Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Baker, William, 1944-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Musicals--History and criticism; Literature--Adaptations--History and criticism


Although there have been a few notable Broadway musicals based on completely original concepts, most production teams tend to find their ideas for musicals in other sources: films, operas, biographies, historical events, and quite often works of literature. A well-written literary source provides the librettist with a ready-made theme, plot and cast of characters which hopefully will be enhanced by the addition of musical numbers. At its best a literary musical retains whatever made the original work great, while adding the entertaining diversion and emotional peaks that only a fully integrated musical score can provide. At its worst, it loses the genius of the original source, as characters one could never imagine singing suddenly sing incongruous songs that only interrupt an overly familiar story. In this dissertation I have chosen some particular literary musicals for study, carefully examining the creative process of adapting a literary work and the choices the librettists, lyricists and composers made on the road from the original conception to the finished product. Although the theater critics and historians I have read in the course of my research knew their literature well, there is no documented history of any other writer who has grouped musicals together under this particular category, nor has anyone deconstructed them in terms of the literary work they were based on. Most of this dissertation has been devoted to successful literary musicals that became great works of art in their own right, but in the last chapter I also examined the failures, of which there have been many, in an effort to discover why some seemingly viable projects did not adapt well to the musical form.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [243]-254).


254 pages




Northern Illinois University

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