7 books that would make great musicals

We book-lovers talk a lot about adaptations, but we tend to mostly focus on movie and TV adaptations. While I love those as much as the next person, I think we are overlooking the underused potential of book-to-musical adaptations.

Plenty of amazing musicals have been adapted from books, like Wicked, Fun Home, Les Miserables, and The Lightning Thief, so it can be done. And while it might be easier to simply adapt books into non-musical plays, I think musicals are more fun, so that’s what I’m focusing on. All seven of the books that I’m talking about today would, in my opinion, be great as musicals — allow me to explain why!

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

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Am I putting this book on this list mostly because the idea of the kids tormenting Linus through song and dance is the most delightful thought I’ve had all week? Maybe so!

This book follows a social worker named Linus who is sent to oversee an orphanage of dangerous magical children. As a book, it’s both hilarious and heartfelt, and I think a musical adaptation would capture that perfectly. The way I imagine it, nobody sings in the “real world” that Linus comes from, so when he goes to the orphanage, he’s shocked by all the singing that’s going on. (Basically a reverse The Sound of Music??) And of course he eventually learns to sing along with them!

The show-stopping number: No spoilers, but the ending would absolutely be the biggest number in the show and I would barely be able to watch it through my tears.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Here’s an idea: Like a Love Story jukebox musical…with all Madonna songs. 

In this YA book, three teens growing up in 1989 New York bond over their love of Madonna and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. I know that jukebox musicals are not always the most popular thing (which, as a huge fan of Mamma Mia, I will never understand), but is there anything more perfect than a story that’s already so tied to Madonna being told through her songs?

The show-stopping number: I wish I were more well-versed in Madonna so I could give more specific examples, but you know there has to be a huge rendition of “Vogue” at some point. I don’t care where it is, but it has to be there.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

So imagine this: a gloriously hilarious historical musical adventure with fabulous costumes and, of course, narrated by Monty, Fleabag-style (as in, he frequently breaks the fourth wall to address the audience).

This book follows Henry “Monty” Montague, an 18th-century gentleman, during his Grand Tour of Europe, along with his best friend and his sister, and the hijinks that occur along the way. There’s already plenty of comedy, romance, and adventure, so it would only be a matter of adding in some musical numbers, and it would be perfect. Monty’s voice is the perfect amount of ridiculous and over-the-top to be the narrator for a musical.

The show-stopping number: a huge group number at Versailles that’s interrupted by Monty running through naked, as he does.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This book is already written in verse, so turning it into a musical wouldn’t be too difficult. Chop chop, let’s get on it, people!

The Poet X is about Xiomara, a young woman in Harlem growing up and finding her voice through slam poetry. Obviously, the musical would be narrated by Xiomara, and I can imagine the music becoming more complex and fitting her style as she comes into her own. I’m envisioning this as, like, Dear Evan Hansen meets In the Heights, aka just about the best combination possible. And it would 100% make me cry, which is all I can really ask for from a musical.

The show-stopping number: Obviously when Xiomara performs at the poetry slam for the first time!

Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale

I’m cheating a little with this one, not only because this book isn’t out yet, but because it’s about a musical theatre actress and already includes musical numbers. And if that hasn’t convinced you to pick this up when it comes out August 25, I don’t know what will.

In this YA novel, Josie believes she’s peaked at eighteen and her acting career is done forever. Then she somehow transports herself into the books that she’s reading, which starts to feel like a second chance. This book is already a celebration of a love of both books and musicals, so I can’t imagine anything better. And I know that Josie would make a fantastic musical protagonist. (Don’t tell her that, though, because she would be way too pleased.)

The show-stopping number: Well…there might already be a big show-stopper in the book involving the Spice Girls?? I’ll say no more…

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Yes, there might already be a musical about queer girls in Indiana going to prom (go listen to The Prom), but why can’t we have another??

You Should See Me in a Crown follows Liz Lighty, who joins the running for prom queen, hoping to win the scholarship that comes with it. The cast of characters in this book is already colorful and oftentimes larger-than-life, which would translate perfectly into a musical, and I can picture this being big, flashy, and hilarious. I’d love it if all of the characters have their own distinct musical style, especially Liz, to show how she stands out from everyone else at her school.

The show-stopping number: When Liz starts campaigning seriously and puts up that giant poster in her school, there has to be an epic number where she finally takes center stage after avoiding it for the whole show.

Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Can you imagine how incredible the effects for this show would be? I want nothing less than breathtaking costumes and set design, since it takes place in the early 1900s, and of course an absolute powerhouse of an actress to play January.

This book follows a young woman growing up isolated and unsure about her heritage, until she finds a book that starts to answer her questions and open magical doors in her life. Since the book made me cry, I would absolutely expect the musical to do the same. I just want beautiful songs and effects and for the magic of this story to translate into the magic of theatre, please??

The show-stopping number: A duet between January and her mother as January learns more about where she came from, which would make everyone in the audience sob.

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Would you want to see any of these books as musicals? What do you think their show-stopping numbers would look like? What books would you like to see as musicals?

x Margaret

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63 thoughts on “7 books that would make great musicals

  1. As a huge fan of musical theatre, this post got me so excited!! I would definitely watch some of the musicals you proposed here if they ever actually made it to the Great White Way. Amazing post Margaret!!! 💛💛

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Poet X would be awesome! Poetry has its own rhythm and hearing it put to music is transcendent. Vanessa Daou’s Zipless album actually introduced me to poetry. Hearing Erica Jong’s words put to music really hit home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about House in the Cerulean Sea, but never really know what it is about until now. It sounds perfect for me!

    I haven’t read Gentleman’s Guide, but it does sound like a perfect musical material! I heard it has a lot of shenanigans so adding in a musical number will definitely add to the story 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve heard nothing but great things about The House on the Cerulean Sea and I’m so eager to read it! The Ten Thousand Doors of January sounds so great. Thank you for introducing it to me 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  5. what a great idea for a post!!! i’ve heard nothing but great things about the house on the cerulean sea and the ten thousand doors of January so im looking forward to reading them and see if they will really be great as musicals. I’d love to see IF WE WERE VILLAINS as a musical!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh thank you! ❤ Both of those books are some of my favorites that I've read this year, so I hope you enjoy them 😀 OOOH If We Were Villains would be SO cool as a musical – or any kind of stage production, really!! I'm here for it.

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  6. Ah LOVE this list so much! And such a great post idea eeeppp.

    I am so PUMPED to read Like A Love Story, it looks so good. As well as You Should See Me In A Crown AHHH!!

    The Poet X would be INCREDIBLE too omg.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t read Like a Love Story but I am 100% on board for a Madonna jukebox musical!! I’ve been a huge Madonna stan since I was pretty much born and I want to see a musical inspired by her songs so badly, and bonus points if it has a big queer cast because the queer community is so important to Madonna’s career.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have literally never thought about a book to musical adaptation before, and now I can’t stop thinking about it, so thank you for that! I just watched Hamilton for the first time (I KNOW), as well, and it’s just given me such a newfound appreciation for all the incredible things musicals can do. I am going to be forever bitter that Hercules hasn’t been adapted yet because, honestly, if they can do Lion King, I just do not understand how Hercules would be “too difficult”. And now I’m going to be bitter about every single other thing that needs to be adapted right the heck now. There are just so many good options??

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahaha you’re welcome, and thank you! Omg I’m so excited that you watched Hamilton – it’s really the show that got me back into theatre a few years back 😀 Omg Hercules would be amazing as a stage musical!! And so many other things too, it’s true. Too many good options!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We should absolutely turn every book we can into a musical!! We can never have too many musicals!!

    I haven’t read any of these books yet, but they sound awesome. I’m really pumped for Kind of a Big Deal specifically, since it combines the love for books and musicals and that would be my story if I had any singing talent and/or acting whatsoever.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Margaret, I’m speechless because I can’t stop picturing The Gentleman’s Guide as a musical! It would seriously be beyond perfect. I can’t stop imagining the huge songs and the travels and the YES breaking the fourth wall…wow, this is amazing. I love this post, so creative and fun to read!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. wow, i love this! i am not much of an expert in musicals, though i definitely enjoy my fair share of them. but then again i only listened/watched hamilton this month, so like…. yeah, i definitely still have a long way to go, hahah.

    but i completely agree with some of your picks! the gentleman’s guide would be amazing, because it has a lot of great humor and i could definitely see some of the songs being influenced by the classic music from the 1800s. like, earlier on in the book we have them going to an orchestra, so it would be amazing to mix that vibe with the humorous remarks very monty-style, hahah.

    i didn’t know the term jukebox musical exists, but i agree that like a love story would be a great one! i can definitely see a lot of songs that would tie perfectly with the story, like material girl for when judy is getting ready for her date with reza and papa don’t preach for all the times art fights with his dad. okay, i am definitely overthinking this now, but yeah, hahah.

    this post was SO great and it definitely inspired me to think of other stories that could be turned into musicals!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Lais!! I certainly wouldn’t call myself a musical expert – though funny enough, it was Hamilton that really got me into musicals a few years ago 😉

      Yess, the humor in Gentleman’s Guide would be amazing in musical format 😀 Having the music influenced by that time period would be perfect! I can almost picture the orchestra scene… it would be fantastic.

      Omg YES those Madonna songs would be PERFECT! I don’t know enough of her songs to add any more suggestions, but your ideas fit so well and I would love to see it.

      Thanks so much!!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh my god what a wonderful post and a unique idea! it’s true that when we think of adaptations, we too often think of movies and tv shows and rarely of musicals,, but that would be fun! 😀
    I haven’t read any of the books on your list here, but both the poet x and you should see me in a crown are on my tbr, i’m eager to read them and ten thousand doors of january!! this book sounds so good and i bet it’d make a magical musical for sure 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love this post! I’m a huge fan of musical theater and books, so clearly musical adaptions of books are a dream come true. I’ve never heard of The House in the Cerulean Sea before, but it sounds wonderful. Might have to check it out… A musical that’s a cross between Dear Evan Hansen and In the Heights?? Yes PLEASE.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As a reader who loves musicals, I love this concept! I had no idea The Lightning Thief had a musical adaptation, this is definitely something I need to get on 😀 The Gentleman’s Guide would make the perfect musical! I’d love to see Monty breaking the fourth wall and running across the stage as he’s being chased by guards. The Poet X could definitely make it as a musical and I could see Elizabeth Acevedo’s other books being adapted into musicals too. It would be a holy trifecta of Afro-Latinx storytelling through song… Why isn’t this a thing yet?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m SO glad I could bring the Lightning Thief musical to your attention, because it’s amazing 😀 Ahaha yes, Monty in a musical would be the perfect fit, and absolutely hilarious 😂 And yesss I’d love to see any of Elizabeth Avecedo’s books get stage adaptations! Holy trifecta indeed, this definitely needs to be a thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a great post! I love how you included ‘the show stopping number’ — so creative 😀 I’ve never read any of these books 😢 but I have a hold on the ebook version of You Should See Me in a Crown!! Your book choices are fantastic and I love the mini reviews and how you linked them to musicals 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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