Top 5 Musicals Based on Books

Guys, I love Broadway. I completely missed my calling singing under the bright lights. What was I thinking, choosing band over choir and theater? *le sigh*

Unsurprisingly, many of my favorite musicals are based on books. Are you shocked? I know you’re shocked. So just in case you’re looking for something to listen to or something to read or BOTH, here are some of my favorite musicals based on novels.

Yes, novels. No, I’m not including Hamilton. Sorry, we can talk about that masterpiece another time.


5. West Side Story

It’s no secret that I love Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story is just as powerful, if not more so. My bookish friends might not realize that I am a huge Leonard Bernstein fan. I thought about including Candide in this list, just to show off, but it’s really more of an opera, and who am I kidding? I just love the overture. (band nerd!) The amazing thing about West Side Story is that it is STILL so relevant! The racism, the gang violence, the music! If you’ve never watched the movie I highly recommend it, though be ready for some white people portraying POC.

4. The Phantom of the Opera

While I can’t stand the book, leaving Phantom off this list would have been a CRIME. I’ll be honest, I first fell in love with Phantom when the movie came out. What can I say, I was a high schooler, it was my first exposure! While I appreciate the direction the movie went with the music, I will never get over the way Andrew Lloyd Weber continues to get people to sit through a literal opera. If you think you hate opera, that it’s boring and the singing is annoying, you are WRONG! Go watch Phantom.

3. Les Miserables

Start at 1:36

Be still my heart! I love everything about Les Mis! I love the book as well, but I think the musical does an excellent job of paring down the text while still remaining true. You get less of the character backgrounds, but the development is all still there. And the MUSIC! It gets stuck in my head for days! I will be singing On My Own at the top of my lungs in the car until the day I die.

2. Jekyll and Hyde

I bet you didn’t know there was a Jekyll and Hyde musical! You’re missing out. It’s not a particularly faithful adaptation, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is more of a short story than a novel, so the musical-makers had to add a lot. But I loved that they included strong women in the story (a must for Broadway) and I love love love the music. You try adding harpsichord to your pit orchestra and making it sound amazing!

1. Wicked

Obviously.

27 thoughts on “Top 5 Musicals Based on Books

  1. Wicked, Phantom, Les Mis! Waahhh. I love all these musicals although I have yet to read the books (except Les Mis). Haha 🙂 Great choices. And I love that you placed Lea Salonga’s version of On My Own. It is very emotionally charged. 🙂

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    1. Honestly, in EVERY SINGLE ONE of these cases (except Les Mis) (maybe including Les Mis…) I like the musicals more than the books. Wicked, Phantom, Jekyll and Hyde, they’re all… not the best.

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    1. I left out Hamilton on purpose, mainly because I don’t know how much of Hamilton comes directly from Chernow’s book and how much is based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other research and imagination. Also, because I feel like musicals based on real human beings could be its own list!

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  2. Out of all of these, I think Phantom is my favorite. I got to see it again a few years ago and then read every Phantom-related book I could get my hands on. The original novel is interesting, but I definitely prefer the musical. There’s just something so compelling about it.

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    1. I thought about including Into the Woods, but West Side Story won-out! I actually have a DVD of the stage production of Into the Woods, and it is so stinkin funny! The Color Purple I haven’t seen, and Camelot I don’t know very well, but I know they are much beloved. 🙂

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  3. Les Mis, Wicked, and Phantom- also musicals I love based on books.

    I refuse to read the Phantom of the Opera book. Do not like gothic or horror- know that Phantom of the Opera is one of those kind of books. However LOVE the musical- it is hauntingly beautiful. Fell in love with it when I was 19 after my mom recommended it to me- once I heard the songs, I was hooked.

    I dislike the Wicked book, but LOVE LOVE LOVE the Wicked musical- I was 12 when I fell in love with Wicked. That was before reading the book. If you watch the musical and read the book- you will realize you are reading two different plots with severely different well everything. I am more emotionally connected to the Wicked musical in terms of characters (only to Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda) and plot. I LOVE Wicked so much more than Phantom of the Opera- it is my FAVORITE musical- while tied with Les Mis.

    Unlike Wicked where the book and musical are severely different, the Les MIs book and musical are more faithful to each other. I was 18 when I first saw the plot unfold, but 19 when I truly became a fan. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Les Mis- the plot, the character, the songs (this is a musical where I can’t choose my favorite song). I can’t pick my favorite character either. The songs perfectly complement the characters- the songs are epic, passionate, powerful, and highly emotional in so many ways- words alone can’t describe it. Les Mis opened me up to a side of musicals I never knew existed- I realized there is so much more musicals than I believed before.

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    1. Yeah, I also fell in love with the Wicked musical before reading the book, which I loathed. I love what the musical does with making it a story about female friendship!

      One of my favorite things about Les Mis is just how faithful it is to the book! It’s such a beautifully sad story, and it would have been so easy for Broadway to happify it, and I’m so glad they didn’t! I, however, have no problem picking a favorite character in Eponine! I love how she doesn’t let her family and her history define who she is.

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      1. Hard to believe I loved Wicked since August 2006. My all-time favorite musical theatre character is Elphaba. Each time I see Wicked, I fall into this kind of trap- I always pay the most attention to the love triangle and the friendship. My favorite musical theatre love triangle is Wicked’s; I am always overlooking the other storylines. That love triangle, in my opinion, tests and strengthens Elphaba and Glinda’s friendship; also the most complex one, and my favorite one.

        Les Mis- before Les Mis, I told myself I will never love a tragedy. There were only four core emotions previously: excitement, love, joy, and sad- a fifth entered because of Les Mis- that was heartbreak. Les Mis disproved a number of things. I had to watch the movie musical twice before knowing if I liked Les Mis. Eponine is one of my favorite core characters- my beautiful bond started the 2nd time I saw the movie- it took my from 2013-2014 to even know why I loved the character. Key characteristics I look for in a character are complexity, strength, and courage- she has all three.

        My mom and dad say I know who my favorite Les Mis character is, but just afraid to admit it- that is not true. I only know who my favorite survivor is. Les Mis is shown up a lot on my blog.

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  4. Oh my gosh, a Jekyll and Hyde musical! I remember the first time I read the book and just love the concept of it! Can’t wait to see the musical if I ever have the chance! West Side Story is also an amazing musical which I’m so glad they made even if I’m not a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet! Fantastic post! Thank you again for informing me about the Jekyll and Hyde musical!!

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  5. Love this list!! Les Mis is probably my favourite and I absolutely love everything about it (my dream is to see it in Paris, cos I love it in French- even if the French make no secret of the fact that they hate it! And yes, I have read the hugo, but that doesn’t stop me loving the musical!!) And obviously Wicked has to go on the list 😉 West side story is my sister’s favourite and I did not know Jekyll and hyde was a musical until now- I’ll have to check it out. I’d really love to see phantom of the opera live as well!

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      1. Me too. haha I really agree! Oh and by the way, your post made me go down the musical rabbit hole and I found this incredible phantom of the opera cover by the prague cello quartet- really recommend it if you haven’t seen it already!

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  6. Well, I am both a bookworm and musical theatre fan. What are my favorite musicals based on books? I think I will include those I kinda of like.

    1. Les Misérables
    2. Phantom of the Opera
    3. Wicked
    4. West Side Story- well, I dislike the play, but kinda of like the musical
    5. Oliver
    6. Man of La Mancha

    Part of my dislike for Romeo and Juliet comes from the fact I was close-minded to both tragedies and Shakespeare in high school. Les Mis decided to prove me wrong. Some of my favorite musicals based on books are not faithful- meaning the entire story changes. I dislike the book of Wicked, but love the musical.

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