Two weeks ago Peter and the Starcatcher won five Tony Awards, including best performance by an actor in a featured role. The play, which is based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter Pan prequel series, received nine total nominations.
This children’s literature/theater connection sparked my curiosity, so I did a little research on the topic. Broadway is currently running three other shows with ties to children’s books: Mary Poppins, a theatrical adaptation of the Disney film, itself loosely based on the P. L. Travers novel; War Horse, based on the middle-grade novel by Michael Morpurgo and winner of last year’s Tony Award for best play; and Wicked, the hit musical about the witches of Oz, based on Gregory Maguire’s adult book of the same name, which was inspired by L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Off-Broadway, there are even more children’s book–based shows: The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Matters, The Musical; Freckleface Strawberry, The Musical (based on picture books by Julianne Moore); Into the Woods (Sondheim’s long-running, Tony Award–winning reimagining of classic fairy tales); and Potted Potter.
And that’s just what’s playing in NYC! A quick Google search brings up regional productions of shows such as Seussical; Little Women; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: A Musical; James and the Giant Peach; Peter Pan; and Charlotte’s Web.
Adapting books for the theater makes sense because it taps into an existing fan base. But I think adapting children’s books for the stage does something more: it provides kids with an early introduction and connection to the enriching world of live theater, perhaps sparking a lifelong appreciation for and interest in the arts. For parents looking for summer activities to do with their kids, this type of entertainment should fit the (play)bill.
Do you know of other children’s books that have been turned into plays or musicals? Which children’s books or young adult novels would you like to see adapted for the theater?