By Anna Tabet |

Okay, I admit it, I’m a theatre kid. I love showtunes and spent the majority of my high school days perfecting old age makeup and memorizing monologues. I did choose to take another direction in college and have unfortunately been unable to participate in acting in a couple of years now. And yet, that never stopped me from indulging in musical theatre albums. 

From no longer being in a tight-knit theatre community, I’ve come to realize that there are many that casually listen to show tunes. This led me to compile a list for those of you with a newfound courage to explore the art of musical theatre. However, I have yet to forget about my fellow theatre nerds. So, I additionally added a few names of musicals that may be a bit obscure, for those of you who are seasoned musical theatre lovers. 

Beginners 

  • In The Heights

This musical depicts the experiences of a group of Hispanic-Amerians living in Washington Heights. The main character, Usnavi, is shown struggling to provide for himself and his family, like many others in the neighborhood, through owning a bodega. It is based on a novel written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and comes to life through the brilliant hip hop melodies written by Lin Manuel Miranda. Arguably not as well known as his worldwide phenomenon Hamilton, it’s still a brilliant, powerful, and lively piece of art. 

Favorite Songs: “Breathe”, “96,000”, “Carnaval Del Barrio” 

  • Chicago

Nothing makes a musical fun and lighthearted quite like murder! Velma, a performer at a nightclub, and Roxie, a housewife, both find themselves in prison for similar crimes. Quickly turning into a media frenzy, each woman is found attempting to outshine the other. The musical is based on a play of the same name written in 1926. The overall dark and sensual themes of Chicago make it intriguing and memorable for anyone who watches it. 

Favorite Songs: “All That Jazz”, “Cell Block Tango”, “Razzle Dazzle”

  • Heathers: The Musical

High school can be a troubling time for many people, and if you’re Veronica Sawyer, a girl just trying to survive, becoming a part of the Heathers, the most popular girl’s group at school, can give you the protection you need to get by. However, falling in love with the new mysterious boy at school presents Veronica with some moral issues that she was not prepared to experience in her conventional high school life. Originally a film that came out in 1989, Heathers: The Musical is a unique take on the arguably overdone high school theme. 

Favorite Songs: “Candy Store”, “Dead Girl Walking”, “Seventeen”

  • RENT

This musical follows the lives of young and struggling New Yorkers that live through the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. If the title didn’t make it clear enough, the musical focuses on characters struggling to pay their rent and maintain their love lives. Showcasing the severity of the AIDS epidemic, as well as depicting the power of love in any and every form that it comes in, leads RENT to being one of the most influential musicals of all time. 

Favorite Songs: “Tango: Maureen”, “La Vie Boheme”, “Take Me or Leave Me”

Advanced

  • [title of show]

As one of the leads of the show describes to a piece of blank paper, this musical is about “two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical.” The musical follows the process of four people creating and acting in a musical, while simultaneously receiving critiques and adjusting the show while they perform. The show is comedic in an incredibly smart and original way, even at moments having characters sing out how they feel about their co-stars, with their co-stars. 

Favorite Songs: “I Am Playing Me”, “A Way Back to Then”, “Nine People’s Favorite Thing” 

  • Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

This musical has a villian, an unlikeable hero, and an unlikely battle for love. It also has Neil Patrick Harris, so there’s that. With a run-time of 42 minutes packed with comedy, despair, and a villain’s journey to be accepted into the Evil League of Evil, you’re sure to be enticed every second of the way. Seeing as it was one of the first musicals I was ever exposed to, it will always have a special place in my heart.

Favorite Songs: “A Man’s Gotta Do”, “Brand New Day”, “Slipping”

  • The Great Comet of 1812

Arguably The Great Comet is not incredibly obscure in the theatre community, seeing as it was on Broadway in 2017. However, I have witnessed a severe lack of admiration for this musical, so it made the list. Following the first 70 pages of the novel War and Peace, The Great Comet of 1812 captures the wild lives of several characters living in Moscow. With a lively and exuberant chorus that continuously interacts with the audience and songs spanning six genres of music, this musical is a standout in execution and plot development. 

Favorite Songs: “Natasha & Bolkonskys”, “Dust and Ashes”, “Balaga”

  • 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Taking place during an actual spelling bee, this musical peers into the lives of contestants on stage, allowing the audience to create emotional ties with each of their stories. Although it seems trivial to cover the lives of children during a spelling bee, the execution of the project allows it to be complex and lighthearted at the same time. There are even moments of interaction with the audience during the show, which adds to the overall development of connections between the characters and those in the audience.

Favorite Songs: “Pandemonium”, “I’m Not That Smart”, “The I Love You Song”