Broadway shows to see based on your favorite book

We're celebrating World Book Day by providing play and musical recommendations for fans of hot new bestsellers, classic novels, and popular authors.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

April 23 is World Book Day, and Broadway is a feast for book lovers this season. There are numerous new play and musical adaptations of novels on stage this season: The Wiz, The Great Gatsby, Water for Elephants, The Notebook, and The Outsiders join long-running book-based hits like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Wicked.

But perhaps you're looking for a new show to see, and your favorite author's work hasn't been adapted for the stage (yet). Plenty of new plays and musicals this season will delight bookworms with stories of romance, history, coming of age, and more. We've compiled some show recommendations based on currently popular as well as classic books and authors. Everyone can find their taste in entertainment on Broadway, no matter what their taste in literature.

Get Broadway show tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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Stereophonic: For fans of Daisy Jones and the Six

Taylor Jenkins Reid's 2019 novel about the rise and fall of a fictional 1970s rock band has widespread praise from book critics, a hit TV adaptation on Amazon Prime Video, and a fanbase as strong as any rock star. The novel is loosely inspired by Fleetwood Mac's famously turbulent recording of their album Rumours, born of drug use and relationship troubles among the band members.

Fans of that story will hang onto every note of Stereophonic, a play with music that also depicts a fictional, troubled '70s band recording their breakout album (containing original songs by Arcade Fire's Will Butler). The whole show takes place in the recording studio, giving audiences an exclusive look into the recording process. And as in Daisy Jones, there are Easter eggs in Stereophonic for Fleetwood Mac fans to look for. The show takes place in 1976-77 California, where Rumours was recorded.

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The Heart of Rock and Roll: For fans of Emily Henry

Henry has cemented herself as the queen of breezy, thoroughly enjoyable romance novels with the bestsellers Beach Read, Book Lovers, People We Meet on Vacation, and Happy Place. She's continuing her hot streak this month with Funny Story, about a woman who makes an unexpected (and potentially messy) love connection after a sudden breakup with her fiancé.

Similarly, the musical rom-com The Heart of Rock and Roll is about two people finding a fresh lease on life and love. Failed rock star-turned-corporate worker Bobby falls for Cassandra, his new boss's daughter, and they inspire each other to chase the dreams they really want. As a bonus, their story is set to the hit songs of Huey Lewis and The News. You won't get that on a page!

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Mary Jane: For fans of Hamnet

This novel and play are both for those seeking a tearjerking family drama. Maggie O'Farrell's 2020 novel Hamnet imagines how William Shakespeare and his wife, named Agnes in the book, dealt with the death of their son, Hamnet.

The title character of Mary Jane, played on Broadway by Rachel McAdams, has similar themes, focusing on a single mother with a chronically ill child. But Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Herzog's play is also about found family: It shows the diverse group of women who band together to support Mary Jane and each other.

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Hell's Kitchen: For fans of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Betty Smith's landmark novel turned 80 in 2023, the same year that Alicia Keys' Hell's Kitchen musical premiered off Broadway. The two women might be kindred spirits. Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn centers on a young girl coming of age in a rough area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at the turn of the 20th century. Smith's authentic and moving portrait of real city life made her book a classic.

A century later, Keys experienced her own coming of age in the gritty New York of the '90s. Set in the title neighborhood and featuring Keys' award-winning songs, Hell's Kitchen follows 17-year-old Ali, inspired by Keys, as she navigates her relationship with her protective single mother while chasing her newfound passion for music. One could alternatively call the show A Star Grows Up in Manhattan.

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Uncle Vanya: For fans of Anna Karenina

Both these works of literature are Russian classics considered among the greatest of all time. Fans of the turbulent, doomed love story of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky will likely be captivated by Uncle Vanya, in which hidden desires, romances, and tensions erupt among the visitors to a once-quiet family farm in the Russian countryside.

Besides appealing to fans of classic lit, the latest Broadway revival of Uncle Vanya also has the appeal of a starry cast, led by The Office's Steve Carell in the title role.

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Suffs: For fans of Jailed for Freedom

This recommendation might go the other way around — if Suffs or its subject matter interest you, you should read this book. The musical's creator, Shaina Taub, was inspired to write Suffs after discovering Jailed for Freedom, a memoir by suffragist Doris Stevens.

Stevens was a member of the National Women's Party, which made major strides in the suffrage movement while also infighting with suffragists of other races and generations. Suffs musicalizes that story, and Stevens is a character — naturally, she's the group's secretary.

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Patriots: For fans of Ron Chernow

If you've read one of Ron Chernow's books, namely Alexander Hamilton, there's a nonzero chance it's because the Hamilton musical captivated you. But if you've taken the time to read him or any other historian, you're also likely interested in history. No play on Broadway this spring takes a sharper look at history than Patriots.

Patriots is actually about Russian history — namely, how billionaire oligarch Boris Berezovsky (Michael Stuhlbarg) propelled a then-unknown Vladimir Putin (Will Keen) into power — and then spent the rest of his life criticizing him. The play by The Crown creator Peter Morgan doesn't have any hip-hop stylings, but it is fresh, relevant, and sure to captivate anyone interested in the effects one country's history has on the world.

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