This month for my book posts, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre for the first time ever. I am really enjoying it, and when I’ve finished it, I intend to get the soundtrack to the 2000 Broadway musical and compare. In the meantime, I’ve realized that many of the musicals I love are based on classic novels, and that the women in them are outstanding. Here are, in my opinion, the best women to have been pulled from books and put on the stage.
Probably Roald Dahl’s most beloved character of all, Matilda is a young girl who faces abuse and comes out telepathic. The book has been read since 1988, and the movie has been beloved since 1996, and since 2011, Matilda has been winning the hearts of live audiences. The musical is a fantastically whimsical interpretation of the book that is honest and true. Matilda is exactly the type of role model little girls need. She is a tough cookie who improves her situation with books. Sure, friendship is great, but books are always available.
If you love Les Miserables, you’re probably wondering why I picked Fantine out of all the women in Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. Or not. I have been reading the brick that is the unabridged Les Miserables for several years now, and have only recently encountered Fantine. In the first section of the book. However, because of my fixation with this musical, I’m aware of the similarities and differences between book and show Fantine, and find her to be a very strong character in both. Abandoned by her lover, she does everything in her power to give her daughter the best life possible. I’m not advising anyone to become a prostitute and sell your teeth, but at that time, she did what she had to, knowing it would probably cost her her life and that’s incredibly commendable.
The bane of Henry Higgins’s existence, Miss Eliza Doolittle is a very well-loved character for her quirks and her intelligence. There are very few differences between George Bernard Shaw’s original play, and the musical that is My Fair Lady. Eliza is a poor flower girl, given a chance to rise above her station, and then is tossed aside by her remaker. Her resourcefulness is what makes her an admirable character.
Little Women is that book that ever girl remembers reading, whether it was the abridged Classic Illustrated Edition, or the real deal. The Broadway version, though unfortunately short lived, was a really good show, and a pretty decent version of the book. Jo, played by Sutton Foster, not only sings the story, but puts incredible power and emotion into an already dynamic part.
There is something about flawed characters that just makes me love them even more. Guinevere is probably the most famous of all time. T. H. White’s leading lady Is not perfect, though she tries very hard to be. The musical version is definitely a product of its time, but features a Guinevere worth falling in love with. Especially when she’s played by Julie Andrews.
Lastly, I want to advocate for Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. This is a musical that has so much potential but the worst luck ever. It has been trying to come to Broadway for YEARS now, with no success. Producers, put Rebecca on Broadway. Please. It’s time.
Is there a woman from a novel you’d like to see in a musical? Let me know in the comments!