8 Books That Would Really Work as Musicals

  • Chloe Price

As musicals such as Hamilton show, you can base a musical on pretty much anything. A countless number of books have been adapted for stages all over the world, yet there are still plenty that deserve the same treatment. This list is only a small portion of those stories.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus has such an electric and mysterious atmosphere, filled with magic and illusions that would captivate the audience of this musical – so why hasn’t it happened yet? The book contains a fairy tale quality; two lovers are forced to compete against each other until only one remains, with the extraordinary circus as their stage. Dark, exaggerated, with wonders and enigmas that would look simply beautiful on stage. Accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack that captures this magic, with songs that explore both the mystical circus setting and traditional Victorian London, it would not be a musical to miss.


This coming-of-age book is a classic fairy-tale-gone-wrong, which is why it would make a great musical. It’s over the top in a good way, featuring puns and references to the world as we know it, from Dorothea’s Hans Christian Louboutin’s and the opening lines of a One Direction sneaking their way in, it’s the perfect recipe for a family-friendly musical. This mishmash of fairy tale settings and characters would come with whimsical songs that explore Dorothea’s journey as she tries to fix a spell gone wrong. If the success of Wicked is anything to go by, then this book would make a musical hit.

The Jungle Book

If there’s anything that The Lion King and War Horse have taught us, is that animals and musicals go together perfectly. The Jungle Book is currently a kids’ play based purely off Disney’s adaption, but recently darker versions have been released which would be perfect for a grown-up Broadway musical. The atmospheric jungle seems to change depending on the characters – a playground for Baloo, a hunting ground for Shere Kahn or a community for Bagheera, and it would be interesting to see these perspectives portrayed on stage. Everyone knows the story of this book, how Mowgli was raised in the jungle by wolves, but now that the more chilling elements are being brought to the forefront of the plot, now would be an excellent time to create a mesmerising musical.

The Bear and The Nightingale

Katherine Arden’s trilogy is everywhere in the literary world at the moment, and it’s not hard to see why. Filled with Russian folklore, the story focuses on Vasilia, who can see creatures living around her and her family while no one else can, and villagers believe that she is a witch as she defies the gender norms of the period. But that’s not all her problems. Set against a backdrop of snow, horses (again, War Horse proving that animals work on stage!) and haunting woodlands, this musical would be atmospheric and chilling. Similar to The Night Circus, two different worlds are explored in these novels, a traditional, medieval village, and a magical world that only a few characters can see, which would undoubtedly create a vibrant show worth seeing.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is currently an immersive theatre show, but it needs to be a musical. Gatsby is known for its light, eccentric, a never-ending party with dark undercurrents. As the reader becomes more intimate with the characters, it becomes evident that everyone you meet is flawed and the Roaring ’20s are far from perfect. Now, all it needs are some upbeat songs, flapper dancing, and extravagant costumes, and you have a fun yet thought-provoking Broadway musical that everyone will love. It should be noted that a production did premiere in 2011, but has had no development since.

The Princess Diaries

It’s safe to say that The Princess Diaries would make an adorable musical. A coming-of-age plot that’s both funny and heart-warming would appeal to pretty much anyone, and with a few peppy songs thrown in the mix, it would certainly be a success. Extravagant costumes that sparkle in the spotlight, romantic first dances and the cute side plot where Mia tries to nail her first ‘leg-popping’ kiss; these elements would invoke many ‘aaawww’s from the audience.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

There are musicals of both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and yet Anne Bronte has been pushed to the sidelines again as a musical version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall does not exist. Beauty and the Beast rings through at various points in this novel, as Gilbert Markham’s family members and fellow villagers gossip and speculate about newcomer Helen Graham. Cue Helen’s version of Beauty’s opening song: ‘Belle.’ This is another beautiful novel that carries dark undertones, and, seeing as her sisters’ books have been transformed into musicals, it’s only fair that Anne gets a turn.

The Chronicles of Narnia

Like The Jungle Book, The Chronicles of Narnia is already a kids’ musical that schools purchase to perform for their end of year plays, but there is yet to be a full scale West End version that would surely blow us all away. Full of journeys to vibrant locations, majestic creatures, epic battles – The Chronicles of Narnia is set in a truly unforgettable world that would look incredible on stage. While much work would have to go into this one, the result would be simply beautiful. Also, imagine the costumes the actors would wear!