My Recommendations

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!

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The Prom: A Revolution

The Prom Musical is one of the newest big hits of the 2018-19 Broadway season, and for good reason. This show is revolutionary! With the main topic being acceptance of all people, this show is exactly what the world needs right now. I’m going to point out some of the reasons this musical is so important and amazing.

First of all, the love story! It’s a typical Broadway story of almost-star-crossed-lovers, but with one little change: they’re both girls! The story follows Emma and Alyssa as they struggle with their identities and eventually conquer society to be with each other. This is achieved by Emma’s vision of having a prom that everyone is invited to- no matter who or what you are, you are welcome there. In high school, everyone is so judgmental, and the two girls find it extremely difficult to deal with themselves and their repression. But this modern fairytale shows that it’s not impossible.

Secondly, REPRESENTATION! Especially in the final song, every type of person you can imagine is on that stage having the time of their life! It’s so nice and refreshing to see something other than the image of prom we know- perfect couples in perfect outfits, perfectly dancing, perfectly straight and skinny. No, these people are all colors, shapes, sizes, sexualities, genders- everything. Some of them aren’t even in couples! It’s a big extravaganza atmopshere full of happiness and acceptance that the world could use!

Lastly, the air about the entire show is so welcoming! There’s an entire song called “The Acceptance Song,” and another one called “Love Thy Neighbor,” both glittering chorus numbers with the classic feel of older Broadway. The music is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Broadway, with some modern pop influences. The choreography isn’t over-the-top impressive, but it is appropriate for the score- lighthearted, fun, and positively pure happiness. To sum it up, the show is a spectacle of the modern world, and it’s exactly what we need to see and understand.

Common Types of Musicals

  1. The Lighthearted Satire: Either directly or indirectly making a joke out of something. Could be taken as offensive, usually full of jokes and breaking of the fourth wall. Examples: Book of Mormon, Something Rotten, Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  2. The Teen Musicals: These shows were made for a teenage audience. Often have darker or more intense themes, but also elements of humor and/or fantasy/science fiction. Examples: Heathers, Be More Chill, and in some ways Dear Evan Hansen.
  3. The True Dark Musicals: Musicals that are full of dark themes, usually, but don’t always, have tragic endings, and are not for the faint of heart. Often explore mental health and disorders and sexuality realization. Also sometimes go hand-in-hand with teen musicals. Examples: Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Bare: A Pop Opera.
  4. The Golden Classic Musicals: These shows have glittering dance numbers and happy endings, which in turn lead to predictable plots. Not always actual “Classics,” but fit in with them. Examples: Mamma Mia, Hello, Dolly!
  5. The Biography Musical: These are shows about a specific person or group’s life, from ordinary, to extraordinary, and usually, to their death. Often, but not always, jukebox musicals featuring music of the person or group. Examples: Hamilton, Beautiful: the Carole King Musical, Summer: the Donna Summer Musical, and the Cher Show.
  6. Updated Media Musicals: These shows are adaptations of children’s movies or books, but are usually somehow different than them. Often, they are more mature than the media they are based on. They are also usually more grounded in reality. Examples: Anastasia, Tuck Everlasting, The Lion King.
  7. The Ones You Thought Were Original: These shows have intricate and not at all typical plots. The scores are also usually very unique. Everyone thinks they are original musicals, but are actually based on unknown works.Examples: Waitress, The Band’s Visit, and somewhat Wicked.
  8. Minimalistic Musicals: Shows that don’t have many flashy dances or songs, or even intricate sets. They want audiences to really focus on the plots of these shows, so they are extremely raw and understated. Examples: Once, Dear Evan Hansen.
  9. Light-Shedding Musicals: These shows were made to show an event in history that needs to be spoken about. They are not overstated or understated. Examples: Rent, Great Comet, Ragtime, Newsies.
  10. Spectaculars: These shows are the all-out musicals. Out-of-this-world sets, costumes, and musical numbers are commonplace for this type of production. Usually, these shows are the most well-known and also have compelling plots. Examples: Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Hamilton.

Do you agree with my descriptions? Tell me what you think! Any other categories you think belong on the list? Let me know!!!

New York Dreamers: Usnavi and Jack Kelly

One very common type of character in musicals, or any form of media, for that matter, is the daydreamer. The one who would love to go somewhere, do something, be someone. These people are very common, but two that I’ve realized are very similar are Usnavi (In the Heights) and Jack Kelly (Newsies.) Their character development arcs as individuals in their respective plotlines are very reminiscent of each other. I’m going to explore this further in this post, but keep in mind that I have not seen In the Heights in person. THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS!!!!

Let’s talk about Usnavi. He’s a poor citizen of Washington Heights, a mainly Hispanic suburb of New York City. His roots are in the Dominican Republic, which his parents emigrated from and opened a family bodega. He dreams throughout most of the show of moving back to DR, and escaping the financial burdens of his seemingly small life. Now, let’s look at Jack. He’s the leader of the newsies, he’s got almost nothing to show for his life, and he’s tired of his life of poverty in 1899 New York. He wants to get on a train to Santa Fe, where it’s “clean and green and pretty, and they went and made a city out of clay.” Seeing a pattern yet?

Both of these characters have a lot more than they realize. Usnavi has the bodega, Vanessa, Sonny, Benny, Nina, Daniela, Carla, and all the other residents of the barrio who care about and value him. Jack Kelly has the whole band of newsies who need him as their leader, he has his chosen family, he has Medda and the backdrops he paints, he has Katherine, who loves him more than anything. The turning points of both shows are when these two characters feel like nothing is working out for them, and everything is crashing down on them.

By the end, though, the arc completes itself and they realize that nowhere is better than where they are. Usnavi sees what the community has been through together and discovers that he doesn’t need to be where his roots are to be “home.” He looks around at all he has, and knows that he’s home exactly where he is. Jack does the same, seeing that if he leaves, he won’t have anything he worked for. With both of these arcs, the people that love them the most help them in their character developments.

Through these two stories, we see that love and those who surround you are what make a home- not the place itself. Can you think of any other characters whose character development has a similar theme? Let me know!

My Favorite Things About Anastasia the Musical

Anastasia is one of my all-time favorite shows, and for good reason. Based on but certainly not limited to the plot of the children’s movie from the late 90’s, Anastasia has hosted big-name musical theatre celebrities like Christy Altomare, Max von Essen, Caroline O’Connor, and Ramin Karimloo, to name a few. I could go on and on about this show, but I’m just going to talk about a few of the best parts, hence the title you readers saw to get here.

The love story in this musical between Anya and Dmitry is such a pure and innocent one, unlike many of the modern showmances on Broadway. I just love how they both remember each other from when they were young kids (In a Crowd of Thousands.) He describes Anya as “proud and serene,” which is something one wouldn’t typically remember unless special feelings were present. The second thing I love about the romance is that she is led to remember that she really is the princess Anastasia Romanov because of him, which is really just perfect. I guess I’m a sucker for memories.

One of the stars of the show, Derek Klena, has maybe the best voice to play Dmitry. I know it’s cliche to say someone was born to play their role, but sometimes it’s the right thing to say, as in this case. Many people are fascinated with Cody Simpson’s Dmitry, but I like Klena’s so much more. His rendition of “My Petersburg” just never gets old. The same goes for my QUEEN Christy Altomare, whose voice has an almost chidlike quality to it, which is spot on for hopeful Anya. You can almost imagine the wide-eyed expression on her face as she sings the introductory ballad “In My Dreams.” Her ability to sound both eager and distressed in the same song and her talent to hold out the money notes as long as she does in her solos are some other parts of her performance that make it extraordinary.

There are so many other things I love about Anastasia, like the orchestral and visual aspects, especially costuming, but I don’t want to go on forever. What do you like most about any musical? Let me know!

Q+A Time (feat. My Sister)

For this post I’m doing something new! I made a list of Broadway-related questions that I’m going to ask, and both me and my sister Maddie will answer them!

What is your favorite musical? Maddie: It’s a tie between Dear Evan Hansen and Anastasia for me, but Anastasia has probably the best music. Me: It changes literally all the time, but I’ve been loving Waitress, Rent, and Bandstand lately.

Favorite movie musical? Maddie: Probably The Greatest Showman. Me: Again, changes often, but The Greatest Showman. Yeah.

Favorite song from a musical? Maddie: WHAT?!?! I refuse to answer. Me: It changes all the time. (Am I a broken record yet?)

Best actor? Maddie: Ben Platt? Me: Andrew Rannells, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and a lot of others.

Best actress? Maddie: Sara Bareilles in Waitress. Me: Jessie Mueller, Stephanie J. Block, and Idina, off the top of my head.

Best strong female lead? Maddie: Jenna in Waitress. Me: Winnie in Tuck Everlasting, Julia in Bandstand, Anya in Anastasia, etc.

Best character couple? Maddie: Carlyle and Anne Wheeler in Greatest Showman, but “Tightrope” is better than “Rewrite the Stars.” Me: Guy and Girl in Once, Anya and Dmitry in Anastasia, Evan and Zoe in DEH, and Collins and Angel in Rent.

Saddest deaths? Maddie: Kim in Miss Saigon was shockingly sad. Me: Angel in Rent, Philip Hamilton, Gavroche in Les Mis…..

Saddest song? Maddie: Words Fail. Me: She Used to Be Mine, Words Fail, For Good, Alabanza, A Little Fall of Rain, and a whole bunch more I can’t think of right now.

Everyone thank my sister for helping me in the comments and add your own answers! ❤

Rent Live!!!!

Many of you know that Rent Live on FOX was a huge event in the Broadway community on Sunday, January 27th. Personally, I thought it was the best live musical they’ve done, or at least, that I’ve seen. I’m going to share my opinions about the cast and other aspects of the production. If you have opinions you want to share, feel free in the comments, but please be respectful! Keep in mind, there will be spoilers!

I think that for the most part, the casting choices were made really well. Jordan Fisher and Brennin Hunt both had wonderful performances and Mark and Roger respectively. I was in tears throughout most of the second act, particularly Hunt’s parts in “Without You” and Fisher’s realization of himself following Angel’s funeral. In the first act, I was completely shocked- prior to watching this I was skeptical of both of their talents, but both Jordan and Brennin were spectacular. (I thought Brennin was lipsyncing in “One Song Glory-” it was that good.

Kiersey Clemons blew me away as Joanne. I had never heard of her before, and her singing voice is AMAZING. Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen was also better than I was expecting, especially in “Over the Moon.” That being said, Kiersey was unmatched in “Take Me Or Leave Me.” Her powerful belting was far beyond Hudgens’ singing, which was a completely different style that I didn’t find fitting to the song. Overall, though, they both did a stellar job with their characters.

Tinashe as Mimi performed very well too. Towards the end, when her fever broke, I was again in tears. In “Out Tonight,” she did well, but I found it to be exactly the same as any other performance. This could be because the role of Mimi is so specific that it would be hard to differentiate. Benny, played by Mario, surprised me. Once again, I hadn’t known anything about Mario before Rent Live, and his performance was reminiscent of Leslie Odom Jr. at times, which is a lot coming from me. (I loveeeee Leslie.)

Valentina, who portrayed Angel, struggled some with singing, which was evident near the end of “Today 4 U” and “I’ll Cover You.” Vocal technique aside, the character was nevertheless entertaining, and Valentina’s performance in the second act was emotional and immersive. Brandon Victor Dixon, in my opinion, outshined Valentina, especially in Act II. His rendition of “I’ll Cover You (Reprise),” which is sung at Angel’s funeral, was nothing less than legendary and moved me to actual tears. I did think, however, that he held back in “Santa Fe.” After seeing him as Judas last year in JCS Live, I thought he definitely would be the star of the show. It may have taken him a while, but he made it there when it was needed.

  • A few other things that happened in Rent Live:
  • KEALA SETTLE sang the iconic solo in “Seasons of Love” and Killed. It.
  • Brennin Hunt performed the end of the show with a broken foot. Pretty impressive.
  • The ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST came back after the finale and sang “Seasons of Love” with the live cast, which didn’t help me recover from crying at all.
  • I was a little bit sad that Mark didn’t wear the iconic sweater and scarf, but needless to say, it didn’t take away from his outstanding performance.
  • The set was so cool!!!!!! There were so many different planes and surfaces for the ensemble and for the times when multiple scenes were happening at once.
  • Many people on social media bashed Vanessa’s performance, but I thought she did well!
  • All of the cast members were so kind to the audience!

Overall, Rent Live was amazing and I would definitely say it’s the best live musical yet! I hope that in the future they do the live musicals similarly, because I was much more entertained with this than with some others, like Hairspray Live and Peter Pan Live. 10/10 would recommend Rent Live!

What did you think about Rent Live?