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 on the first Monday of each month I’ll list a few, give you some comparisons, and a few examples of songs for you to check out.
Starry follows the correspondence between brothers Theo and Vincent van Gogh, the latter known for his iconic painting which lends its name to the show’s title. We see both brothers pursuing their passions, each with their own challenges, and the impact of their separation on Vincent’s health. The musical has been in development since 2017, and has had various workshop runs and concert performances, but has not yet been professionally produced. It fuses the story with a pop-rock score, and is a beautiful retelling of the Van Gogh’s story. Art lovers will appreciate the plot, but theatre lovers will appreciate the mashing of art and music to create a beautiful story.
Standout track/s: Impress Me; A New Horizon; The Starry Night
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Musicals about artists like Sunday in the Park with George and Moulin Rouge
Raisin is a musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin In The Sun. The plot follows an African American family in Chicago struggling with issues of racism, housing discrimination, and assimilating into American society. While I have not been able to see the show, the music is beautiful (composed by Judd Woldin and lyrics by Robert Brittan). The show’s book is written by Hansberry’s husband Robert B. Nemiroff (as well as Charlotte Zaltzberg), and is often praised for being even better than its source material. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and ran for over 800 performances on Broadway.
Standout track/s: A Whole Lotta Sunlight; Man Say; Sidewalk Tree
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Shows about racial injustices like Ragtime and The Color Purple, the original A Raisin In The Sun play.
This may not be a surprise to anyone, but I sincerely think Jason Robert Brown is one of the greatest composers of all time. Parade proves this. The musical is a powerful and heartbreaking retelling of the life, trial, and subsequent lynching of Jewish American factory superintendent Leo Frank in the early 1900s. While JRB penned the music and lyrics, the book is by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). The show tackles racism and prejudice in Southern America, issues that we really are still facing to this day. The show was nominated for 9 Tony Awards and ultimately won 2 for Best Book and Best Original Score (unsurprisingly). I cannot explain how powerful the show is – it really is one you need to experience.
Content Warning – Parade contains racial slurs and violent imagery
Standout track/s: You Don’t Know This Man
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Musicals that explore antisemitism and the Jewish experience such as Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret, the works of Jason Robert Brown (13 The Musical, The Last 5 Years, Songs for a New World)