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April 2, 2020

Plays and Musicals Inspired by Children’s Books

2019 Broadway production of The Lightning Thief (Jeremy Daniel)

There’s something truly comforting about reliving childhood memories, be it through flicking through old photos, watching films or opening up a much-loved book.

Bring back happy theatre memories with a selection of children’s book adaptations that have left a lasting impression on audiences worldwide.

Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ by Donald Harron, Norman Campbell and L.M. Montgomery (US)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 17w, 12m)
Based on the beloved novel by L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ follows the precocious and imaginative Anne Shirley as she captures the hearts and minds of her newfound family and neighbours in the small farming community of Avonlea – simply by virtue of her own pluck and personality.

Be More Chill by Joe Iconis, Joe Tracz and Ned Vizzini (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 4w, 6m)
Based on the contemporary best-selling novel, Be More Chill is the story of Jeremy Heere, an average teenager. That is, until he finds out about “The Squip,” a tiny supercomputer that promises to bring him everything he desires most: a date with Christine, an invite to the raddest party of the year and a chance to survive life in his suburban New Jersey high school. But is being the most popular guy in school worth the risk?

Big Nate by Jason Loewith, Lincoln Peirce, Christopher Youstra (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 3w, 4m)
Nate Wright, a detention-riddled sixth grader (and drummer) hopes to capture beautiful Jenny’s heart by winning “The Nicholodeon”, the first prize in his school’s Battle of the Bands. But when Artur and Jenny team up with Nate’s arch-rival Gina to form the sap-pop band Rainbows and Ponies, he’s to take his game to an all-star level. Based on the cartoons and books by Lincoln Peirce.

Big River by Roger Miller and William Hauptman (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 6w, 6m)
Mark Twain’s timeless classic sweeps audiences down the mighty Mississippi as Huck Finn helps his friend Jim escape from slavery to freedom at the mouth of the Ohio River. Their adventures along the way are hilarious, suspenseful and heartwarming, bringing to life everyone’s favourite characters from the novel. Propelled by an award-winning score from Roger Miller, this jaunty journey provides a brilliantly theatrical celebration of pure Americana. Alternative edition for young audiences is also available (US/UK).

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Original) (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 6w, 5m)
The timeless enchantment of this magical fairy tale that’s been at the heart of many children’s storybooks is reborn in this musical. Locked away by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella is forbidden from going to the ball. A fairy godmother soon appears, bestowing her with a gown, footmen and a pumpkin carriage, but the magic disappears at midnight!

Fantastic Mr Fox by David Wood and Roald Dahl (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 2w, 5m)
Roald Dahl’s much-loved story follows the vain attempts of three farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, one fat, one short, one lean, to get rid of the fox who regularly steals food from their farms. They try to kill him by any means possible. Outwitted at every turn, the farmer’s ploys backfire. Fantastic Mr. Fox devises a plan which will ensure full stomachs for not only his family, but all his friends, who celebrate with a sumptuous feast.

Free to Be… You and Me by Marlo Thomas and Friends (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 2w, 2m, 6 any gender)
Marlo Thomas conceived a children’s book that, instead of telling boys and girls who they should be, would open them to the possibilities of who they could be. She gathered many of her supremely talented friends from various worlds of the arts and the remarkable result is highly regarded as a modern classic of children’s literature. A blend of music and humour expands children’s personal horizons and allows them to invent their own futures.

Once Upon a Mattress by Mary Rodgers, Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 4w, 7m)
Many moons ago in a far-off place, Queen Aggravain decreed no couples could marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, found a bride. Princesses came from far and wide to win the hand of the prince, but none could pass the impossible tests given to them by the Queen. That is, until the “shy” swamp princess, Winnifred the Woebegone, showed up. A rollicking spin on the classic tale The Princess and the Pea.

Pete the Cat by Sarah Hammond, Will Aronson, Kimberly and James Dean (US/UK)
(Short Musical, Comedy / 2w, 3m)
For Pete the Cat, life is an adventure no matter where you wind up. So the minute the groovy blue cat meets The Biddles, he gets the whole family rocking – that is, except for young Jimmy Biddle. But when Jimmy draws a blank in art class during the last week of school, Pete is the perfect pal to help him out. Based on Kimberly and James Dean’s hit book series, this crowd-pleasing musical tells a tale of inspiration and friendship.

Skellig by David Almond (UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 4 girls, 6 boys)
David Almond’s own adaptation of his renowned novel. It follows the story of Michael discovering a mysterious creature beneath the spider webs and dead flies in the crumbling garage due to the delay of a much-anticipated house move. Almond’s other highly-acclaimed works are also available in our collection: Heaven’s Eyes (UK), My Dad’s A Birdman (UK) and The Savage (UK).

Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ The Musical by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 3w, 3m, 1 girl, 3 boys)
Based on the classic bestselling novel by Sue Townsend, this critically acclaimed West End musical brings Britain’s best-loved spotty teenager’s story to life for a new generation of theatregoers. Adrian Mole, a 13¾ year-old misunderstood intellectual living with dysfunctional parents, ungrateful elders and a growing debt to school bully Barry Kent.

The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo and Anna Ledwich (UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / Flexible casting)
When Bertie is sent away from the African farm of his childhood to school in England, he leaves behind not only his mother and home, swarming with wildlife, but also his best friend – a white lion he rescued as a cub. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s best-selling novel, The Butterfly Lion combines music, design and puppetry to bring a magical adventure to life: celebrating nature, friendship and the triumph of love.

The Lightning Thief by Joe Tracz, Rob Rokicki and Rick Riordan (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 7 any gender)
This dynamic musical adaptation of Rick Riordan’s bestselling book opened on Broadway in 2019. When teenager Percy Jackson discovers he’s a demigod, he and his friends embark on an epic journey to find Zeus’ missing lightning bolt and prevent a war among the gods.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Robbins) by C.S. Lewis and Glyn Robbins (UK)
(Full Length Play, Drama / 5w, 8m)
Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy embark on a magical mystery tour to the Land of Narnia through the wardrobe. There they encounter the wicked White Witch, representing the forces of evil, and the King of the Beasts, Aslan the lion, representing all that is good and right. The White Witch is destroyed, allowing good to triumph over evil in the time-honoured way.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Nan Knighton, Frank Wildhorn and Baroness Orczy (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 2w, 3m)
The Scarlet Pimpernel
is a swashbuckling action/adventure musical, based on Baroness Orczy’s famous 20th-century novel about the French Revolution and the battle for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. With an epic story and a rousing and passionate score, this is a colourful window into 18th century French and British history!

The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman, Lucy Simon and Frances Hodgson Burnett (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 10w, 12m, 1 girl)
Orphaned in India, 11 year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his invalid son Colin. The estate’s many wonders include a magic garden, which beckons the children with haunting melodies, and the “Dreamers”, spirits from Mary’s past who guide her through her new life.

The Wizard of Oz (RSC Version) by L. Frank Baum, Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg, Herbert Stothart, Peter Howard, Larry Wilcox and John Kane (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 3w, 5m, 16 any gender)
A delightful stage adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s beloved novel, featuring the iconic musical score from the MGM film. The timeless tale, in which young Dorothy Gale travels from Kansas over the rainbow to the magical Land of Oz, continues to thrill audiences worldwide.

The Worst Witch by Emma Reeves, Jill Murphy and Luke Potter (UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 10w)
Mildred Hubble is an ordinary girl who found herself in an extraordinary place: a school for witches. Now in her final year at Miss Cackle’s Academy, accident-prone Mildred and her fellow pupils are about to embark on their biggest adventure yet…

Tuck Everlasting by Claudia Shear, Tim Federle, Chris Miller, Nathan Tysen and Natalie Babbitt (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 3w, 6m, 1 girl)
Eleven-year-old Winnie Foster is torn between going on an infinite adventure with the magical Tuck family and rejecting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to possess eternal youth. Based on best-selling children’s classic by Natalie Babbitt and adapted for the stage by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle, Tuck Everlasting features a soaring score from Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen. Alternative edition for young audiences is also available (US/UK).

If you’re looking for a little more nostalgia, explore our collection (US/UK) of classic children’s books adapted for the stage!

Header Image: 2019 Broadway production of The Lightning Thief (Jeremy Daniel)