I’ve been following the Classic Remarks series on Pages Unbound for a few weeks now, and as a lover of classic novels have really enjoyed reading the posts. But as a devotee of musicals as well I couldn’t NOT participate this week! The only problem? How to pick just one!!
My favorite Broadway musical of all time is Wicked, which is automatically eliminated as not being based on a “classic” novel. In fact, I think we can all agree that we would prefer for the book to get, um, forgotten. And Hamilton is based on a decidedly modern biography. But I LOVE Les Misérables, one of THE greatest musicals of all time, Phantom of the Opera, also based on a … classic-ish … novel, and Into the Woods which is based on fairy tales. But my favorite based on a classic novel is …
Jekyll and Hyde
Jekyll and Hyde isn’t a particularly well-known musical, having had a modest run of only four years and starring briefly David Hasselhoff. Advice, DON’T watch the Hasselhoff DVD, settle for the Original Cast Recording and pictures. *shudders*
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.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation.
Hamilton: The Revolution gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–“since before this was even a show,” according to Miranda–trace its development from an improbable performance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.
Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sondheim, leading political commentators, and more than 40 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by President Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.
I was given this book as a Christmas gift, and expected it to be basically a coffee table book. I’ve had Broadway collectors’ books like this in the past, and they’ve always been basically scripts/librettos with a bunch of really high quality pictures. Occasionally they might have a note about the costumes or actor bios or something, but usually just song lyrics. So I picked this one up Christmas evening expecting to just kind of flip through and look at the pictures.