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8 books that took the stage by storm

There’s only one thing that’s as good as re-reading your favourite book – and that’s seeing it brought to life on stage! From Adrian Mole to Matilda, here are our picks of the best book-to-show adaptations

Pandora wows Adrian and classmates in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole: The Musical. Image: Alastair Muir

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole: The Musical

Based on the book by Sue Townsend | Musical by Jake Brunger & Pippa Cleary

In case you missed it – where were you? – Adrian Mole celebrated his 50th birthday earlier this year. And what a year it’s turning out to be, with the publication of his long–awaited poetry anthology followed swiftly by the opening of a stage musical based on every awkward moment of the under-appreciated diarist’s teenage life. First staged at The Curve in Adrian’s hometown of Leicester in 2015, a new version of this hilarious show is now tickling the ribs of audiences at London's Menier Chocolate Factory.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole runs at London's Menier Chocolate Factory, London until 9 September. Get tickets

 

The Wizard of Oz

Based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum | Stage musical by Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber 

Did you know that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz was a stage version of the film version (stick with us here) of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum? And it’s not the first – the novel was adapted for the stage by its original author in 1902, way before the Oscar-winning 1939 film was even thought of. Though Baum removed Toto the dog and the Wicked Witch from his own Broadway version, Dorothy’s best friend and arch-nemesis both returned in style the Lloyd Webber show, which also revived all of the film’s the most memorable numbers, including Follow the Yellow Brick Road, We’re off the See the Wizard and If I Only Had a Brain.

 

Oliver!

Based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens | Musical by Lionel Bart

Another stage adaptation strongly influenced by film is Oliver! , Lionel Bart’s musical based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Originally staged in 1960 before being revived in the 1970s, 1990s, and twice in the 2000s, the stage version of the orphan Oliver’s story isn’t quite so dark as Dickens’ original; it echoes the 1948 and 1968 films in making Fagin more comic than villainous, and is generally more family-friendly. When it comes to songs, it’s full of classics, but Oom Pah-Pah is a personal favourite –  Strictly fans are unlikely to have forgotten Kellie Bright’s traffic-stopping reinterpretation in the show’s 2015 series!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time captures Christopher's viewpoint. Image: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Based on the book by Mark Haddon | Play by Simon Stephens

Up until this year, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stole their crown, this show and Matilda jointly held the record for netting the most Olivier awards (seven!). Just like the book, the play follows the tale of Christopher Boone, a boy with an autism spectrum condition who applies his unusual gifts to investigating the mysterious death of a neighbour’s dog. Transposing the story into a play-within-a-play, this National Theatre production has been praised for the inventive way it captures Christopher’s perspective and, if you’re after spectacular visual effects, it is definitely the show for you.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is now on tour in the UK & Ireland. Get tickets

 

Matilda the Musical

Based on Matilda by Roald Dahl | Musical by Dennis Kelly & Tim Minchin

With a quirky, twisty, clever score from Australian comedian Tim Minchin, the RSC’s multi award-winning musical adaptation of Matilda perfectly captures the daring, precocious heroism of its lead character in a style that’s every inch a tribute to Roald Dahl’s dark, ingenious storytelling. Equally impressive are the young cast – the show is almost entirely performed by pre-teens with singing and gymnastic abilities that will make your eyes pop. There are a lot of favourite numbers to choose from, but, for sheer cleverness, we suggest you keep an ear out for Bruce and School Song.

Matilda the Musical  is playing at the Cambridge Theatre, London, and will tour the UK & Ireland in 2018. Get tickets

    

Cabaret

Based on Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood | Musical by John Kander & Fred Ebb

This classic musical tells the story of young American Cliff Bradshaw’s affair with the glamorous, damaged Sally Bowles, set against the brutal rise of the Nazis in 1931 Berlin. It’s a reinvention of Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin, and was first brought to the stage in 1966, after the book had already been adapted into a play with another different name – I Am A Camera – in 1951. It wasn’t long before the musical also became an iconic film, starring Michael York and Liza Minelli, in 1972. With its stunning, seductive choreography, this is a particular must-see for dance fans, and delivers possibly the best opening sequence seen in any musical ever, as the creepy Emcee extends his Wilkommen

Cabaret is now on tour in the UK. Get tickets

 

All eyes on Imelda Quirke in Roddy Doyle's The Commitments. Image: William Maidwell

 

The Commitments

Based on the book by Roddy Doyle | Musical by Roddy Doyle

Given that Roddy Doyle’s 1987 book seems to contain everything you could possibly need for a great show, it’s surprising that The Commitments didn’t actually make it to the stage until 2013 – long after it became a BAFTA-winning film in 1991. Set in Dublin and adapted by Doyle himself, it followed the bumpy fortunes of an unlikely working-class soul band put together by local music obsessive Jimmy Rabitte, and featured a rich and brilliantly-performed assortment of soul classics such as Mustang Sally and In The Midnight Hour.

Les Misérables

Based on the book by Victor Hugo | Musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil

Since opening in London 32 years ago, Les Misérables has become the West End's longest-running musical, brought Victor Hugo’s masterpiece of a novel to whole new audience, and even inspired a Hollywood film. Set against the background of the French Revolution, it tells the tale of reformed criminal Valjean, his lovelorn adopted daughter Cosette, and the obsessive detective Javert, who devotes his life to pursuing the former convict and returning him to prison. It also contains some of the most moving and memorable songs you’re likely to hear on a stage, including I Dreamed A Dream, Bring Him Home and Master of The House.

Les Misérables is currently playing at the Queens Theatre, London. Get tickets

   

The cast prepare for revolution in the West End's longest-running musical, Les Misérables. Image: Johan Persson

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