From Wicked to The Colour Purple to War Horse, to the recent adaptation of Matilda, books have provided the inspiration for many a hit stage production. And it continues, with the popular Roald Dahl classic Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, coming to Broadway this March after a successful run on the West End. For years, theatre creatives have sought inspiration from the minds of the literary greats, making the written word come to life on the stage. There are, however, still many texts just asking to be brought to the stage. These gems are lining the shelves of your local library or bookstore, waiting for the next Lin-Manuel to pick them up and transform them into theatrical masterpieces.
Below are some works that I think are just waiting to make the jump from bookshelves to the stage:
1. The Outsiders
The SE Hinton classic is one of my favorite books of all time, and I often teach it to my students in conjunction with a viewing of West Side Story. The social commentary in The Outsiders is still highly relevant today and would connect with audiences of all ages. Not to mention the incredible emotional depth that Hinton lays out in each of her characters, which would be a dream for any actor.
2. The Rules of Civility
If Mad Men, The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a baby, it would be Amos Towles’ novel set in 1930s New York. The retro-chic glamour is described in such detail that it’s transition to the stage would simply be stunning. Add an intriguing cast of characters and well-crafted plot line, and we have a winner.
3. Calvin and Hobbes
While I know this one is a comic book, that didn’t stop Clark Gesner from making You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which I loved. Bill Watterson’s smart humor make the content enjoyable for both children and adults. There are so many fun elements and returning motifs in the comic, such as the snowmen and Spaceman Spiff, which could be developed into a full-fledged show with the right writer to tie them all together. A few musical numbers wouldn’t be a stretch either, given the well-loved comic strips of Calvin and his beloved tiger rocking out in their sunglasses.
4. Pennyroyal Academy
Whether a play or a musical, MA Larson’s fairy tale twist would be a visual smorgasbord. The costumes, the sets and the special effects for this one would be nothing short of magical. It also boasts a plucky heroine who shows that princesses don’t need rescuing; they fight as warriors alongside their princes.
5. The Help
This book deserves stage time. There is so much to be gleaned from the historical and emotional lessons of this novel. The film adaptation was incredible, and I believe a stage version would be just as compelling. Much like The Outsiders, the emotional depth of the characters and the social commentary are particularly relevant today and would resonate with modern audiences.
6. The Princess Bride
This one is cheating a little bit, as Disney has already bought the rights to it. Their website launched a few years ago, and yet the project remains silent. Rumors of adaptation have been floating around for years. The cult classic would transfer well to the stage, with its characters having stood the test of time as they continue to charm new audiences. Add a ballad between Buttercup and Wesley, a rousing revenge proclamation from Inigo Montoya, and maybe some dancing R.O.U.S’, and I think we’d have the next Tony award-winning Musical.