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The Quick 10: 10 Broadway Musicals Based on Books

Broadway in Chicago recently held a conference on the topic of transforming books into Broadway Musicals, partially due to the success of "Wicked," the longest running Broadway Musical in Chicago history. But "Wicked" wasn't the first work of literature to be interpreted through song on the stage. Here are ten Broadway musicals based on books.

wicked1. "Wicked," "the untold story of the witches of Oz," is based upon the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire, which parallels L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz." The story follows the friendship of Glinda, the good witch, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and what transpired before Dorothy dropped in and started causing trouble. In 2003, "Wicked" opened in New York and quickly became a favorite among Broadway buffs, winning three Tony awards. Success birthed tours across the U.S. and productions worldwide. More than three million people have seen this play that imagines the lives of two "misunderstood" characters.
2. "Les Miserables" is my (and "American Psycho" Patrick Bateman's) favorite Broadway Musical of all time! Based on one of my favorite books of all time, the 1862 classic by Victor Hugo, in 2006, "Les Miserables" officially became the longest running musical in London's West End history. The original French version of the musical opened in 1980, but soon closed because of budget shortages, even though audiences loved it. In 1985, the Royal Shakespeare Company put on the first English production. Revolving around the themes of revolution and redemption, "Les Miserables" has been seen worldwide in dozens of languages.

3. "The Woman in White," written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Weber into a musical in 2004. Original star Michael Crawford, who played the grossly obese Count Fosco, had to be replaced by his understudy when he fell ill from over-sweating in the fat suit.

4. "Jane Eyre," a musical based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë, premiered in Wichita, Kansas, with many locals cast in chorus roles and the main characters performed by Broadway professionals. After the small-stage success, the musical slowly transitioned to the Broadway stage in 2000. "Jane Eyre" featured songs about blindness, because at the end of the novel, Mr. Rochester is stricken blind after his estate burns down.

cats5. I didn't realize this previously, but "Cats" was based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot titled, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." With music composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber—including the infamous "Memory"—the play and Eliot's book of poems are whimsical takes on the psychological and sociological behaviors of anthromorphized cats, including Mr. Mistofoffelees, Skimbleshanks, and Grizabella. When Weber set the poems to music, little did he know "Cats " would become the longest running musical in Broadway history, until another of his musicals (based upon a book) ,"The Phantom of the Opera," broke the record.

6. Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical "Little Women" got the musical treatment as well. The show went through 55 previews before finally premiering at the Virginia Theatre on Broadway in 2005. Unfortunately, the reviews and reception were not positive and after 137 performances, Marmie, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy sang no more.

7. "Dracula" the musical, based on the novel by Bram Stoker, included such song favorites as "Fresh Blood." Composer Frank Wildhorn, generally skewered by the Broadway community, also composed the score for "Jekyll and Hyde." This attempt at a musical Victorian novel was met with disdain as well. Critics found the lyrics "unoriginal" and the plot hard to follow for those unfamiliar with Stoker's novel. Only after the musical moved to Austria did it meet critical and commercial success.

8. "Lord of the Rings," J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy series, has been adapted for the stage, complete with songs, several times. Despite being categorized as "musicals," the creators scoffed when asked if their productions were "musical theater," saying they created "theatrical adaptations with vital musical elements." Regardless, it's singing hobbits. Cincinnati, Ohio produced and staged all three books (LOTR, The Two Towers, and Return of the King) of the series, and gained much success

oliver9. "Oliver!" was loosely based on the novel "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens, and gave us such quotes as, "Please, Sir, I want some mo'"! It premiered at London's West End in 1960 and a London revival opened in 2009. Oliver! was one of the first musical adaptations of a book to become a stage hit, thus heightening interest in adapting other works of literature. Also, the show launched the careers of then child actors, Davy Jones (of The Monkees) and Phil Collins (of Genesis).

10. "My Fair Lady" is based on "Pygmalion," a play written by George Bernard Shaw that tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney Englishwoman who learns how to pass as lady of society under the tutelage of Henry Higgins. The play opened in 1956, starring Rex Harrison and a previously unknown Julie Andrews, and soon earned the rave review of: "The Perfect Musical." The musical's title refers to one of Shaw's provisional titles for "Pygmalion,"—Fair Eliza. Producers wanted to call the show "Lady Liza," but soon realized that the marquee would read "Rex Harrison in Lady Liza" and soon settled on "My Fair Lady."

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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