My Musical Theater Education

IMG_9295About four years ago, my husband and I got into the local community theater scene. It was David’s fault, and he dragged me along with him. Since then, we’ve spent 100s of hours being in shows and helping to put on shows and coaxing our children to go to rehearsals because they’re part of this family, damn it, and we do theater.

I’ve always loved musical theater, but I wasn’t plugged into the scene. Like, I knew Cats used to be a thing, and I knew most of the words to Les Mis, but if you asked me to name any current shows or any people currently starring in Broadway shows I would have looked at you blankly.

So, I started taking voice lessons, because if you’re in musicals, you really should know how to sing well. And if you’re taking voice lessons and on the board of a local community theater, I you should know some more musical theater shit, and what was my plan for that?

Well, I decided I would start listening to the Tony nominees for best musical, because that made sense to me as a place to start. And I thought maybe just the ones after 1980, since I already knew a lot of the ones before then; or if I didn’t know them already, they’ve really fallen out of fashion and could wait for round 2 (eventually there will be a round 2).

In the past few months, I’ve listened to all of ones I could find on Spotify–136 musicals–which is most of the Tony winners/nominees since 1980, surprisingly. Spotify is gold for musical theater fans. I mostly did this as work, since I do work that pairs well with listening to music. (Ppssstt: if you’re looking for these musicals on Spotify, I’ve created a Tony Award nominee 1980-now playlist. Some of them are a bit tricky to find.)

It was quite the journey. Sometimes I was bored out of my skull. Sometimes I was laughing under my breath so hard I counted it as my ab workout for the day. Sometimes I would sit at my desk and hold back tears I was so moved.

I’m still not an expert, but now I open up the sheet music anthologies I’d bought before, and I now know almost all the songs. I’m more aware of what’s happening on Broadway. I recognize a few Broadway stars’ names and their voices.

If you’re looking for a few recommendations, here’s what I liked. This isn’t some critical review. I still don’t actually know anything about anything. This are just the ones I personally enjoyed listening to:

First, my favorite genre: quirky, dark, macabre, funny stuff:

  • The Addams Family Musical
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Matilda (probably my favorite musical of all time)
  • Spamalot
  • Urinetown
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Funny, satiric, smart:

  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Avenue Q
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Bring It On
  • City of Angels
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Hairspray
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • Mama Mia
  • The Producers
  • Shrek the Musical
  • The Wedding Singer
  • The Drowsy Chaperone
  • A Christmas Story

Moving Stories

  • Amour
  • Blood Brothers
  • Cyrano: The Musical
  • Fun Home
  • Hamilton (so, so good. so good. Hasn’t been nominated yet, but will be)
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Les Miserables
  • Miss Saigon
  • Next to Normal
  • Parade
  • Spring Awakening
  • Rent
  • Billy Elliot the Musical
  • The Color Purple

Everything else I happened to like:

  • Aladdin
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Catch Me if You Can
  • Dreamgirls
  • The Full Monty
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • In the Heights
  • Into the Woods
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Lion King
  • Newsies
  • Once
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • The Secret Garden
  • Sunday in the Park with George
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Wicked