In ode to World Book Day, Edge writers have described which musical based on a book is the best – and why!
Amongst the roster of brilliant big musicals out there, the one that most often comes to mind is the widely celebrated, and widely loved, Wicked. Based on the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch, that itself being based on the classic 1900 L. Frank Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and of course, the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz, Wicked acts as a stage prequel to the original novel, telling the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, long before their rivalry.
Wicked is one of the most successful musicals of all time, having made over $1 billion in Broadway revenue since its opening in 2003, and the original Broadway run was nominated for 10 Tony’s. Since then, the musical has travelled all over the world, finding a longstanding residency in the Apollo Victoria Theatre, where it is has been running successfully since 2006. I had the pleasure of seeing a rendition of the show myself there a few years back, and, in a word, the best way I can describe it was utterly breathtaking. I think one of the hardest things a big show like Wicked has to do is live up to the huge expectations it has set for itself in its fame and glory, but I certainly was not disappointed when I saw it. Let’s just say I was sobbing buckets after the end of the first act (if you know you know) and these waves of emotion only continued for the rest of the musical’s runtime. Wicked is one of the biggest musicals to ever hit the stage, and for good reason; it’s an outstanding show.
– Alice Fortt
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera has been running in London’s West End since 1986 and 1988 on Broadway. Based on Gaston Leroux’s book of the same name, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is an incredible retelling. Heck, I’d argue it is one of the best musicals out there. After all, the show has won 7 Tony awards for the Broadway version!
As someone who has read the original text, seen the show and owns multiple copies of the DVD, I have never felt disappointed by Webber’s adaptation genius. In fact, Webber’s musical presents the Phantom as less of a ghost and more as a rascal who is trying to help Christine Daae become the star he knows she is. In the show, his affection for Daae is a major plot device that is left ambiguous in the original source material but adds to the drama on the stage as the Phantom’s plans fall into place. The Phantom’s character is developed and flourishes on stage – we feel sorry for him when Daae chooses Raoul de Chagny over him. I mean, he did try to kill/injure people but he did it for love. Plus, the person who plays the Phantom has an incredible vocal range!
– Jo Lisney
A key point of musicals is that they are filled with catchy and memorable songs; no musical does this as well as Oliver!. Even the name of the musical itself prompts the feverish “Oliver! Oliver!” and succeeds in getting immediately stuck on a loop in your head. Based upon the Dickens’ classic with a similar but less invigorating name, Oliver! tells the tale of an orphaned street boy, who must learn some tricks in order to survive. Everything turns out well for the eponymous hero, but that cannot be said for the rest of the characters.
What makes Oliver! so special is its ability to give an audience a full show. The only time I have ever seen this performed live was in high school, and moments of the performance have stayed with me for many years. It is only a fantastic base if it can be brought to life by a teenage cast, so it’s suffice to say that Oliver! ranks highly in accessibility. There are many moments to laugh (mostly thanks to the Artful Dodger and their artful dance moves) and equally as many to cry (deaths are abound within the musical, and involved someone dropping 30ft onto a crash mat in my school hall). While Dickens’ novel is a text that everybody should read, this musical does stay true to the messages that come from the writing, mostly those of hope and comeuppance. Oliver! gives Food, glorious Food for thought, and will make you Consider Yourself why you haven’t been watching it on repeat!
– Emily Dennis