It’s no secret that Broadway Musicals are less accessible than your favorite TV shows or movies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discover new shows anytime you want! The rise of Hamilton: An American Musical brought a resurgence of musicals to the media– here’s the ones you should be checking out. Not all of these shows are currently running, but all of them have released original Broadway/Off-Broadway cast recordings so you can listen and imagine the story in your head, or find show clips or pictures online.
1. Waitress the Musical
Waitress is based off the 2007 movie by the same name. It follows the story of Jenna, a waitress and baker stuck in an abusive marriage, her two best friends (also waitresses), and the characters of a small town in Indiana. Other characters include Cal, the cranky diner cook, and Dr. Pomatter, the hot doctor from out of town.
Waitress made history as the first show on Broadway to be lead by an all-female creative team, including Sara Bareilles as the music/lyric writer for the show. Jessie Mueller was nominated for a Tony for her performance as Jenna Hunterson, and the show is currently running at the Brooks Atkinson Theater as well as crossing the country on its first national tour.
“Every right thing will find its right place.”
(Warnings: sex, relationship abuse)
2. Be More Chill
Be More Chill originally only played 28 performances out of the Two River Theater in New Jersey. The cast recording gained popularity in late 2017 and the show is currently playing a sold out off-Broadway run. Will Roland (Dear Evan Hansen) leads the show as Jeremy Heere. Joe Iconis (Smash, The Black Suits) wrote the music and lyrics and Joe Tracz (The Lightning Thief the Musical) wrote the book.
Be More Chill is based off the novel by Ned Vizzini and is about high schooler Jeremy Heere as he battles popularity, anxiety, crushes, and more. After talking to a classmate and discovering a computer known as a SQUIP that can instantly make him cool, Jeremy purchases one and his life instantly changes.
“I just wanna survive.”
*The off-Broadway show has one new song and other changes have been made.
(Warnings: sex, mental illness)
3. Little Shop of Horrors
Little Shop of Horrors, also known as Little Shop was written and produced off-Broadway in 1982 and hit the Broadway stage in 2003; Little Shop has also been done for West End and embarked on multiple tours in the US and the UK. It was made into a film starring Rick Moranis as Seymour in 1986. Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Newsies) wrote the music and Howard Ashman wrote the music and book.
Little Shop follows Seymour, a young botanist who lives in the slum, and his rise to fame thanks to a magic, and hungry, plant.
“Oh, please grow for me.”
(Warnings: murder, relationship abuse)
4. A Taste of Things to Come
A Taste of Things to Come originally ran Off-Broadway in late 2016, and moved to Chicago for a brief run in early 2018. The show was written by Debra Barsha (Horton Hears a Who) and Hollye Levin (The Polo Lounge).
The story follows 4 women, Joan, Connie, Dottie, and Agnes, as they move from the restraints of the 50s into the freedom of the 60s through food, sex, and, of course, music. Their relationships show us where women have been, and where we’ve still yet to go.
“You never know what you get when you turn up the heat.”
You can find the cast album here.
(Warnings: mentions of sex, drug use)
5. Come From Away
Come From Away, written by husband and wife David Hein and Irene Sankoff, is about the untold story of September 11th, 2001, “Operation Yellow Ribbon.” When 38 planes, and 7,000 people, were diverted to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, and the townspeople took them in to care for them until they could return home. The show has won multiple awards including a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical.
Come From Away has many incredible characters, including Beverly Bass (Jenn Colella), the first female pilot in US history. The whole cast plays multiple characters, and the story is in incredibly intimate and touching in nature.
“You found your heart but left a part of you behind.”
(Warnings: Brief Islamophobia, mentions of death)
6. Everybody’s Talking About Jaime
Everybody’s Talking About Jaime, based off the true story of Jamie Campbell and his journey to acceptance, has music by Dan Gillespie Sells (Beautiful People theme) and lyrics and book by Tom MacRae (Doctor Who, The Librarians). The show was recently broadcast live in the UK and is set to be made into a movie. A Broadway transfer is likely given the success of the show catching US producers’ eyes.
Jamie wants to be accepted by his peers and his dad. His friend, Pritti, constantly offers him encouragement, as does his mother and their family friend, Red. Things get worse when a peer complains about Jamie, but he refuses to be deterred.
“So I keep on climbing, and climbing, and climbing this wall in my head.”
(Warnings: homophobia, abandonment)
7. Catch Me if You Can
Catch Me if You Can, another show on the list based on a true story; it has music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, a duo known for working on Hairspray and Smash together. The book was written by Terence McNally (Ragtime). CMiYC was originally a movie about con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. Aaron Tveit played Frank in the musical. Norbert Leo Butz won a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his role of Carl Hanratty.
As Frank completes cons, and evades FBI agent Hanratty , he falls in love with nurse Brenda Strong (Kerry Butler). The show follows Frank’s journey to the criminal lifestyle and back again.
“Live in living color let me take you for a ride.”
You can find the cast recording here.
(Warnings: family issues)
Musical theatre is wonderful because the story possibilities are endless. While most of these shows fit into the contemporary category, all of them are completely different in structure and music. A few even have supernatural elements. Whether you like high energy dance musicals like Newsies or Hairspray or prefer heartwarming shows like Waitress there’s definitely a show out there for you, you just have to find it.