I’ve been a huge fan of musical theatres for about five years now. Anyone living in Australia will know the pain of having to wait years for Broadway and West End musicals to make their way to our shores. During my trip to New York City in February 2014 I was lucky enough to visit during the preview season and managed to catch a staggering fourteen musicals in twelve days! This list consists of my favourite ten musicals I saw during my stay in NYC.
*Sadly some of these productions have now closed on Broadway. Productions may be touring, check theatre listings for more information.
Based on the film of the same name, Once tells the immersive story of a Guy and a Girl and their unlikely connection they forge through their love of music. Set in Dublin, the Irish pub set is minimalistic and the talented actors double as the orchestra, each playing their own instruments. Before the show and during intermission the on-stage bar serves drinks to the audience. The score presents ideas about romance, ambition and regret – my favourite songs include Falling Slowly, Leave, and The Hill. The show is charming, poignant and ultimately a heartfelt story about love and missed connections.
Disney’s newest blockbuster musical has been decades in the making, and it’s been well worth the wait. The show is visually stunning and the casting impeccable. Additional music by Alan Menken has been added to the brilliant score, including the beautiful solo Proud Of Your Boy and duet A Million Miles Away, which joins the classics A Whole New World and Prince Ali. The explosive standing ovation James Monroe Iglehart, who plays Genie, received after his marathon performance of Friend Like Me during the first preview on Broadway will always remain my favourite theatre moment.
The show presents the dual on-stage journeys of Liz and Beth, two alternate versions of Idina Menzel’s central character Elizabeth. The story of If/Then explores the concept of destiny and fate, possibilities, choices and everyday decisions and how these things collide in a world of uncertainty. Vocal powerhouse Menzel delivers in her eleven o’clock number, Always Starting Over (catch her performance at the Tonys on YouTube) and the softer emotional ballad Learn To Live Without. The reunion duet Some Other Me with former RENT co-star Anthony Rapp is an especially sweet moment, stirring the emotions of anyone who has questioned how different their life could have been.
Peppered with pizazz and stunning circus theatrics, Pippin is a throughly dazzling production that addresses a number of ideas central to the title character – growing up, finding your place in the world, legacies, self-worth and existentialism. The show follows Pippin’s journey as he explores each of these concepts, ultimately highlighting the wisdom that only comes from life experience. The score highlights include Corner Of The Sky, Pippin’s Grandmother’s No Time At All number and On The Right Track. Though we missed Patina Miller’s well-reviewed performance as the sexy, whip-cracking Leading Player, the understudy was fantastic and delivered a knockout performance.
5. Kinky Boots
Glamorous. Fabulous. These two words are the first that spring to mind when I think about this show. With music by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, the show follows the story of Charlie and his failing shoe factory. While the premise sounds boring it’s nothing but, thanks to Billy Porter’s Lola, a headlining drag queen with a love of high heels. As the unlikely pair fight to save the factory and change the minds of everyone, the personal stories of the characters become just as important. Prepare to rock along to Sex Is In The Heel, Everybody Say Yeah and Raise You Up / Just Be. Annaleigh Ashford’s comical number, The History Of Wrong Guys is a highlight!
With a comical but heartfelt score by Tim Minchin, this show tells the story of an exceptional young girl named Matilda and uses clever choreography and set design to create a world of juvenile wonder. Based on Roald Dahl’s literary classic, the show’s witty book and snappy lyrics bring the characters to life. Highlights include Matilda’s mischievous Naughty, Mrs. Wormwood’s dazzling Loud, Miss Trunchbull’s malevolent and powerful Revolting Children and Miss Honey’s emotional My House.
With a David and Goliath story inspired by the real-life strike of paperboys in NYC in 1899, Disney’s Newsies tugs at the heart-strings with its rising scores of call-to-action numbers and inspiringly intricate dance choreography. The Manhattan-style sets and turn of the century costuming do a great job of imploring the audience to the plight of the main characters. The songs Seize The Day, Watch What Happens and Once And For All present stirring ideas of heroism, equality and the pursuit of justice. Try leaving this show not feeling pumped up, inspired and motivated to change the world!
8. The Book Of Mormon
Wildly filthy and humorously inappropriate, Book Of Mormon is the genius creation of Trey Parker & Matt Stone, the comical minds behind South Park. The music is witty, quick and hilarious – Hello!, You And Me (But Mostly Me), Hasa Diga Eebowa (I won’t give you the translation), Baptise Me and I Believe are only a few of the amazingly funny songs featured in the show. The character of Elder Cunningham is hilarious comic relief in a show already bulging with gags and laughs. If you are easily offended by religious satire, profanity or general political incorrectness however, you may want to sit this one out!
This is one of the first musicals I ever saw, and holds a special place in my heart. One of the most popular musicals of the past decade, Wicked tells the untold story of the witches of Oz. The unlikely friendship between Elphaba and Glinda is presented beautifully in Stephen Schwartz’s sweeping score – the powerfully climactic Defying Gravity, the cathartic release of No Good Deed and the touching sentiment of For Good round out an extremely touching libretto about friendship and questions the perception of goodness and wickedness. The show has now been running for over a decade on Broadway and is still as fresh and amazing as ever. If you visit New York and only have time to see one show, make it this one.
10. Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella*
The classic fairytale of Cinderella is presented in a sincere and sweet style in this light-hearted show about a shy but passionate young girl who dreams of changing the world for the better. After discovering she has her very own Fairy Godmother, Ella sets off to prove that nothing is impossible! Lucky enough to see Carly Rae Jepsen as Ella, Fran Drescher as the Stepmother and Victoria Clark as The Fairy Godmother in 2014, the well-known fairytale characters are brought to life through song. Clever set effects and costuming wizardry make the magical aspects of the story a pleasure to behold. Musical highlights include Ella’s In My Own Little Corner, Impossible, Ten Minutes Ago and Victoria Clark’s nostalgic sounding There’s Music In You.
[Shows that I saw that didn’t make my top ten; Phantom Of The Opera, Avenue Q, Rocky* and Les Miserables]