The Boy Who Fell Into A Book: The Musical

In July 2014, the first musical adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play was premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. The Boy Who Fell Into A Book was directed by Alan Ayckbourn, yet he played no part in the play's adaptation into a musical which was created by Paul James, Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus; the team behind another successful musical adaptation The Demon Headmaster.

Paul was responsible for the musical adaptation, book and lyrics with music composed by Cathy and Eric, who all worked together for several years on the project. The project was apparently first mooted by Cathy Shostak to Alan Ayckbourn in 2007, although it would be 2009 before he tentatively agreed to hear the ideas for the piece.

In 2010, Alan was sent demo recordings of several early songs as well as examples from an early script for approval; at this point not a given as Alan had never given permission for one of his plays to be adapted in such a way. The script-pages offered a glimpse into the direction of the musical and despite some concerns about the tone of the material and it remaining faithful to the original play, permission was given for the adaptation to proceed.

The trio proceeded with the adaptation staying much closer to the original script and received an early boost to the adaptation when the key song
Kaboom Kapow won the Stiles And Drewe Best New Song prize at the 2011 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer Of The Year.

The book for the complete musical was sent to Alan on 10 July 2012 accompanied by the first mention of a request to turn the Wooblies into the Wubblies as, according to Paul James, "wooblie defies rhyming"!

On 28 November 2012, the trio finally came to meet the playwright at his home in Scarborough and performed the musical in its entirety to the playwright for the first time; Alan later noted to his agent he was 'impressed' by it.

At this point, Alan was keen for the Stephen Joseph Theatre to stage it, but given his commitments to the 2013 season (four plays for Scarborough that year and guest directing
Sugar Daddies in Seatlle) was not sure he could be involved. Despite his enthusiasm for the musical he deemed it far more likely someone else might take the role of director, particularly if it was staged during Christmas 2013 as was one of the original suggestions.

When the SJT agreed to produce the play, but in summer 2014, it meant Alan was able to take the musical on board as one of his two productions at the SJT - alongside his new play
The finished musical's first major outing was a workshop performance held in London from 11 - 15 November 2013 and featuring the talents of Evelyn Hoskins and Nicolas Colicos as Kevin and Rockfist (who would go on to reprise their roles in the actual production) alongside the likes of Janie Dee as Monique and frequent Ayckbourn collaborator Bill Champion.

Pleased with the result, it was announced soon afterwards the musical would be performed as part of the Stephen Joseph Theatre's 2014 summer season.

The musical itself is extremely faithful to the original play but introduces 12 songs. There are slight deviations from the original script and plot (see
Synopsis) but essentially, it is the same story about Kevin's adventures in the books on his bookshelf.

The Boy Who Fell Into A Book opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 23 July 2014 (production details can be found here) and immediately won critical praise and proved to be a big hit with audiences.

Note: It should be noted the musical was not written by Alan Ayckbourn and should be referred to as an adaption of the Alan Ayckbourn play by Paul James, Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus. As such, it is not listed in the canonical list of Alan Ayckbourn's musicals as he had no direct involvement in the musical adaptation other than directing the first production.

The Songs Of The Boy Who Fell Into A Book

Act 1
The Boy Who Fell Into A Book
Prove It
The Lady Called Monique
A Game Of Chess
Kaboom Kapow
I'm Saying Nuttin'
Act 2
The Story So Far
The Wubbly Song
In A Ghost Story
It's All Up To Me
Kaboom Kapow (reprise)
The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (reprise)
Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.