Musicals are oftentimes like Vegemite: you either love them or hate them. As a music and writing nerd, I fall into the love camp. When I was little, musicals were a way to spend time with friends during the summer. I remember doing all sorts of silly warm-ups to warm up my voice for my chorus roles. As I’ve gotten older, my participation in musicals decreased. I’m enthusiastic, but a singer and actor I am not. Instead, I’ve become an observer. I listen to cast albums, see musicals when I can, and force my favorites onto my friends. Through my rekindled love of musicals, I’ve grown to appreciate the writers. Over the years, I have latched onto a few that always leave me fangirling at the writing. From comedies to drama, here are some of my favorite musicals in no particular order.
Hadestown is a more recent musical that is a breath of fresh air. Disclaimer: I haven’t seen this musical, so most of my writing knowledge is from on the cast album. The story is an adaptation of the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. As a mythology nerd, I love how they took the original tragedy and put it in a more modern time. The New Orleans jazz-style music is a great medium for the lyrics. It’s a great way to illustrate the difference between the world above and the Underworld.
The writers also use that backdrop to paint a picture of two story-lines that overlap. The plot follows the young lovers, as well as the fading love of Hades and Persephone. The musical uses similar musical themes and lyrics for Orpheus and Hades. It’s very evident when Orpheus helps Hades remember his pure love for Persephone. One of the most successful parts of this musical is the plotting. Despite knowing the myth well, I still hoped that the lovers would be able to reunite. The musical is great at giving you hope for a happy ending until fate catches up. Even after countless listens, the final songs always hit hard. You can’t help hoping that this time it’ll be different, that they’ll make it into the light. If you want to give a listen to this old tale from way back when, check it out here.
2. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a comedy that follows the adventures of Monty Navarro. Upon his mother’s death, he learns that he is ninth in line for a dukedom in the D’Ysquith family. Instead of waiting, he takes matters into his own hands and starts murdering his family. It sounds like it would be another dramatic tale. Instead, Monty finds himself in hilarious situations while he executes his crime. The writing for this show is sharp and witty. The writing reminds me of Clue, except we are inside the head of the killer. The music propels the plot forward with snappy lines and strong use of darker humor.
I was lucky to see this musical with the original cast in New York City. In the production, one man plays all the D’Ysquiths that Monty murders. The writers use distinct voices for each member of the family. This makes it easier for the audience to distinguish the characters. With the help of costumes and acting of course. The same is true for the two ladies in Monty’s life. Their dialogue and songs are very distinct. The only time they are very similar is when they are speaking of Monty, or are covering for him. There is also a bit of a plot twist among the deaths that Monty isn’t expecting. If you want to find out what happens, check out the original cast album here.
3. The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals
This musical is the only one on the list that isn’t a Broadway production. The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is a creation of Starkid, a theater company known for A Very Potter Musical. The story follows Paul, a guy who hates musicals. With the title, you’d expect this comedy to follow a guy’s eventual love for musical theater. Instead, this musical is a horror-comedy where Paul faces a very strange apocalypse. People are singing and dancing out of nowhere! The writing in this play is full of unexpected twists and iconic characters. There is also a multitude of lines that stick in your head long after you’ve seen the musical.
One of the great traits of this musical is the strong lyrics. They both tell us about the characters and the world that’s unfolding. The opening song itself helps paint a picture of the story from the perspective of the infected. Later songs help explain the infection and hints at how it spreads before we learn via dialogue. Characters also have strong voices in their dialogue. You can tell if Paul, Emma or Professor Hidgens are speaking based on how they speak. This musical also has a great finale and twist. Thanks to the wonderful Starkid, you can see the entire story unfold on their YouTube channel.
It was hard to narrow down my list to a few musicals. These are a few of the well-written musicals out there that you can watch or give a listen. What do you think of the musicals I’ve mentioned? What are your favorite musicals? Let me know in the comments below! If you are looking for a way to spice up your time at home, try giving a musical a listen! They’re full of fun stories and songs, and there’s one for everyone’s taste. Everyone stay safe and happy listening!