Abby's Anecdotes: Books that go beyond their binding

Through the years, Hollywood has popularized many books by making them into blockbuster movies. Broadway has also gotten in on the trend, turning great books into plays and musicals.  While typically the remake is never as good as the original, sometimes it gives the first one a run for its money.

“The Help”: Usually, if I really want to see a movie that was a book first, I read the book, then watch the movie. However, with “The Help,” I broke my routine and watched the movie, then read the book.

I was pleasantly surprised by how close to the book the movie was. The things they edited out of the movie that were in the book don’t take away anything from the movie. Most of what wasn’t included was some background information that really wasn’t necessary to the plot.  

In my opinion, the book is always better than the movie. “The Help” was a great movie and book, but I enjoyed the book slightly more. It gave a level of detail and connection to the characters that just isn’t attainable in movies. It’s not as if the movie isn’t fantastic; it’s just not possible to get the same connection via a screen that is available through a book.

“Phantom of The Opera”: Yeah, this one is one of the quintessential Broadway musicals, seen by millions over the nearly 30 years it’s been showing. I have a special connection to this one; it’s one of those musicals that solidified my love for music and performing.

Unlike “The Help,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera” doesn’t follow Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel. The basic idea of the book — a mad genius hiding under an opera house falls in love with his young opera protege — and the ensuing chaos when he tries to kidnap her survives into the musical, as does the basic characterization. However, there isn’t much else that carries over from the book to the play.

I really like both the play and the book, but I enjoy the play more. The book is pretty dark and serious, whereas the play is still dark at times, but it’s more accessible and enjoyable.

“Les Miserables”: Another classic Broadway but of a different flavor than “Phantom.” “Phantom of the Opera” is a pretty straightforward, minimal-symbolism, easy in-and-out type of play and book. “Les Miserables,” on the other hand, is laden to the teeth with meanings that may not be immediately obvious to the audience.

The summer between my high school graduation and my freshman year of college, I was able to play Cosette in a production of “Les Miserables” in Logan. I tried but failed to read the behemoth of a book that is the unabridged version of “Les Miserables” as part of my preparations for the performance. Instead, I ended up skimming an abridged version. There are a million and one levels to “Les Miserables,” and the viewer makes of it what they put into it. Lots of research can equate to being able to see and appreciate all the little nuances. Minimal or no research can work. It’s a musical that will change the viewer’s life if the viewer allows it to.