The biggest West End shows that are originally based on books
Inspired by literary characters and best-selling works, both fiction and non-fiction can find a new lease of life on the stage. Read all about the shows based on books in the West End right now.
May 6, 2022 12:06
There's West End musicals based on films. There's even stage shows based on television series. But, did you know that plenty of West End hits are based on books?
Inspired by literary characters and best-selling works, both fiction and non-fiction can find a new lease of life on the stage. Read all about the shows based on books in the West End right now. There's also books about theatre, and we've rounded up our favourite picks here.
You may think of Cabaret as a glozzy, jazzy, Golden Age musical. But did you know it was based on a collection of short stories? Christopher Isherwood's 1939 novel "Goodbye to Berlin" details his four years living in the German capital, and characters like Sally Bowles were inspired by real life singers. Now experience this hedonistic haven in the West End, as Cabaret opens in London, starring Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley.
The times of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton are explored, and have been popularised in mainstream media by Lin-Manuel Miranda's multi-award-winning musical. But did you know that Miranda got the idea for Hamilton from a book? While on holiday, Miranda read part of Ron Chernow's 2004 biography detailing Alexander Hamilton's life and ran with it.
Hamilton tells the story of a new, revolutionary America bursting with energy and optimism, set to a groundbreaking score that fuses traditional and modern sounds to capture an everchanging society. Now at the Victoria Palace Theatre, you'll want to be in the room where it happens.
What happened after Harry Potter left Hogwarts? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first to be presented on stage. It's based on an original story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, and is currently the most awarded show of all time in Olivier Awards history. The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child story is kept a secret from all people that haven't seen the show. You'll have to visit the Palace Theatre and book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets to discover the magic.
It's been performed in over 50 countries and seen by over 120 million people worldwide — Les Miserables is definitely one of the biggest global musical theatre phenomenons in history. But, did you know that it's based on writing? Victor Hugo's epic novel of the same name explores French history, culture and society during the early nineteenth-century, with characters storming the barricade in spectacular fashion.
Les Miserables is often assumed to be set in the French Revolution, but its broad sweep of history tells of France in a general revolutionary era. Les Miserables continues its record-breaking London run at the Sondheim Theatre.
Yann Martel's 2001 novel Life of Pi is one of this century's greatest novels. It's the inspiration behind the four-time Academy Award-winning movie of the same name, following a young boy who survives a shipwreck with a tiger for company. Now, Martel's philosophical text has found a new home on stage, adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti.
First seen at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, Life of Pi will now transfer to Wyndham's Theatre, and we can't wait to go on the journey of a lifetime with Pi.
A master of childrens literature, Roald Dahl is the creative brain behind books like The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. He's also the original mastermind behind Matilda, adapted into a musical by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin.
The musical follows the original text — a gifted child quenches her thirst for knowledge to the demise of her parents, trying to defeat her bully of a headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Approaching a decade at the Cambridge Theatre and breaking Olivier records, Roald Dahl's presence can definitely be felt in the musical.
Widely considered to be one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most successful musicals of all time, Her Majesty's Theatre has been home to this legendary production. But, did you know that it's based on a twentieth-century novel? It's originally a French novel by Gaston Leroux called 'Le Fantôme de l'Opéra', taking inspiration from nineteenth-century tales of skeletons of people that died at Paris Opera House. Thankfully, there's no dated spirits in The Phantom of the Opera, reopening with a refreshed version starring Killian Donnelly from July 2021.
Writers around the world dream of a literary success like To Kill a Mockingbird. It's made all the more impressive too as Harper Lee only wrote two novels in her lifetime. Set in 1930s Alabama during a court case, To Kill a Mockingbird explores theme of racial prejudice, stigmatisation and the criminal justice system. Its lead character, Atticus Finch has become an illustrious fictional lawyer, and will be played by Rafe Spall in the West End production. To Kill a Mockingbird is at the Gielgud Theatre from March 2022.
After The Wizard of Oz came a variety of Ozian-inspired works. Gregory Maguire's fantasy 1995 novel, named Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West explored what could have happened if Elphaba and Glinda met at a younger age. Their stories are now dramatised in Wicked, which sees Elphaba taking to the Western sky and using her newly-found bewitching powers. Wicked has ran at the Apollo Victoria Theatre for over a decade.
Photo credit: West End shows based on books, Life of Pi (Photo by Johan Persson)