During Intermission

St. Louis boasts a variety of professional and amateur theater, proving our city agrees with Ethel Merman's claim that there is no business like show business. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances live theater is taking an unprecedented break. Community theaters have cancelled their auditions, seasons have been delayed, the lights on North Grand remain dark, and for the first summer in 102 years, there will not be singing and dancing on the Muny stage in Forest Park. It’s easy to feel disheartened, but theaters across the world are reminding fans: it’s just intermission. 

Here in Center for the Reader, we are taking time during the intermission to pick up some books. Our browsing has led to the discovery that Hollywood isn’t the only one profiting from adapting novels: Broadway is too! Check out our list of books that have been adapted to the stage (plus the addition of a whole lot of singing and dancing):


Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

This 1955 novel, following the adventures of a young boy being raised by his Aunt, was adapted into a musical in 1956. If you listen to the soundtrack you may recognize Angela Lansbury belting “We Need a Little Christmas,” which originated from the show. 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

This 1870 novel was never completed, as Dickens died while working on it. As he didn’t leave behind an outline or solution to the mystery the musical has multiple endings which the audience votes on. Check out the soundtrack here! 

My Love, My Love, Or, The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy

This 1985 novel was heralded as the Caribbean retelling of the Little Mermaid. In 1990 the novel was adapted to the musical: Once on This IslandCheck out the 2017 revival soundtrack that won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical!

The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood

This 1945 novel is one of the Time 100 Best English-language Novels of the 20th Century! The 1966 musical adaptation: Cabaret was a hit, winning eight of thirteen Tony nominations. Its latest revival was only in 2014. Check out the 1972 soundtrack with Liza Minnelli! 

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

This 1995 novel, chronicling the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West, is definitely not for children. Its 2003 Broadway musical adaptation on the other hand, is funny and heartwarming. In October 2019 it surpassed Les Miserables as the fifth longest running Broadway musical and the second highest grossing musical (right behind The Lion King). Check out the original cast soundtrack with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth here! 

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

This 1905 novel is the first in a historical fiction series by the Baroness Orczy. The story follows Sir Percy Blakeney who lives a double life as the precursor to spy and superhero fiction with their mild mannered secret identities. The 1997 musical adaption was nominated for Best Musical at the Tony Awards. Check out the original cast soundtrack where you may recognize Terrance Mann, or the Beast from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. 

Favorite Tales of Sholem Aleichem by Sholem Aleichem

The series of short stories: Tevye and his Daughters published in Yiddish in 1894 became the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof. The novel follows Tevye and his five strong-willed daughters, The stories deal with business, romance, and the expulsion of the Jews from their Russian village. The musical became the first in history to surpass 3,000 shows in its run and won nine Tony Awards. Check out the musical film adaptation soundtrack here!

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

This 1982 epistolary novel won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books. Its original Broadway run began in 2005, and it boasts the 2015 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Check out the soundtrack here!

Want more? Check out this list of more adult novels that have been adapted into a musical OR check out this list of children's and teen novels that have been adapted into musicals! 

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