems in this book are as whimsical and fluffy as the kitties they describe, while Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version does add some claw.
The works of Dr. Seuss / Seussical the Musical
The Cat in the Hat! Horton the Elephant! Gertrude McFuzz! Yertle the Turtle! Dr. Seuss’s characters are a steady fixture on children’s bookshelves and in their hearts. When Ahrens and Flaherty decided to make a musical out of the Good Doctor's stories, they did the only logical thing: shuffle them all together. The result is a zany-yet-heartwarming romp that Seuss himself would have been proud of