Classic Children's Books On Stage

With 2017 seemingly racing by - where did January go?! - we're already looking forward to an exciting Spring and Summer of theatre ahead. But while London theatre has a broad variety of tastes to cater for, and it’s not always easy to know what you’ll take away from a visit, one guaranteed source of family-approved entertainment - one type of show you know, when the curtain falls, will always leave you with a spring in your step, and a chuckle in your belly - is the inimitable experience of watching classic children's books come to life on stage.

With theatricality’s magical ability to enchant audiences in wonder, mixed with star talent, shimmering spotlights, walls of sound and, of course, thrilling live atmosphere, the stage treatment continues to prove itself the perfect medium for reimagining plenty of family-friendly texts – just check out our list of children's stories on stage below, and see just how many must-see classic children's books will be in the West End.

Dr Seuss’ The Lorax

The Lorax at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

When?: Previews from 15 October; opens 24 October
Where?: The Old Vic
Why’s it great?

If it’s a wonderful family show you seek,
Then at Doctor Seuss’s on-stage story, have a peek.
And if these couplets do delight –
well, err… you’re in luck (… tonight?).

The Olivier Award-nominated ever-rhythmic family show Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, having scored critical acclaim at the The Old Vic last year, returns to the London stage later this year, inviting audiences into the effervescent setting of Paradise Valley and to meet its extraordinary resident creatures.

When a magical moustachioed critter goes toe-to-toe with a go-getting Once-ler for the beloved truffula trees, gorgeous puppetry, infectious music and lyrics, and an enchanting tale, all ensue, with Dr Seuss’ work suitably spectacular on The Old Vic stage. It’s just like your childhood imaginations dreamed it would be  - just remember to bring your rhyming dictionaries…

Gangsta Granny

When?: Previews from 26 July; opens 1 August
Where?: The Garrick Theatre
Why’s it great?

Okay, so it’s possibly slightly early to categorise Gangsta Granny amongst the swathes of classic children's books just yet, given the prestigious history of children’s literature… but the multi-talented David Walliams’ fantastic firecrackers of children’s novels are well on their way to finding their way into the hearts of the nation, with Gangsta Granny having seen overwhelming success as a book, and thence as a touring stage adaptation – and now it’s in London.

With the brilliant Birmingham Stage Company now set to bring their production to the West End at the Garrick Theatre, family fun this summer is assured in this tale of one young boy’s adventures with his granny. Expecting a boring evening, he instead uncovers an incredible secret – Granny’s hiding one particularly hip, particularly cool secret identity… and Friday nights have never been more exciting  - innit!

Horrible Histories – More Best Of Barmy Britain

When?: Previews from 4 August; opens 7 August
Where?: The Garrick Theatre
Why’s it great?

Because it hones in on what children – and, let’s face it, all grown-ups’ inner children – love about history: the horrible bits.

Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories series are certainly classic children's books when they brilliantly combine education with entertainment and, in this production, have been given the West End treatment once again this summer for a sixth spectacular year, following the sell-out successes of Barmy Britain in previous years. Lose yourself in the stories of revolting Romans, vicious Vikings, evil Elizabeth, crazy King Charles and dastardly Dick Turpin, or vomit with the vile Victorians and fight the frightful First World War – this historical highlights reel introduces families young and old to the life and times of all the most notorious individuals from our history, in hysterical fashion.

Matilda The Musical

Craige Els in Matilda The Musical (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

When?: Now playing, have recently celebrated its fifth birthday.
Where?: The Cambridge Theatre
Why’s it great?

When you think of candidate authors which fit the bill of writing classic children's books, let alone literature suitable for the visual spectacle of the spotlight, there can be few more befitting than the imaginative brilliance of Roald Dahl.

In Matilda The Musical, his tale of a schoolgirl who revolts against her sinister schoolteacher, Miss Trunchbull, is adapted hilariously into Olivier Award record-breaking, cheerily mischievous musical form – while also teaching audiences a thing or two about S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G along the way.

The Wind In The Willows

Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in The Wind In The Willows (Photo: Marc Brenner Jamie Hendry Productions)

When?: Previews from 17 June; opens 29 June
Where?: The London Palladium
Why’s it great?

Classic children’s books don’t come much more iconic than that of Kenneth Grahame’s magnificent The Wind In The Willows, so combined with the storytelling prowess of book writer Julian Fellowes, the witticisms of musicians and lyricists Stiles & Drewe, and the performing artistry of a cast including Rufus Hound and Neil McDermott, you’ve got one heck of a family musical in store.

A riotous comedy based around the impulsive Mr Toad and his insatiable need to live life in the fast lane, the show has already toured to universal acclaim, and now arrives at the London Palladium to explode with hilarity, heart and high-speed driving. “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre…”

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