Musical Theater Geeks & Book Nerds Unite: 8 Literary Musicals to Swoon For

American Psycho

Fangirls, fanboys, can you handle this? Are you ready for this jelly? Because we’re pulling together two obsessions in one post—books and musicals! Watch out or we’re all gonna spontaneously start singing “Seasons of Love” while smelling the pages of every novel we own and crying—because loving something this hard is FUN, and sometimes when you have this much fun, you cry…right?

Here’s a list of our favorite books that have made it all the way to the stage. (To be fair, most ALSO made it to the movies, but if there are no show tunes involved, who can muster up the energy to care, you know?) Though not all of these were hits, if the law of musical theater fandom holds any glitter-water, we all know each one has a fervent, enthusiastic fan base. In fact, statistics say somewhere right now in America, there’s a group of misfits sitting in a basement and belting out the full soundtrack to every one. Our culture lives on forever in the hearts of our melodramatic teens! And also this list:

Matilda, by Roald Dahl
It’s a musical based on Roald Dahl’s beloved book about a girl who loves to read. Could this BE any more perfect? It’s on Broadway right now and won 5 Tony awards, including Best Book of a Musical, so you know it won’t disappoint even the most ardent Dahl-ings. Also, if Broadway history is anything to go by, musicals about little kids are always destined to become classics (Um Annie? Billy Elliot? EVER HEARD OF THEM?).

Best song: When I Grow Up
Little British angels singing and swinging. Get ready for a cute explosion.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
This was on Broadway for just a hot second, and even though it wasn’t the biggest hit of all time, some of the songs are very beautiful. It’s a little bit of of a bummer that it didn’t take the world by storm—considering the love so many of us feel for the source material—but let’s be really real for a sec: Sutton Foster playing Jo March is more than enough awesomeness for one musical.

Best song:Astonishing
Sutton Foster is the triple threat the world deserves. She’s only singing and acting here, but you KNOW she can tap dance like a boss.

50 Shades! The Musical (The Original Parody) (Based on Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James)
Featuring some of the best, most hilarious musical comedians in New York (Amber Petty and Ashley Ward, hello?!), this show tickles your mom’s fave sexxaay page-turner with a large fancy feather. Because the word “sensual” makes everyone laugh, right?

Best song: “Red Room”
It’s a delightfully NSFW song that includes the phrase “nipple clamps.” Gilbert and Sullivan are rolling over in their graves.

American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
Um excuse us—books, musicals, AND DOCTOR WHO?!?! This is almost too much. But yes, it happened. Matt Smith starred as Patrick Bateman in the London premiere of this show back in 2013. It closed a few months later, but it’ll be returning to the West End at some point, and hopefully coming to America shortly thereafter, and hopefully-hopefully Matt Smith will come with it (he probably won’t, but it’s nice to dream). Also: Mr. Duncan “Spring Awakening” “Barely Breathing” Sheik composed it—so let’s all just get with the program already.

Best song: Not sure, but here’s a picture of hot hot hottie Matt Smith covered in blood for your perusal.

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Alice Walker’s powerful and moving Pulitzer Prize–winning novel found a second life as a film (Oprah alert) and then a third life as a musical, which was nominated for 11 Tony awards back in 2006 and is now touring the country (2nd Oprah alert—Ms. Harpo herself was on the producing team behind the show). Just like Oprah, it’s basically gonna change your life for the better in ways you didn’t even know you wanted. You get a musical! You get a musical! Everyone! Gets! A! Musical!

Best song:God is Trying to Tell you Something
Hope your chair can hold your full body weight because you’ll wanna get up on it and testify when you hear this.

Wicked (Based on Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire)
There are some haters out there who say the musical can’t hold a candle to Gregory Maguire’s book—and, okay, maybe the plot of the show isn’t that tight, BUT BUT BUT if you were an angsty teenager the first time you heard “Defying Gravity,” sorry but you’ll love the musical as if you gave birth to it. The book is great but Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel? Bow down, Maguire. Witches get things done.


Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo
The one musical that unites us all. Have you read the book? Maybe not. But you’ve seen the show or at least that clip of Anne Hathaway getting her head shaved, right? At this point, we’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the whole wide world who hasn’t heard at least one song from this Broadway stalwart. And if it’s “Stars,” we’re sorry for you. (J/k,some people really love that song).

Best song: Come on. It’s like choosing which beret you want to put on your pathetically adorable French orphan child. There’s no right answer!

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mandy Patinkin played old hunchback Archibald Craven during its 1991–93 Broadway run, and no matter how many community theaters try, there’s just no way to ever re-create his angelic counter-tenor. And regardless of how many Homeland episodes the man stars in, to some of us, he remains forever the grieving widower of Misselthwaite Manor, haunted by ghosts and the eyes of his newly arrived niece. He made us believe in second chances. This is the stuff musicals are made of.

Best song: Lily’s Eyes
Can we marry Mandy Patinkin’s voice?

Honorable mention: Hold On
Martha the chambermaid SHUTS. IT. DOWN.

 What book do you think would make a great musical?

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