Broadway’s “Matilda” Soars: Which Kids’ Book is Next?

Which children’s classics should be Broadway spectacles?

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Matilda, the Broadway adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s magical book, is a hit with critics and audiences. That’s both a relief and a surprise, because I like when great things from my childhood are honored with a bombastic remake, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Madonna‘s cheekbones.

In the Dahl universe, I’ve always enjoyed the film version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (since I’m a perfect hybrid of Mike Teevee and Violet Beauregarde, duh) and the claymation movie version of James and the Giant Peach. But the trickier question is figuring out which children’s classics should be reinvented as Broadway spectacles. Here are five I’d like.

-Charlotte’s Web: I’m not saying a giant Broadway spider-and-pig spectacle wouldn’t be horrifying, but I always thought the songs of the 1973 movie version (featuring the voices of Debbie Reynolds, Paul Lynde, and Agnes Moorehead, bien sur!) were catchy and singable enough for Broadway. Some homosexual deserves a Tony for singing Templeton’s smorgasbord song. Period.

-The Westing Game: Apparently there’s a movie version of this, but I’d rather see this great kid’s puzzle caper realized onstage. There’s a murdered billionaire! And a gigantic cash prize! And cryptic clues! It’s The Last of Sheila for children, and that’s something that should be celebrated with a gorgeous Broadway experience.

-Where the Sidewalk Ends: The success of Matilda proves that magical, yet droll material is worthy of the Great White Way, and what would be weirder and cooler than a staged realization (and story-ization) of Shel Silverstein‘s strange, strange stanzas? It’d be trippy and whimsical, like Seussical with a brain.

-Bridge to Terabithia: Yep, I remember the somewhat moving, ultimately underwhelming movie version of Katherine Paterson‘s classic book, but I’d love to see the magical grandeur of Jess and Leslie’s make-believe paradise rendered as a Broadway experience — especially since that wondrous world comes to mean so much more after the plot’s most dramatic event.

-Clue: OK, this isn’t technically a children’s book or even a book, but I read the back cover of this VHS so many times as a 7-year-old that it might as well be. “Was it Miss Scarlet with the candlestick? Was it Wadsworth with the gun?” A literary masterwork. Get this: Clue was once a play. There was Colonel Mustard, the conservatory, and a randomly drawn, somewhat-improvised conclusion and everything. There is no reason this shouldn’t work as a Broadway spectacular. It has all the right hamminess and gorgeous furnishings of any high school production of My Fair Lady. Since we’re so overstocked with movies based on kids’ board games, why isn’t Broadway getting the same treatment?

Your turn. What could be the next children’s book-based Broadway success?

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