Twelfth Night theatrical production

5 Fun Musical Recommendations for Poetry Lovers

You might not instantaneously think of poetry when you think of musicals. However, these two art forms share an unexpected connection: Both enchant audiences with rhythm, sound, and lyricism. In fact, books and writers have inspired many of today’s most popular musicals. These five recommendations are sure to get a standing ovation from poetry lovers.


1. Cats


Though the movie version of this musical may have led to more memes than genuine fandom, the campy classic derives from T.S. Eliot’s 1939 collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Reading this collection before watching the film—or before getting a chance to see Cats live—can help you appreciate the musical’s whimsy. Originally written as letters to Eliot’s godchildren, the frenzied poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats possess a childlike playfulness and uncanny charm—one theatre-goers can see in the staged version of Cats, as well. 


2. Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe


Iconic Gothic poet Edgar Allen Poe is both the namesake and main character behind this inventive musical, which premiered in 2009. Nevermore depicts the surreal blur between fantasy and reality that often consumed Poe’s daily life, harkening back to his famous quote, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” The emotionally complex show illustrates the illustrious highs and devastating lows that define Poe’s legacy, grappling with his addiction and grief while also celebrating his unique, enduring achievements. 


3. Between the Lines


Though it’s based on Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s fiction novel of the same name rather than poetry, Between the Lines still offers the escapism and literary connection that every poetry lover craves. In both the book and musical, an avid reader forms a romance with the hero from her favorite book IRL . . . when he very literally falls out of the book’s pages and into her life. These two characters from sharply different worlds must then figure out how to navigate their connection and determine if their fairytale can last. This creative premise will appeal to anyone who appreciates the fantastical, boundary-blurring aspects of poetry. 


4. Twelfth Night


Of course, Shakespeare continues to be one of poetry’s most legendary figures. A new and more modern adaptation by Shaina Taub takes on this legacy and one of Shakespeare’s most acclaimed works—a comedy about self-discovery and mistaken identity—in an innovative way. Set to a jazz-funk score, this 2018 version of Twelfth Night was hailed as one of the best theatrical productions that year by The Washington Post and Time


5. Seussical 


Dr. Seuss is well-known for introducing poetry to children. With this zany, musical interpretation of Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg, both kids and adults alike can enjoy the youthful and boisterous spirit of his work. Horton the elephant, the musical’s main character, discovers a whole community of creatures called Whos on a single speck of dust. With immersive and colorfully extravagant lighting, costumes, and special effects, Tony award-winning Seussical manages to enrapture audiences with this bizarre but delightful premise. 


Looking for more other ways poetry intersects with art and culture? Check out our round-up of museum installations that have incorporated poetry.