I’m awful at singing. Truly.
That doesn’t stop me though, and I’m constantly humming along to my favourites as I go about my daily life. My YouTube playlist consists entirely of a mish-mash of every musical ever and the list below only consists of my favourites. I’m doing this off the top of my head and I’ve probably forgotten a few classics so I’ll kick myself as soon as this post goes live, bUT HEY-HO I have to trust my instincts and not sit here all day trying to remember what musicals I love.
Starting off with a classic, this French Revolution musical stole my heart when I was younger. I hadn’t heard of it until I watched the most recent movie at the cinema with my mum, but I’ve been obsessed with it since. There’s something about a broken cast of characters with angelic voices that gets me every time. I’ve since been lucky enough to watch it a few times on stage, from professional productions to student interpretations – every single one has been an evening to remember.
I’m going to have to choose an obvious one here, and also perhaps a less obvious one. There’s no rules stating I can’t choose two. I’m making up this post after all, and I’m definitely not limiting myself to one book per musical, not when this is such a perfect opportunity to get people reading some of my faves.
Recommendation 1: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell
This book is literally a Les Miserables retelling, so of course it had to make the list. It’s fantastic rework set in space, and I completely adored every page, every dimpled smile and every single word has been scoured deep into my heart. I will talk about this one until the end of my days, and I don’t need another excuse to do so. BUT HERE IT IS ANYWAY. I’M A FORCE THAT CAN’T BE STOPPED!!
Recommendation 2: Enchantee by Gita Trelease
Admittedly, I haven’t finished this one yet. It’s another new release set in France, and the world reminds me so much of the one I know and love from Les Miserables. Of course, this one has a little bit of magic in it so it’s completely different, but I still get the same vibes purely because of the desire it brings out in me to go dancing round the cobbled streets of Paris. Hopefully not in a time of war though, I’d be useless.
Another popular broadway classic, Wicked is the musical prequel to the wonderful tale of The Wizard of Oz. I know there’s a book also called Wicked, but heads up: that’s not one of my recommendations. I’ve not read it yet and quite honestly have no plans to. I’m not sure whether the musical is based off the book or if the book was written due to the musical’s box-breaking success, but either way- I know the storyline off by heart, and I don’t want it to be ruined by a possibly-pretentious writer. (I’ve heard some things).
Recommendation 3: People Like Us by Dana Mele
The high society collides with a boarding school in this electrifying thriller, and though the stories aren’t really alike – I kinda get some of the same vibes. I didn’t want to go completely stereotypical and suggest Harry Potter purely because of the magic-school thing, so this one works for me. There’s a girl who’s rumoured to be into dark magic and witches, cliches, cliques and a harrowing plot line that’s led by a strong female character. Please go pick it up?!
Dear Evan Hansen
I’ve only gotten into this one lately when I happened to accidentally hear a few songs at my sister’s musical theatre showcase and now I’m completely utterly obsessed. It’s not so much the plot line but rather the songs and the characters that carry this one right to the very top of my list. I had been hearing excellent things about it for months before I finally ended up listening to it, but I dismissed them because it didn’t sound like my kinda thing. I WAS COMPLETELY UTTERLY WRONG, and I’m happy about it? I love when I end up adoring something I wasn’t expecting to even enjoy, because it means that I’ve found a new shining gem in a world of muck.
Recommendation 4: A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G Drews
Mental health, music and a heartbreakingly sweet male lead – there’s no doubt in my mind that fans of Dear Evan Hansen would love this mind-shatteringly good debut. There are adult figures who don’t quite achieve their parental duty, there’s a love interest that the main character would do anything for. There’s so much packed into such a small book, and I promise you’ll be sobbing by the end. IN THE BEST WAY THOUGH?!
Ballet, Northern miners and a heritage that’s close to home: Billy Elliot danced his way into my heart and doesn’t seem to have any plans to be leaving. This one is a hard one to explain without spoiling everything, so I recommend to go ahead and pull up the playlist on YouTube and just get listening. You won’t regret it, and you might just fall in love with the accents. (I DON’T SOUND LIKE THAT THOUGH!)
Recommendation 5: Illuminae
I’m flailing here, but this book starts with an illegal mining operation so I can totally make this suggestion. That might be the only reason why, BUT THIS IS HARDER THAN IT LOOKS!
On an almost unrelated note, I can think of some dance TV shows that I’d recommend to fans of Billy Elliot (Dance Academy & The Next Step), so I’ve achieved my goal.
I don’t feel like I need to explain anything about this one. Just imagine the Disney movie but on stage and then add in some different songs and you’ll be able to picture this one perfectly. It’s a chaotic collision of colour, culture and family-friendly content that has more hidden unicorns in it than Sarah J Maas’s computer.
Recommendation 6: Forbidden Wish
This one had to make an appearance, as an Aladdin retelling that I remotely remember enjoying. I haven’t read it in years but I remember my mild fascination with it, and I still regularly stare at the cover (mainly because it’s purple aND I’M A SUCKER FOR PURPLE COVERS!). Maybe I’ll do a reread at some point…
Recommendation 7: A Thousand Nights
So this one isn’t an Aladdin retelling, but it is still Arabian and the world is whimsical, magical and (random fact here) was also the first ARC I ever read. My secondary school teacher had a bookseller friend and regularly got books for her class-shelves which she then passed onto me, as a brewing book blogger extraordinaire. Not that either of us knew it at the time, but she actually gave me the huge step up into accessing the book community that I needed. I got curious about reading more ARCs, came across NetGalley and eventually decided I needed a solid platform for posting my reviews. HENCE MY PRECIOUS BABY BEING BORN. By that, I mean my blog. Anyway, back to the relevant part of this post: A Thousand Nights. I get huge Aladdin vibes and the song ‘Arabian Nights’ would totally be perfect for this book.
Recommendation 8: We Hunt The Flame
I’ve actually read this one really recently so I’ve still got very clear details in my head. The plot is kinda similar to Aladdin, in which we have a ‘pure of heart’ main character who seems to be the only one who can get to a magical artefact buried deep in a complicated maze of chaos. We have a band of brothers, like in the Aladdin musical, an insufferable villain and basically these two are just perfect together. GO READ WE HUNT THE FLAME! (As soon as it comes out, that is).
SOUL-STOPPING. That’s the only way I can describe this one. It literally will tear you into a thousand pieces and not put you back to ever again. The ending is uncomfortable and unsatisfying and yet it leaves you addicted from now until the end of time. I can’t stop putting on the playlist and making myself cry, it’s not healthy. Honestly.
Recommendation 9: The Girl King
This book is about a lone-wolf who will do whatever she has to do for power. I can’t say this is anything like Miss Saigon without completely insulting the musical, but what I can say is that STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS TAKE THE LEAD! They are both willing to make humongous sacrifices to get what they believe is the ideal world, and they both made me cry. For a long time.
Recommendation 10: Wolf for Wolf
I really wanted to recommend a book based on the war-aspect of Miss Saigon, so this is the one I came up with. If you don’t know, Wolf by Wolf takes place after the Second World War in a non-existent Universe where Hitler won. The main character is charged with the assassination of the tyrant (if you know the storyline of Miss Saigon, you’ll know why this is relevant) in order for the ‘greater good’. This was a really good read that absolutely blew me away back in the day, especially because of my renowned hatred for anything historical-fiction. But honestly, this one is worth the time spent reading every page, trying to understand the events and is basically just what I needed to convince myself that I don’t hate everything historical fictional related. Sure, I hate the vast majority but there are exceptions to this rule! This just proves how damn good this book is.
This is the lesser-known origin story of Peter Pan. Not enough people have heard of it, despite the phenomenon that is the Disney movie. It tells the story of the writer, of the children it was written for and of the progress literature made with this one-small-step for man, one-large-leap for mankind fantasy children’s book.
Recommendation 11: A Touch of Gold
Of course, I had to recommend my other favourite retelling. Annie Sullivan’s King Midas rework had me hooked from the very beginning. I loved seeing her thought processes on Twitter about how she wrote this book, and I was so happy to finally be reading it. I was overjoyed when it met my expectations. I can’t say too much without having to flag a big read SPOILER WARNING, so I’m going to keep my mouth shut and just hand you this book. PLEASE READ IT?
Do I really need to explain this one? The American revolution. Lin Manuel Miranda. So many hit songs and an incredibly catchy opening. The whole soundtrack is a complete ear worm that also manages to screw with your emotions and rip your heart wide open when you least expect it. Genius. Pure genius.
Recommendation 12: Not if I See You First
I know what you’re thinking. “How on earth do you connect a cutesy contemporary with a heart wrenching but thrilling war-based story?” RIGHT. HEAR ME OUT. Both stories are, in part, about forgiveness. Both female characters are wronged in a way that they shouldn’t be able to look past, and they have to come along a road of understanding where their male-counterparts came from and why they made the mistakes they did. Sickeningly sweet, both the romance stories will make your teeth hurt. They also both have characters who stand up for them after the heartbreak (Eliza in Hamilton, and the Dad in Not If I See You First) and honestly I love for those moments. SUPPORT YOUR LOVED ONES!!
Also, I totally recommend reading Not If I See You First whilst playing Burn on repeat. I’m totally not trying to make you cry I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN?!
I’ve not been fortunate to see a stage-production of this one, but I’ve loved the movie for as long as I can remember. I watched it when I was probably too young and didn’t quite understand anything other than this: the music was the key to my heart. Whether I’m tango-ing to Roxanne or sobbing at Come What May, Moulin Rouge is a sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of musical, and I’m incredibly loyal to it. You know you have that one movie you always watch when you are sick or feeling down? For a long time, this was mine (along with Twilight, of course, because what other trashy movie makes me feel better?). I love the romance, the torture and the vibrancy of which it was all produced. There isn’t a world that has felt more like home than this one.
I had to think pretty hard for a book recommendation, purely because I’ve used my default French-based reads for Les Miserables, but that’s okay be me. So instead of going with a book that gave me the same vibe or similar plot line to this gutting musical, I’ve chosen one that makes me feel the same. Like I’m home. It’s a little chaotic, sure- and it’s totally not appropriate and I would definitely die if I ended up in the world of Moulin Rouge, but it’s familiar and warm and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Recommendation 13: Romanov by Nadine Brandes
A completely different country, a different life but the same cozy comfort in which to wrap myself in. I wasn’t expecting to like Romanov at all. I kinda just picked it up because of the hype and because Harper had sent me a review copy (thank you my lovelies!) and I was obliged to read it. I wasn’t expecting the writing to be soft and lyrical, for the words to be a song in which I could sing to. Both stories also have a female lead who has the hope to be something more. The desire to be better, to be different than the others that came before them. They are family orientated, fixated with the idea of success. Until love comes and shatters their dreams.
The Lion King
A family favourite, everyone has heard of the Disney movie. I want to focus more on the broadway version which is even more heartbreaking than the original. There’s a song in the musical production where Nala is preparing to leave her tribe behind and search for food, in order to save the ones she loves. It’s after Scar has taken over, and they are all starving and she knows leaving them is the only way she can save them. The song is HEARTBREAKING. Gets me in tears every single time.
Recommendation 14: Game of Thrones
I might sound completely idiotic here, but I’m thinking along the lines of this quote:
“When snow falls and white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
My theory is that Scar represents the winter, and only the strength of the lions sticking together and supporting each other gets them through. But Nala goes off on her own, willing to die to save her loved ones. Instead, she finds Simba. He comes back, takes out the tyrants and takes over the ‘iron’ throne. Basically the same plot line, right?
(I’M STRUGGLING, GIVE ME SOME CREDIT).
A whimsical, magical musical deserves a whimsical, magical book. I know instantly what book I want to recommend to fans of Matilda, despite only having discovering the musical in the last few months. Admittedly, I only watched the original movie for the first time ever… last year. I was 18 and completely the wrong age. This would have been perfect for my childhood, and so would my book recommendation. I discovered both too late, but that doesn’t mean I’ll let other people make that same mistake.
Recommendation 15: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Our main character hates that she’s different. Hates that she can’t blend in with the crowd, that she seems to stand out in a world of colour. She goes on a journey and discovers her differences are her greatest strength. This book is the perfect cutesy contemporary designed to make everyone feel special for being who they are.
Now that I’m all musical’ed out, and I feel like I’ve been writing forever, I’m going to take a moment to wrap this up. I had an extra 5 musicals on the list that I decided I didn’t know enough about and couldn’t find suitable books to recommend, so they didn’t make the cut. I’m remotely impressed with myself for managing this and I hope you enjoyed this whimsical post that didn’t really have a direction.
Are any of my favourite musicals on your list? Have you read any of my recommendations?