The best stage adaptations of kids books in history

From July 18-23 The Opera House at The Blackpool Winter Gardens will play host to the acclaimed musical production of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.

Britain is experiencing something of a purple patch when it comes to children’s musical theatre, with Dahl’s classic is just another addition to a frighteningly grand cannon.

Whilst you’re waiting for The Peach to land by resting its seagulls somewhere in the St. Annes Sand Dunes, take a look at some of the other great theatre adaptations that you might have missed or still might be able to catch.


You shouldn’t have missed this one. Matilda has won enough awards to buckle Tim Minchin’s mother’s mantelpiece. Minchin, famous Australian musical-comedian and chronic wearer of eyeliner, has provided the music to Dennis Kelly’s adaptation. It’s won Tonys, Olivier Awards and everything else in between. There’s even a movie in the works. Possibly the only way to replace the British/American classic film version from 1996.


Michael Morpurgo’s epic children’s novel never really translated onto the big screen as spectacularly as it did to stage. It’s an intentionally simplified and sometimes beautifully soppy story set throughout the grim reality of the First World War. Told in the book, from the horse’s point of view, but enacted fully mechanically by an expert team of puppeteers on stage, the show is as magically and heart-warming as it is dark or skillful.


This Terry Pratchett novel for young adults may have slipped under the radar a bit but the stage performance, that was beamed out to cinema’s alongside its London run, did something to right that wrong. More subtle and real than his other works, Nation follows the harrowing story a shipwrecked girl and native boy who has lost everything to a devastating tsunami. The expectations of his gods, of his ancestors and of the hundreds of refugees that start to trickle onto his island, play-out beautifully as the two youngsters try to forge a new nation for themselves somewhere in the South Pacific.

The Borrowers

One classic of children’s literature that is consistently re-imagined by major theatres and am-drams alike is Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. Set, as we all know, under the floorboard of a ‘Bean’s House’ it tells the story of the diminutive Clock family, who are the best part of four inches high. Any stage version is of course a prop maker’s dream. The Old Vic’s production received high praise from The Guardian and from The Stage. But no one production has been big enough yet (ironically) to warrant a full UK tour, so you’d be better looking out for a local Lancastrian version.

James and the Giant Peach

A new contender in a brilliantly crowded market, Roald Dahl’s classic story will be produced by Sell A Door and forms part of a wider world tour. (Although quite why you’d need to go anywhere after you’ve peeked in Blackpool is anybody’s guess). It’s the story of James, who has to move in with his evil aunts, Spiker and Sponge after his parents are killed in an unfortunate rhinoceros accident. Of course there’s magic, giant insects and a cheeky flight to New York but you’d expect nothing less from a Dahl-based musical I’m sure.

Tickets for the show start at £10 form the rear stalls, £15 for the stalls and circle and £25 for the premium seats. You can find out more info about the show and book tickets online by following this link.


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