5 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books

Posted on 1 March 2023

Page-to-stage adaptations are hardly a novel idea. After all, the longest-running musical in West End history, Les Misérables, is based on the 19th-century novel by Victor Hugo. The second longest, The Phantom of the Opera, is also adapted from a historical work of fiction. However, you may not know these musicals are also based on books. We’ll need a bigger wardrobe for all our potential World Book Day outfits, especially if we’re going to fit Anna’s dress in it!

5 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books
5 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books
5 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books
5 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books
5 Shows You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books

Mrs. Doubtfire

Everyone knows the iconic 1993 film starring Robin Williams, but did you know that the much-quoted comedy was based on an English book published 6 years prior? 'Alias Madame Doubtfire' by Anne Fine follows Daniel, a recently divorced father, who disguises himself as a French nanny to spend more time with his children. Much like the Oscar-winning film, the book enjoyed it’s share of critical acclaim having been shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and Whitbread Children's Book Award’s.

The Tony-nominated musical adaptation, which first opened on Broadway in 2020, is now making its way back to the UK. Opening this May, Daniel will once again don a prosthetic nose, and pull up his pantyhose in order to reconnect with his children, and potentially reignite the spark that went out between himself and his ex-wife Miranda.

Book tickets for Mrs. Doubtfire today.   


We know that life is a Cabaret, but did you know that Cabaret is based on the 1939 novel 'Goodbye to Berlin'? That’s right, the Kit Kat Clubs' famous residents first appeared in Christopher Isherwood’s book, 27 years before the first Broadway performance in 1966.

The award-winning musical features factual events from Isherwood's life, and the real people the author encountered, including the infamous Sally Bowles.

Set in 1929–1930 Berlin during the twilight of the Jazz Age, the German Republic is fading, the Nazis are gaining power and Cabaret is the ultimate, end of the world party.

Book tickets for Cabaret today.

The King and I

Anna’s 40-pound, 14ft circumference dress may not be the quickest outfit to whip up for World Book Day. However, it would be an eligible, and epic, costume…

Adapted from the 1944 book ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ by Margaret Landon, which, in turn, was based on Anna Leonowen’s unconventional and tempestuous relationship with King Mongkut. The King and I first premiered on Broadway over 70 years ago, 7 years after the book's publication. The lavish musical follows a British governess, Anna, who is hired to educate the King’s wives and children. However, the intended pupils aren’t the only ones who learn valuable lessons during Anna’s stay.

Book tickets for The King and I UK tour today.


An 800-page biography depicting the history of a political congressman, may not scream ‘smash hit musical’ but it did to composer & lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda. Bored at an airport in 2008, Miranda picked up a copy of 'Alexander Hamilton' by Ron Chernow and flicked through its contents. Seven years later his stage adaptation of the book opened on Broadway to critical acclaim, and the rest – as is the book it’s based on – is history…

Just like the 6.3 words per second rap featured in Hamilton, this multi-award-winning musical shows no signs of slowing down. With bookings for the record-breaking show now extending to March 2024.

Book tickets for Hamilton today.

Guys and Dolls

Okay, so we’re not really sticking to the rules here, but as Nathan Detroit knows, the house always wins. Based on two short stories by Damon Runyon "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure,” this much-loved American musical is full of chutes and literary roots.

The 1933 novella 'The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown' features a love between an inveterate gambler and a missionary girl, with 'Blood Pressure' depicting the gangster lifestyle in 1920's 30's Manhattan. The musical debuted on Broadway 17 years after the stories were released, and has been a constant at the West End and Broadway ever since. In its latest reimagining, the show invites the audience onto the stage and into the bars of Havana and streets of Manhattan as the Bridge Theatre uses its ambitious and immersive staging to full effect.

Book tickets for Guys and Dolls today.