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Broadway or Bust: 8 Books That Inspired Musicals

Even if you don’t live in New York City, you don’t have to miss out on the magic of the Great White Way. These eight books that inspired musicals will bring the beauty of Broadway right into your own home.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

https://www.amazon.com/Wicked-Life-Times-Witch-Years/dp/0061350966

The Broadway showstopper Wicked tells the story of the witches of Oz long before Dorothy came along. Gregory Maguire’s novel, upon which the musical is based, delves even deeper into the witches’ friendships. This book is the first in The Wicked Years series and offers a new take on the classic story and characters of Oz.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

https://www.amazon.com/War-Peace-Leo-Tolstoy/dp/1785992627

Tolstoy’s classic novel chronicles the lives of five aristocratic Russian families throughout the course of 15 years. A gripping drama that focuses on Pierre’s search for meaning in his life, the musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is inspired by a 70-page segment of the novel.

Ragtime by E.L Doctorow

https://www.amazon.com/Ragtime-Novel-Modern-Library-Novels/dp/0812978188

Skillfully weaving the lives of real historical figures like Harry Houdini with the compelling stories of three fictional families, Ragtime provides a moving look into life in New York at the turn of the 20th century. Discussing topics of immigration, racism, and feminism, Ragtime is heart-breaking and incredibly moving.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

https://www.amazon.com/Old-Possums-Book-Practical-Cats/dp/015668568X

You may be surprised to learn that Cats, one of the longest-running musicals on Broadway, is based on a collection of poetry by T.S. Eliot. Musical numbers in this critically acclaimed show even take their titles from some of the whimsical poems in this book.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

https://www.amazon.com/Mis%C3%A9rables-Victor-Hugo-ebook/dp/B0771X5YZL

Perhaps one of the most famous books that inspired a musical, Les Misérables gives a gritty insight into the struggles in 19th century France. This incredibly detailed classic is often considered one of the greatest novels of all time.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

https://www.amazon.com/Matilda-Roald-Dahl/dp/0670824399

Adapted for film in 1996, Roald Dahl’s Matilda was recently turned into a brilliant, family-friendly stage musical. This story about a little girl with the special power of telekinesis has touched audiences around the world, and the musical adaptation has already tied the record for the most Laurence Olivier Awards won by any musical.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

https://www.amazon.com/Fun-Home-Tragicomic-Alison-Bechdel/dp/0618871713

Cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel serves as a memoir for her childhood, when she grew up in a funeral home. Fun Home gives audiences a look into Bechdel’s dysfunctional family at key points in her life and addresses themes of gender roles and the journey to finding yourself.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

https://www.amazon.com/Alexander-Hamilton-Ron-Chernow/dp/0143034758

Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda created the hit musical Hamilton. Miranda worked very closely with Chernow during the production of the show, and Chernow even served as the historical consultant for the musical.

Written by Logan Voss

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