Broadway has changed significantly every decade, and with these developments have come new music styles, new stories and new methods of performance. Here is a list of a few musicals (in no particular order) that I have personally enjoyed as well as feel like they’ve added to the constantly shifting style of musical theatre.
1. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy
This is an avant-garde musical based on Volume 2 Part 5 of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This musical is the best example of what Broadway is about, taking something as classic as War and Peace and turning it into something everyone can enjoy, whilst pushing the limits as to what musical theatre can do. As with every musical, it has its ups and downs, but those ups and downs are pushed to their extremes. The end result may seem chaotic, but that just makes you want to jump up and smash a painting over someone’s head all the more.
2. Come From Away by David Hein and Irene Sankoff
A heart-breaking and heart-warming musical that centres around the town of Gander in Newfoundland and how they took in about 7,000 people after the US airspace closed after 9/11. Based on true stories, be prepared to laugh, be prepared to cry and you’ll understand that you haven’t truly experienced an emotional rollercoaster until you’ve listened to this cast recording.
3. Waitress by Sara Bareilles
Based on the film with Kerry Russell, Waitress is the first musical to have an all-female production team. It’s a musical about self-worth and baking feelings into pies, and so is perfect if you’re feeling a little down. With multiple casts, it is sadly closing on Broadway at the end of January, but you can still catch it in the West End. Also, singing along is incredibly cathartic and has a 100% guarantee of making you feel better.
4. Six by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Love history? Love feminism? If the answer is yes, this musical is for you. First premiered at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, Six is a concert – style musical that is about the six wives of Henry VIII. Their stories come to life through songs that are based on the style of some of the best female artists of our time. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s historic.
5. Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell
If you like Greek mythology, then this musical is for you. With a folksy – pop feel to it, go on the road to Hell in a musical about genuine human experience that will touch you in ways that you can’t even begin to imagine. It gives you hope for better times, especially considering what is currently going on. It’s a sad song, but you listen anyway.
6. Be More Chill by Joe Iconis
If you’ve ever been a teenager, you will get this musical. Filled with your typical high school tropes, Be More Chill tells the story of one boy’s pursuit of popularity by putting a computer chip in his head. What could go wrong? If you’ve been in high school in the past 5 years, this musical will speak to you and take you back to those days, whilst simultaneously making you feel glad that you are no longer there. Alsom considering this comes from an A.I., ‘be more chill’ is actually really good advice.
7. Clinton: The Musical by Paul and Michael Hodge
This musical is on the list purely for its existence. It’s a satire of Bill Clinton’s presidency, where he is split into two different people but only Hillary can see both of them. The songs are absolute bops, and incredibly catchy, to the point where you wonder if the composers are insane or geniuses. Featuring: 1992 Bill Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt’s ghost and Republicans being dicks for no reason.
8. Heathers by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
Based on the cult film, Heathers is a very good example of how musical theatre has developed. The best way to describe it is soft rock to hard rock – ish and with two different cast albums, you can pick and choose which you like better. With a UK tour in 2020, you can get a jump start and be familiar by the time summer rolls around/
9. Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The founding fathers rapping, what more needs to be said. This musical became a worldwide sensation mainly because it was accessible to a wider audience, the fact that it was mostly in rap made it interesting and it actually created a positive discourse about immigration. Just brace yourself for Act 2.
10. Mean Girls by Jeff Richmond, Tina Fey and Nell Benjamin
If you prefer something a bit pinker, Mean Girls may be more your speed. If you’re feeling nostalgic for 2004, don’t be, as this musical manages to both transport you back and move with the times. Based on the film and it contains all of your favourite moments like ‘that’s so fetch’, ‘4 for Glenn Coco, you go Glenn Coco’ and ‘none for Gretchen Wieners, bye.’
[Katerina Partolina Schwartz – she/her]
[Image credit: Anne-Flore de Rochambeau]