Five Books-to-Musicals for Your Monday

My dear readers, I've been listening to a lot of musicals lately, so this week, I wanted to give you a list of five books that have inspired stage productions.  While you're reading these excellent books, why not check out the musicals that they inspired?  As always, thank you to our friends at NoveList for providing a list of appeals for each book.  Looking for another book?  Try using NoveList to help you find your next great read!

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)

Atmospheric, bittersweet, intricately plotted, lyrical

Les Miserables is probably my favorite musical of all time.  In fact, I'm listening to it right now as I write this.  This beautiful book (and musical) tells the story of Jean Valjean, a convict released from prison after 19 years for the crime of stealing bread to feed his starving family.  Embittered and shunned by the society he was once a part of, Valjean is ready to turn his back on humanity, when a kindly bishop sets him back on the right path again.  Valjean starts a new life, abandoning his old identity as well as the paperwork he is forced to carry as a convict.  Just when it seems he's hitting a turning point in his life, an old enemy from his time in prison appears: the police inspector Javert who is determined to find Valjean and bring him back to serve for his crimes.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Emmuska Orczy)

Plot-drive, fast-paced, funny, engaging

During the height of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, noblemen and women are mysteriously disappearing from the country, snuck out under the noses of the bloodthirsty revolutionaries and officials who are tasked with their execution.  No one knows how they are escaping, but a mysterious calling-card keeps turning up: a drawing of a little red flower called a pimpernel.  The identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is revealed to the reader as Sir Percy Blakeney, a wealthy Englishman and superficial fop (who is secretly a man of action and a master of disguise) pretending to be a preening playboy in order to avert suspicion of who he really is.

Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)

Quirky characters, amusing, dramatic, lyrical, witty

In this comic tale, Spanish nobleman Alonso Quijana enjoys tales of knights and adventures so much that he reads them to the point of obsession.  The more he reads, the less sleep he gets, until his brains finally dry up and he becomes determined to become a knight himself.  He hires his hapless neighbor, Sancho Panza to be his squire, and the two of them set off on a series of madcap adventures.  (Inspiration for the musical Man of La Mancha).

Wicked (Gregory Maguire)

Compelling, lyrical, richly-detailed, sympathetic characters

This dark retelling of The Wizard of Oz tells the story of the green-skinned girl who went on to become one of the most famous villains in literature.  Far more than the cackling witch we're shown in the original tale, this tells how Elphaba (as she used to be known) became quite so wicked.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stephenson)

Creepy, disturbing, suspenseful

In an attempt to remove the evil from the hearts of men, Dr. Henry Jekyll uses himself as the test subject in his experiments and unleashes the villainous Edward Hyde, a grotesque creature made up of the evil in Jekyll's heart.  Warming up to the newfound freedom that Hyde allows him, Jekyll begins to transform on purpose, drinking a special concoction that creates the change in order to be unfettered by the constraints of society and being "good".  But, soon, the transformations begin to occur of their own accord, and Jekyll loses control.  (Inspiration for the musical Jekyll and Hyde).