The Help Desk: The most beautiful sound I ever read

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

What's the best musical ever made from a book. No picking Hamilton.

Tia, On the Boards

Dear Tia,

By far the best book-to-musical adaptation I have ever seen is StruwwelpeterShockheaded Peter – which toured Seattle in 2001. The book is a collection of German victorian children's morality fables that illustrate what happens to children who won't eat their soup (they starve), who whip dogs (they are badly bitten), and who suck their thumbs (their thumbs are cut off by a maniac with large scissors). The stories were narrated by the Tiger Lillies and an accordion.

I would like to see more musicals commissioned to tell vital stories that people avoid because they are too sad or too true to deal with right now: Bastard out of Carolina, When Breath Becomes Air, The New Jim Crow, Fear: Trump in the White House – someone should jazz up those word piles with a few aggressively catchy songs and shove 'em on stage.

Maybe also The Old Man and the Sea because I can't think of an author more antithetical to the genre and I want to watch an old man sing to a large fish for at least two hours.