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The world of musical theater is full of book adaptations. Since around 2010, new musicals have been tending towards film and television adaptations. However, do you name a beloved book in the residue of Broadway, and chances are it was a musical at one point or another. 75 pages of war and peace? Musical. Jane Eyre? Musical. Dracula? At least five musicals.
Musicals are not just smileys, happy tap dancing with an 11 o’clock number to bring the house down. There are horror musicals, tear-jerk musicals, experimental musicals and musicals that flop so violently that they have to lie down for a while. What makes a musical great is not necessarily what makes a book great. That’s not a negative with books or musicals. They are different media. These are some of the books that I just wouldn’t think would appear as musicals.
Misery of Stephen King
In all fairness, few King books would be great as musicals. Carrie is of course the exception. Misery would be particularly terrible as a musical. There are really only two characters, Paul and Annie, which doesn’t make for a balanced score. Paul spends 80% of the book sitting or in bed, which is terrible to dance to. So if Misery the Musical isn’t some kind of power ballad, but rather a sit-singing musical, I just don’t think it would work.
* See also The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun
Sad dog books
You know what I am talking about. Old Yeller. Shiloh. Marley and me. Sounder. Where the red fern grows. Nobody wants to pay $ 100 for a mezzanine seat to listen to a kid yelling over their puppy. Everyone in the audience will cry so hard that you can’t even hear their lament or the orchestra playing them into the change of scene. It’s a mess. Nobody wants that. Just watch the movie in the privacy of your own home.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek could do a decent movie or television miniseries, but musically? Absolutely not. To begin with, much of this book takes place in a hyperbaric chamber. Claustrophobic, not good for tap dancing. Then there is the attempt that might be fine for a number but would otherwise be boring. Slow, introspective mysteries just don’t make good musicals.
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The Martian by Andy Weir
I will never find out how a film turned out to be. Poop Potatoes: The musical does have a certain sound.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Without fully investigating this, I cannot say for sure that somewhere in 2012 a college group or improvisation class did not put on a THG musical. However, in the commercial music business, hunting children for sport is generally frowned upon. Although Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remain a popular choice for school musicals, there is still a chance for The Hunger Games on a stage near you.
A little life of Hanya Yanagihara
This is just too much. Too sad, too tragic, too long. I can’t understand A Little Life as a traditional musical. A tragic opera, maybe, but it’s a four-male lead. Unbalanced score again. If it were still the 80s, I’d say throw it at Andrew Lloyd Webber or the Les Mis team and turn it into a tearful rock opera.
Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillar
This is just a shopping list.
Han Kang’s vegetarian
This novel is made up of the strange, dark images of nightmares. This works for The Vegetarian and creates an uncomfortable but fascinating experience. However, Yeong-hye’s transformation is slow and subversive, unlike the one-number personality transformations found in musicals.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Satire and musical theater work well together (Book of Mormon, anyone?) But how can you portray the midgets without being weird, problematic, or embarrassingly low-tech? Lilliput isn’t the only thing to worry about. Maybe a musical adaptation of A Modest Proposal is a better idea?
Which books do you think would make great musicals? The Westing game and Dante’s Inferno are high on my list. You can find more information on book customization in our archive.