Broadway has a habit, for better or worse, of following Hollywood trends. This year’s blockbuster line-up was full of YA, or young adult, novel adaptations from The Fault in Our Stars to Maze Runner and If I Stay, not to mention the highly-anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.
YA novel adaptations have been popular on Broadway for years with successful adaptations of Little Women and The Secret Garden, and Matilda. The stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time also recently started previews, and the Public Theater’s popular adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home will get a Broadway run at Circle in the Square. If Charlie and the Chocolate Factory does well enough in London, author Roald Dahl could very soon have two musicals playing on Broadway based on his books.
All of these YA novel adaptations on-screen and on-stage got me thinking about books I would love to see adapted as musicals. Which childhood classics and coming-of-age stories should get the Broadway treatment? Read on to find out. In no particular order, here are the top 15 YA books that would make great musicals.
5. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging – Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series is Bridget Jones’ Diary for the teenage audience. Georgia Nicolson is a hilariously flawed teenage girl, and in Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, she grapples with problems of the average, everyday British teenager. She tries to make the most of her dull school uniform, but her whole look is ruined when she accidentally shaves off her eyebrows. She meets Robbie, a full-fledged “Sex God,” and what happens? She gets caught making out with someone else and trips, exposing her knickers to Robbie and his girlfriend.
Who will bring Georgia’s adventures to life? My pick for composer is Laurence O’Keefe, and I would team him up with director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Their previous collaboration on Legally Blonde: The Musical was energetic and very funny with a great girl-power message. If Georgia Nicolson is coming to Broadway, they are the creative team I would trust.
4. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman’s retelling of The Jungle Book puts its orphaned protagonist Bod (short for Nobody) in a graveyard rather than a jungle. He is raised by ghosts rather than wolves, and instead of fighting off a tiger, he must escape the man who killed his parents.
Wicked, one of Stephen Schwartz’s most successful musicals, is a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz. Schwartz is a natural choice for composer. His track record is solid, and some of his best work is literary adaptations including The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Victor Hugo novel), The Prince of Egypt (Book of Exodus), Children of Eden (Book of Genesis), and Godspell (Book of Matthew). While the setting of a graveyard is a tad morbid, Schwartz brings light, hope, and humor to all of his musicals. Looking at what he wrote for Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, I can only imagine what he would write for a graveyard full of lovable ghosts.
3. The Phantom Tollbooth – The Phantom Tollbooth is a book packed full of wordplay, puns, and double-meanings, and after seeing Matilda the Musical, Tim Minchin would be brilliant as the composer and lyricist. I know that The Phantom Tollbooth has received several stage adaptations, but none of them have come to Broadway. Listening to “School Song,” I can’t imagine anyone other than Minchin putting Norton Juster’s words to music.
They are singing the alphabet inside of their school song! What a brilliant idea!
2. Harriet the Spy – Broadway loves stories about brilliant minds that are misunderstood by their peers. Aspiring writers and journalists have been falling in love with Harriet the Spy for 50 years now. Readers love her honesty and curiosity for the world around her, even when it means spying on her friends and neighbors. She wants to see behind closed doors, to understand how people really behave when they think no one is watching and see how that defies her expectations. Unfortunately, her life falls apart when her classmates read her notebook, including her unflattering thoughts about all of them. It examines issues of censorship and freedom of thought through the eyes of a child.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are my picks for co-composers. Between A Christmas Story, The Musical and James and the Giant Peach, they have been spending a lot of time writing from the adolescent viewpoint. I think Harriet the Spy would also stretch them creatively because they would be writing a pre-teen girl, a long way from A Christmas Story’s Ralphie Parker.
1. Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan, like Judy Blume, gets two spots on this list because first, he is a great writer, and second, I know the perfect person to bring a stage adaptation to Broadway.
Boy Meets Boy is, at its core, a classic love story. Boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back. With that in mind, I have three words: Get Harvey Fierstein! La Cage aux Folles was way ahead of its time with its portrayal of a gay couple in a long-term relationship, but audiences embraced it because it is a familiar story of a young engaged couple meeting and merging their families, as different as they might be. Similarly, Kinky Boots is a musical featuring a drag queen in a leading role, but it is wrapped up in an old familiar save-the-orphanage story. Boy Meets Boy might be Harvey Fierstein’s next Tony win waiting to happen.
BONUS: I don’t know why, but I think Stephen King’s Carrie could make a really compelling stage musical. It’s all very theatrical, the bucket of blood at prom and all that. Patti LuPone could play Carrie’s mother, and Celia Keenan-Bolger could play Carrie!
Readers, I want to hear what you think! What was your favorite book as a teenager, and would you like to see it adapted for stage? Leave a comment below, and let me know what you thought of the list! For more Broadway news, commentary, and tips for finding affordable Broadway theater tickets, follow Ludus NYC on Twitter, like Ludus NYC on Facebook, and subscribe to Ludus NYC on YouTube!