While classic children’s literature has long been a source for musical stage adaptations targeted at a wide commercial audience (think: The Secret Garden, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan) and middle grade novels are often produced by regional and children’s theatres targeted at an educational audience (for example: Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins, The Phantom Tollbooth, Caddie Woodlawn), young adult literature has only more recently been adapted as large scale productions for the commercial stage. Successful adaptations tend to have name recognition; the books were a commercial success and/or they have also been adapted as a film. In fact, producers now seem to be looking to a multi-media strategy, using the play as part of a barrage of ways to get audience attention and dollars. Some noteworthy examples include:
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J.K. Rowling
“What we’re doing here is taking the biggest literary franchise the world has ever seen into theatre and it’s… Well, people are so stoked up about it. I’m conscious of bringing the fans what they love, doing this story justice and exploring the psychology of a grown up Harry Potter with the same epic sweep as the books and the films, but in a different way… Sometimes I can’t believe it; the idea that we have written the eighth story of Harry Potter. The whole time, I’ve felt this great responsibility to the previous seven stories. Theatre is very different to film; we’ve had to find our own way into the stories. We are starting to see it all come together in workshops now and it’s just wonderful.” – Jack Thorne, Co-author (https://www.pottermore.com/features/cursed-child-creatives-on-bringing-harry-potter-to-the-stage)
This production, set to open in London July 2016, is being billed as the unofficial 8th book in J.K. Rowlings’ series, and indeed, a hardcover edition of book version will be published the day after play premieres. An Ebook is also set to be released at same time. Rowling has promoted the play on Twitter and in interviews and to say that interest in the production is high would be an understatement. Tickets are currently being sold through summer 2017. Even if the play is a critical failure, commercial success is already guaranteed.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
For more information: http://www.harrypottertheplay.com/
THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales
“I’m thrilled that this story may be shared with an even wider audience… Like most music lovers, I am such a fan of Kevin and Michael’s work, so it’s an honor to have this project with them. I can’t wait to see how they interpret this story. I bet it’s going to be very rock ‘n’ roll – just how Elise would want it!” – Leila Sales, author (http://www.ew.com/article/2015/01/07/this-song-will-save-your-life)
This popular YA novel is simultaneously being adapted as a musical and as a film. Tony-winner Kevin McCollum (Avenue Q, Rent) and TV producer Michael Novick (best known for Glee) optioned the rights to the property and to develop the property using a combination of original and existing music. They cite the book’s focus on music as a part of what makes it a good fit for live performance. This project, still in development, may very well never make it to a broadway stage or a theatre near you, but the very fact that its development in multiple media merited an announcement, is evidence that theatre is seen as an important vehicle in finding a wide audience for young adult stories.
Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.
Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, Leila Sales’ THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt
This adaptation of Natalie Babbitt’s modern classic debuted at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 2015 and is set to open on Broadway in April 2016. The book was developed by an expert of previous Tony winners and stars world class Broadway performers but it lacks the “sexiness” and starpower of other current adaptations. It also hews more closely to the book, than did an earlier unsuccessful film adaptation. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times had this to say about the Atlanta production: “Already polished and enjoyable in this developmental run, “Tuck Everlasting” makes for the kind of kid-friendly musical that might find the waters choppy in the commercial sphere, with its Hallmark-specialish period warmth and lack of spectacle. Indeed, the most dazzling passage is probably the culminating ballet, wordlessly conveying the circle of life, as it were, without benefit of spectacular puppetry and a familiar pop song. It had the woman next to me repeatedly wiping away tears, and I understood how she felt.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/theater/review-tuck-everlasting-swaps-out-the-circle-of-life-for-an-eternally-unspooling-ribbon.html)
If you could live forever, would you? When Winnie Foster discovers the magical secret of the Tuck family, she embarks on an extraordinary adventure that will change her life forever. Take a journey you’ll never forget in this powerful new musical about love, family and living life to the fullest.”
For more details: http://www.tuckeverlastingmusical.com/