5 Musicals That Give "Inspired by a Book" a Whole New Meaning
Some adaptations stick to the source material; some don't. While we adore a truly faithful interpretation (even as we cry, "The book was better!"), it's fun to see a new medium tease out an unexpected story from its source material.
That's certainly the case with the following musicals. From turning a Founding Father into a poetic rapper to using the research of a child psychologist to anchor a fairy tale, these adaptations are wildly inventive interpretations of the books that inspired them.
West Side Story
Inspiration: Romeo and Juliet
Inspired by the basic narrative of the book… Fans of William Shakespeare's tragedy can recognize the bones of the plot in this classic musical, but the action has been transported to New York City in the 1950s and the uptight Verona families are now two rival gangs.
Into the Woods
Inspiration: The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
Inspired by the psychoanalytical conclusions of the book… Written by a child psychologist, The Uses of Enchantment is about how fairy tale violence and misery help children cope. This prompted Stephen Sondheim and co. to create their own dark fairy tale mash-up.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Inspiration: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Inspired by the ridiculous advice of the book… Ready to get a little meta? The book is a satirical self-help guide about making it in business. The musical is about a window washer who reads that book and begins his own rocky ascent up the corporate ladder.
Inspiration: Alexander Hamilton
Inspired by the scrappy real-life hero of the book… When Lin-Manuel Miranda started reading this scholarly biography, he imagined Hamilton's life as a musical after only a few chapters. But not just any musical—one infused with rap and hip-hop, starring a diverse cast of actors.
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Inspiration: War and Peace
Inspired by a mere 70 pages of the book… Leo Tolstoy's epic is over one thousand pages long, but composer Dave Malloy was only interested in Part 5 of Volume 2, which focuses on an affair and a search for meaning. His expansion of this tiny sliver of War and Peace earned 12 nominations at this year's Tony Awards.
Which inventive musical is your favorite? Share it with us in the comments! And check out our guide to the best stage adaptations here.
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