Welcome back to Musical Mondays!
In case you’re new here, this column is a peek into the depths of the Musical Theatre archive, where I will showcase a few musicals that I think deserve a little more love. You can read my past posts by clicking here!
They’re the smaller, niche shows that not everyone will be familiar with – and that’s the point! They deserve just as much love as the big name shows, so every second Monday I’ll list a few, give you some comparisons, and a few examples of songs for you to check out.
Would you believe me if I said that mastermind composer Jason Robert Brown wrote a show with an all-teenage cast about a Bar Mitzvah? Well, you better believe it – because that’s what 13 The Musical is. In fact, it was the first ever Broadway musical to have not only a cast made up entirely of teenagers, but a band too! 13 The Musical follows young Evan trying to juggle his parents’ divorce and his Bar Mitzvah, the most important night of a young Jewish boy’s life. His party plans are thrown into turmoil when his mum tells him they’re moving, and Evan is forced to learn just what it means to ‘grow up’. On top of being a brilliantly written show, 13 also marked the professional debuts of Ariana Grande (yes, the pop singer) and Elizabeth Gillies, who went on to star in Nickelodeon’s Victorious together. The musical is also currently being adapted into a film for Netflix, with Jason Robert Brown returning as Producer. It’s full of heart, and will bring a smile to all ages.
Standout track/s: The Lamest Place in the World; Opportunity; Brand New You; A Little More Homework
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Jason Robert Brown shows like The Last Five Years, Parade, and The Bridges of Madison County, shows about kids like Matilda, Annie, and School of Rock.
Based on the novel of the same name, High Fidelity follows record store owner Rob re-evaluating both his life and his loves. It’s a fantastic example of retrospection, with Rob learning that in order to find real happiness, he has to grow up and stop being so self-absorbed. High Fidelity‘s creative team is unreal – with music by Tom Kitt (Next To Normal, If/Then, Bring it On), lyrics by Amanda Green (Bring it On, Hands on a Hardbody), and book by David Lindsay-Abaire (Shrek The Musical), it’s no surprise that the show comes together so well. The score pays homage to the greats, with songs echoing famous tracks by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Billy Joel, Aretha Franklin, and The Who. However, the original Broadway production was met with mixed reviews, with many critics saying the show was quite forgettable despite its high energy. Despite this, it remains a favourite of college and independent theatre companies, including our favourites at Hayes Theatre Co. in 2017.
Standout track/s: The Last Real Record Store; Number Five with a Bullet; Conflict Resolution; Laura, Laura
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Rock musicals like Rent, Rock of Ages, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, other shows written by the creative team.
How Now, Dow Jones is a snapshot into 1960s Wall Street. Kate’s fiancé Herbert refuses to marry her until his Dow Jones stocks hit 1000. As a result, she sets off down a rocky path of affairs and mischief, resulting in some big twists and turns. The show is quite dated (written in 1967), but it still is quite enjoyable to listen through. The original Broadway production was directed by George Abbott and choreographed by Gillian Lynne (subsequently replaced by Michael Bennett), and ran for 220 performances before closing. It’s a quirky, silly, relationship comedy, and has some songs that are still a good listen in 2021. I don’t see this show ever returning to Broadway (or any other major stage) anytime soon, so it really is one that could get lost in the archives.
Standout track/s: Walk Away; Shakespeare Lied; He’s Here; Touch and Go
You’ll like this if you enjoy: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Promises Promises, Hello Dolly