Matilda, Cinderella, even How the Grinch Stole Christmas — these are all children’s books that have not only translated well onto the theater stage, but have also transcended their demographic. The productions were intended to be for children, sure, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an adult who wasn’t just as dazzled seeing the story come to life on stage.
While there are some children's-books-turned-stage-adaptations I'm excited about, including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (in London), there are few that haven't quite made it to Broadway yet. Here are my top picks for children’s books I think would work well as a theater show.
Where the Wild Things Are
I loved "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak as a kid, although watching the film adaptation as an adult made me realize it was much darker than I remembered. Still, I think it would be pretty cool to see the big monsters on stage, as well as intricate set designs. I’d shy away from making it into a musical — it was already made into an opera back in the ‘80s — but a great orchestral accompaniment could make the production go a long way. It would be light enough for the kids to enjoy, especially adorable Max in his white bunny suit, while also providing enough to keep adults intrigued.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
This series was released in 1999 and has become really popular since. Obviously it would be difficult, if not impossible, to include every single event from every single story into one show, but I think recreating book one would be totally doable. "The Bad Beginning" follows three young siblings orphaned and sent to live with their distant, and evil, cousin. Okay, so it doesn’t sound like it’s a kid’s book, but I swear, it is. It’s narrated by Lemony Snicket, which would make the theater show a bit like a story time session for grown-ups. Plus, even though the events that unfold are "unfortunate," they’re also funny and playful. I think it would work!
Judge me all you want, but I love Harry Potter. I own all the books and have all of the films on Blu-Ray. A few weeks ago, I even visited the Harry Potter exhibit in NYC. That’s dedication. I'd like to see the first book "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (or "Philosopher's Stone," if you prefer) on stage, even though it would require some pretty crafty special effects. Still, the flying, ginormous-and-strange-looking-creatures, and elaborate sets have all been done before in other productions (Peter Pan, How to Train Your Dragon, and any Disney production ever), so we already know that part is doable. It’s really just the magical elements, like learning to make things "float" that might be a challenge. With how much people still love the series, it would probably be a success. There was, after all, a huge audience for the Harry Potter spoofs on stage.
I love children’s books, so I could probably go on all day. What are some you think might work well on stage?