If you’ve taken a look at the musicals and plays of the past the few seasons and were surprised to find that you recognized a majority of them because you read the book version, it’s not just you. The 2015 and 2016 Best Musical Tony Award winners – Fun Home and Hamilton, respectively – were both adapted from previously written works. In fact, in recent years, Broadway has been dominated by book to show adaptations. American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, are just a few examples of this phenomenon from past seasons.
The rise of book-to-stage adaptations has resulted in an imbalance of adapted versus original works in modern theatre as of late. It’s arguably easier to improve on an already existing story and transfer it to a different medium rather than create your own. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing. Many adaptations like Wicked take the original source material and add new plot points to already existing ones, while other shows like Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are adaptations of a much longer text like War and Peace and make the story feel fresh by doing something unique and innovative in the staging.
Despite this, the dramatization of books is certainly not a new concept. The concept dates all the way back to beginning of theatre with the satyr plays of the Ancient Greeks, which were based on epic poems or myths. And while literary adaptations of today may not be based on myths or legends, there’s definitely a huge benefit when it comes to show based on works people are already familiar with: a built in audience. Introducing someone who’s never seen a theatre show in their life is hard, but if they become enticed through an adaptation of something they already have knowledge of, it becomes a little easier.
Although literary adaptations on stage may have a bit of a bad rap in 2017, we should give credit where credit is due. Stage adaptations of books can bring in new audiences and new innovations to theatre as a whole. So the next time you read a great book, don’t be surprised if you see it on stage sometime soon.
What are your favorite shows based on books? Is there a book you want to see a stage adaption of? Let me know in the comments!