Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Makes a Book Musical Worthy?

The content better be as good as the size!


Black mascara streaked down  my face as I hiccuped, sniffled, and quietly bawled my way through Les Miserables this past weekend. The music has been so inspiring to me that I have been playing it at every opportunity I've had since I saw the film. There's something about a musical that reaches into your soul and makes you feel a person's triumphs, losses, and emotions more than any other medium. However, I did not realize until the opening credits that Les Miserables was a book written by Victor Hugo. I will be curious to see if the book can emit as much feeling as the soaring music that captures a listener's heart. In short, I'm adding the gigantic tome to my incredibly long reading list.

Several books have taken on new life and have been adapted for the stage as musicals. One of my personal favorites Wicked was originally Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Other triumphant transitions from the page to the stage include Ragtime, The Color Purple, Big River (The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin,) Oliver, My Fair Lady (Pygmalion,) and Cats which was based on a children's book called Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot.

Plot lines don't always match up between the play and the original. Wicked and My Fair Lady are shining examples of drastic changes from the leaves of a book to a full on drama extraordinaire. (Others in the list above may differ from their play counterparts, but admittedly I haven't seen all of the plays or read all of the books.)

So my question, one that will require more research, is what causes the spark to go off in a stage write's head? Creativity has always flowed in my veins, but it did not seem to spark the fire that takes a novel to another stage. Whether that stage be a movie, TV show, radio drama, a stage play, or a musical It's always baffled me how someone could rework a novel into something more than it was. Mind you I don't think all medium transitions are a success, but it must take some sort of inspiration to make someone take a novel they've read and make it more.

Is there some quality in a book that makes it easy to transition to a musical, or is it pure determination of the play write or composer to make music from what he/she knows? Do the novels have something in common that makes them so heart wrenching on stage? I mean it's not like we've seen romance novels become stage plays. My opinion is that Spider Man became a musical to make a profit and nothing more. Maybe it's amazing and I'm missing out, but until someone tells me it's outstanding, I will remain skeptical. What makes a novel, or any story become a great musical? If you have an incite or ideas please share them. I'd be curious to see what other people think.

P.S. Day one of my personal novel writing month. My writing buddy has been updated and we are ready to go! From here on out I drop the pen and move to the key board. With 1,612 words to write a day I've got to conserve my energy. So I'll let a computer do my word counts and keep my wrists from cramping up by sticking to tapping keys rather than writing on paper.

Happy Writings!

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