My recommendations for underrated-yet-popular contemporary musicals with a short description of each!
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812: This musical is an adaptation of a short segment of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, centered around a group of characters and their complicated predicaments. The music is quite unique, considered ‘electropop,’ and this, combined with being sung-through, deems Great Comet an “electropop opera.” Was nominated for many Tonys, but was overlooked in the 2017 season. Quirky and unusual, this musical is certainly not something to pass by!
Bandstand: This other 2017 musical is one of the most recent fully original musicals. It tells the story of a group of WWII veterans, who form a band in the late 40s, and Julia, a girl who joins the band. The music is reminiscent of swing and jazz, with classic Broadway influence present as well. Once again, was not recognized for its beauty in awards, but has come to be beloved by many.
Once: A beautifully haunting musical about forbidden love. Based on the 2006 film of the same name, this show is centered around Guy and Girl, who fall in love in Ireland over the course of a few days, but cannot be together, as they both have other love interests. The score has Irish folk influence, and is intimately untraditional for Broadway. The set and stage too is minimalistic, and nothing about this show is sparkly. Nonetheless, Once has something for every musical fan.
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: One of William Finn’s best shows, Spelling Bee is exactly what it sounds like, well, for the most part. A group of middle-school participants, played by adults, compete, and as they are eliminated, each tells a backstory of their own. Catchy songs like “Pandemonium” are plentiful, with heart-wrenching ballads mixed in. A comical plotline plus intricate characters and score makes for something incredible!
Next to Normal: (Note: Any musical with Aaron Tveit is worth your time, just saying.) This show reveals so much about mental health that it is essential to the world. Diana, a mother, suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, and has hallucinations of her deceased son. Her husband and daughter try their best to sustain normality in their crazy lives in this beautifully heartbreaking production.
Finding Neverland: Loosely based on the film with the same title. This show focuses on J.M. Barrie (creator of Peter Pan) and his family, as he finds the magic in life and his son grows up, using the characters of Peter Pan as metaphorical examples. Both upbeat, fun chorus numbers and sugar-sweet ballads can be found in the delightful score of this musical.
I could go on and on with musicals EVERYONE needs to listen to, but for your sake, I won’t. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with loving the popular shows, but sometimes, you need a change of scenery. Let me know your favorite underrated musicals in the comments!