5 Books That Inspired Popular Musicals

Many of the most successful musicals and plays ever created were inspired by books. The musicals we love have often been formed off of these stories that were previously written by other writers. Here are a few books that have been the bases for successful musicals created thus far.

“Wicked” by Gregory Maguire



Wicked is a book that was written about the origin story of the “Wicked Witch of the West,” a character of another famous book written by L. Frank Baum. This commonly known novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” inspired Maguire to create and share a new perspective on the story and of the character as a whole. Though the basis of the character remains the same, the way many people view her after reading Wicked often changes.

This novel inspired the creation of the well-known Broadway musical also titled Wicked. The lyrics and music for Wicked are by Stephen Schwartz. This musical is written in the perspectives of the witches of the “Land of Oz.” Though the musical was based on this novel, it doesn’t strictly follow the book, the biggest difference being within the endings.


“Matilda” by Roald Dahl


This children’s novel was published in 1988. The original “Matilda” book was written around the life of a character named “Matilda Wormwood.” Matilda hides from her struggles through her love for reading. Within this novel,  we see many of the struggles that Matilda faces, as well as where her talents and strengths lie.

This book by Roald Dahl inspired Dennis Kelly to modify “Matilda” into a stage musical. The music and lyrics were created by Tim Minchin. This classic musical first premiered December 9, 2010, at the Cambridge Theatre. It then premiered on Broadway April 11, 2013. The musical was given the same title as the book and remains a popular musical to this day.


“Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens


Oliver Twist is a popular novel about an orphan boy forced through some difficult times of hunger and abuse. Even more well known then this book of his, is Charles Dickens. He is remembered and recognized for vivid details within his writing and his popular novels, such as Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, and many more.

“Oliver!,” the musical inspired by this novel, has music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart. This musical premiered in 1960 and had a long run of success. “Oliver!” contains more positive vibes than the original novel. This show isn’t currently being performed on Broadway, however, there have been revivals of it in the past, so another revival isn’t impossible.


“The Phantom Of The Opera” by Gaston Leroux


The Phantom Of The Opera (the English translation for Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) novel was originally published as a series from September 23, 1909, to January 8, 1910. It was then published in volume form a couple of months later. The plot of this story was written about a dark, mysterious figure and his odd obsession with a woman.

This novel inspired one of the most well-known musicals in existence. This musical has music created by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. This show premiered October 9, 1986, then premiered on Broadway in 1988.

“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo



A novel about a criminal escaping from lock-up and trying to discover his life without crime. Jean, the book’s main character, faces struggles of acceptance, but more within himself than with anyone else.The book is intended to take place around the 1830s but wasn’t published until 1862.

“Les Miserables” (better known in English-speaking places as Les Mis) the musical has music created by Claude-Michel Schönberg. The lyrics were written by Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel,  and Herbert Kretzmer. Les Mis premiered in Paris in 1980.


All of this just goes to show that sometimes building off pre-existing stories can prove to make an amazing and successful show. Things turn out better when we work together. Do you normally prefer the book story or the musical? Are there exceptions? Every form of art is beautiful and unique, but what’s your pick?


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