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.
War Paint is such a fascinating show. The plot is based on both a 2004 novel (War Paint) and 2007 film (The Powder & the Glory), following the real life rivalry between cosmetic giants Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden. It’s rare to get a show which gives older actors a chance to truly shine – but War Paint is a brilliant example of how experience can make a great show. If you wanted any more reason to give the show a chance, the Original Broadway cast starred Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole in the title roles. Talk about powerhouses. Sadly, 2017 was an extremely competitive Tony season, with shows like Come From Away, Groundhog Day, Great Comet, Hello Dolly!, and Anastasia all competing – resulting in War Paint being left behind with its 4 nominations. Despite this, it’s a brilliant listen and it will forever remain one of my guilty pleasure shows (mostly for the leading ladies).
Standout track/s: Behind the Red Door; Face to Face; Now You Know; Beauty in the World
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Shows with older leading ladies such as Mame, Grey Gardens, and Follies, anything else Patti or Christine have done.
Xanadu is a totally bonkers show. Conceptually, it’s like a weird hybrid of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Starlight Express – a bit of Greek theatre, and a bit of rollerskating. Oh, and the additional music and lyrics were written by Jeff Lynne (of rock band ELO) and John Farrar (legendary Aussie songwriter). The show is a direct adaptation of the film of the same name, starring Olivia Newton-John and featuring ELO’s music, following Greek Muse Clio as she tries to help an artist rediscover his creativity. Their solution? A roller disco. Xanadu really does sit on its own within the Music Theatre cannon because of how bizarre and ridiculous it is, which does explain why it’s become a bit of a cult classic like the source film. It’s camp, it’s disco, it’s ridiculous, but it’s a fun time.
Standout track/s: Magic; Don’t Walk Away; Suspended in Time
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Shows based on Ancient Greece like Hercules, A Funny Thing…, and Lysistrata, jukebox musicals like Rock of Ages and We Will Rock You.
Sugar (a.k.a Some Like It Hot: The Musical) is exactly what you think it is. With music by Jule Styne (Gypsy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Funny Girl), book by Peter Stone (1776, Woman of the Year), and lyrics by Bob Merrill (Funny Girl, Carnival!), it really does surprise me that this show is not more well known, particularly when it draws on such iconic source material. Sugar takes its story from the 1959 film Some Like It Hot, which starred the legendary Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon in a prohibition-era Chicago. Leading men Jerry and Joe are on the run from some gangsters, so disguise themselves as women decide to join an all-female band and, as you’d expect, chaos ensues. The original musical adaptation from 1972 was called Sugar, but in a 1992 West End revival, the show reverted to the source material’s title. The music in the stage show is fun, upbeat, but not the most catchy, so it doesn’t surprise me that this show gets overlooked. But that’s what this column is for!
Standout track/s: When You Meet A Man In Chicago; Doing It For Sugar; I’m Naïve
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Some Like It Hot, the work of Jule Style, Peter Stone, and/or Bob Merrill.