So you like musicals, now what?

A guide for newbies and novices

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Recent productions like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen have really put musicals back on the map for our generation. They’ve infiltrated mainstream media and have rejoined the socially-acceptable playlist. 

A good musical simply features a good story, like any successful play or novel, except with the added passion of being performed live, and of course, being accompanied by catchy musical numbers. With the introduction of so many original musicals — like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen — featuring spectacular soundtracks and incredibly intriguing plotlines, what’s not to love?

Some people have been introduced to theatre with these two recent smash hits. But whether you’ve never explored it or you’re interested in delving deeper, I’ve compiled a guide to help you navigate the world of musicals.

While both shows are on everyone’s minds, it’s not to say there aren’t other musicals that can echo a similar politically charged, emotional vibe. In The Heights is a rap musical —  just like Hamilton. Yup, this show is actually the first hit of Hamilton producer Lin-Manuel Miranda. It focuses on a Latin-American community living in Washington Heights in New York City. If you’re in the mood for an upbeat, dance-worthy jam-sesh, this show hits the jackpot.

Spring Awakening is about a group of hormonal, German teenagers exploring sexuality under the oppression of a cruel school system. Yes, please. The Original Broadway Cast recording features two former Glee stars, Lea Michelle and Jonathan Groff.  

If you’re just starting out with musicals, it’s best to start with some the classics.

Wicked is a prequel to the beloved film classic, Wizard of Oz, that’s about doing what’s right, true friendship and loving who you are.

For the Book of Mormon, the writers of South Park take you on a trip with some Mormon missionaries. A cultural commentary that also features great music and songs, this performance will have you hooked.

With Rent, the music won’t just have you dancing in your seat, you’ll be on the table. You won’t be able to measure your love for this show. 

Feel like curling up and watching some triple-threats hard at work? Annoyed you don’t live in NYC and have a never-ending bank account for tickets? Ready to experience the joys of musical theatre without any effort? Here are some filmed versions of musicals you might enjoy. 

Obviously heading to Broadway or even Toronto for plays isn’t the easiest feat for some of us, but there are movies that can take you there.

Some actual movies that have been made include Grease (starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John), Hairspray (with the one and only Zac Efron), Mamma Mia (I mean, it’s Meryl Streep so you know it’s good) and The Sound of Music (a family favourite with the gorgeous Julia Andrews). 

There’s also an abundance of stage performances on film. Recently, there have been two live broadcasts of classic musicals you definitely need to see: Grease Live! and Hairspray Live!  

While the classics are great, it’s always good to know what’s coming up on Broadway.

First, the Mean Girls Musical is going to be a thing. Yes – you read correctly. Tina Fey has turned her cinematic classic into a musical! It’s currently in D.C. but will be heading to Broadway in March. 

Do you want to (see a show where they) build a snowman? Then take a trip to the Big Apple to see Frozen. This Disney epic has been adapted for the stage and after all, February does seem like an appropriate time to open a show about snow and ice. 

Whether you have a deep curated love for Broadway or you’re a newbie looking to explore the scene, there are many options on how to be more involved in musical theatre.


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