If you’re a book lover, you may smirk at the thought of a movie or stage adaptation of your favorite book. But some adaptations deserve a chance, especially when they outshine the original. Here are the top 5 book-to-stage adaptations that were better than the book:

1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 🧙‍♂️

The eighth Harry Potter story debuted on stage in 2016 as a two-part play, featuring adult versions of Harry and his friends, as well as their children. Many fans had mixed feelings about the script, which was published as a book after the play’s premiere. However, watching the play live is a whole different experience. The stage production captivates audiences with its impressive special effects, illusions, and emotional performances, making it easy to get lost in the magic. The play’s narrative is focused on the themes of love, friendship, and family, with a few unexpected twists that keep the audience guessing until the very end.

A photo of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child's stage production, depicting adult versions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, standing together in a dimly lit room.

2. Matilda The Musical 🎭

Roald Dahl’s beloved book about a precocious young girl with telekinetic powers was adapted into a stage musical in 2010. The show garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards for its witty lyrics, catchy score, and charming ensemble cast. The musical expands on the book by exploring themes of resilience, imagination, and self-discovery, as well as adding a few new songs and characters. The show’s highlight is undoubtedly the high-energy dance number “Revolting Children,” which showcases Matilda and her classmates’ rebellious spirit.

A photo of Matilda the Musical's stage production, featuring Matilda herself standing on a pile of books, surrounded by her classmates and an intricately designed set.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird 🕊️

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about racial injustice in a small Southern town was adapted into a Tony-winning play in 2018, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Bartlett Sher. The show updates the book’s narrative for a contemporary audience while remaining true to its core themes. The play centers around Scout Finch, the young protagonist, as she navigates the complexities of growing up amid racial tension and prejudice. The production’s standout performance is by Jeff Daniels, who portrays Atticus Finch with a quiet strength and dignity.

A photo of the stage production of To Kill a Mockingbird, featuring a dimly lit, ominous courtroom and actors portraying Atticus Finch and his children.

4. Matilda (1996 Film) 📽️

While the musical adaptation of Matilda may have surpassed the book, the 1996 film version holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. The movie, directed by Danny DeVito, captures the book’s whimsical tone, quirky characters, and dark humor perfectly. The film’s cast features memorable performances by Mara Wilson as Matilda, Danny DeVito as her cruel father, and Rhea Perlman as her indifferent mother. The movie also adds a few scenes and plot points not found in the book, making it a unique experience in its own right.

A still from the Matilda film, featuring Matilda, wearing a red bow in her hair, and holding a book in one hand.

5. Les Misérables 🇫🇷

Victor Hugo’s epic novel about love, justice, and sacrifice during the French Revolution has been adapted into numerous stage and screen productions. However, the 1985 musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil stands out as a masterpiece. The musical condenses Hugo’s massive book into a thrilling, operatic experience, featuring some of the most famous songs in the musical theater canon, including “I Dreamed a Dream” and “One Day More.” The show’s emotional climax, the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” has become an anthem for freedom and hope.

A photo of the Les Misérables stage production, showing the cast in 19th-century French costumes, standing in front of a barricade, arms raised in defiance.

So, there you have it, the top 5 book-to-stage adaptations that surpassed the original. While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, these adaptations prove that sometimes, a different medium can bring new life to a beloved story.

A colorful image of a stack of books, with a person's arm reaching out to take one from the top.