3 Books Made Famous by Stage Productions

(DGIwire) – It’s customary for notable works of literature to inspire the creation of memorable dramas, but things don’t always work in that order. In a few cases, a stage production garners the spotlight (literally) before the version set on the page gets its full due. Here are three famous examples where the fame surrounding the stage version of a story subsequently drove large audiences to seek out the book.

  • War Horse: Adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford in 2007, this wartime drama received five Tony Awards at the 2011 ceremony, including Best Play. The stage version and the subsequent motion picture, released in 2011, shined the spotlight on the original novel written by Michael Morpurgo and published in 1982.
  • The King and I: The 1951 hit musical was the fifth collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. An immediate hit, it made a star of Yul Brynner—and inspired many to seek out the novel on which it was based, Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon.
  • Peter Pan: M. Barrie’s 1904 play was followed by his 1911 novel, which tells the story of a mischievous little boy who can fly and has many adventures on the island of Neverland. The 1954 hit musical version, of course, inspired even more people to seek out the literary precursor.

“Works for the stage and works on the page have long gone hand in hand,” says John Leonard Pielmeier, author of the recently published Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself (Scribner, 2017). “Now Peter Pan has inspired yet another book—my own debut novel—asking what Peter’s nemesis, Captain Hook, was like as a boy.”

As we learn in Hook’s Tale, Captain James Cook (a/k/a Hook)—long defamed as a vicious pirate—was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining and entirely truthful memoir. Now Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time. Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At 13, he runs away from home but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures, he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.

“Audiences who enjoyed Peter Pan in any of his previous incarnations may find this new perspective on an old story both entertaining and amusing,” Pielmeier adds.