As quarantine drags on, claustrophobia and boredom can feel overwhelming. People are finding many ways to occupy their time, from working to reading to watching movies. And with the release of Hamilton on Disney+, many people are turning to the theatre for entertainment as well.
To those who are new to the format, though, the world of musicals can seem a bit unwelcoming. The barrier to accessibility for theatre, particularly major productions, is relatively high. In actually seeing a show live, people are limited by location, cost (which can, particularly for very popular shows, be prohibitively high), and time. And now, with the COVID-19 virus upon us, actually going out to see a show is an unlikely activity for many.
Luckily, for the interested, many musicals have their best feature—their music—released in soundtrack format, even in the absence of a video recording of the show. For people who aren’t sure where to get started, here are five contemporary musicals (other than Hamilton) that you can listen to online if you are looking for something to occupy your free time:
- Dear Evan Hansen
One of the most popular options on this list other than the previously mentioned Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen also deals with some of the heaviest subject matter out of any of these options. Following the titular Evan Hansen as he navigates life in the fallout of a classmate’s suicide, Dear Evan Hansen seems to straddle the line between the genres of tragedy and coming-of-age. It’s an emotional listen, but all the better for it.
Six is a British production that may serve as a good kicking-off point for many, in no small part because it is incredibly short. Six follows the wives of Henry VIII, who are masquerading as a group of pop singers participating in a song competition against one another to see who had it the worst. The pop songs are catchy and well-written, and it’s fascinating to see Six take a narrative usually centered around Henry VIII and reframe it around the women he hurt. Not to mention, the show has a killer sense of humor (Anne Boleyn’s song in the competition, for instance, is called “Don’t Lose Ur Head.”) At nine songs long, this musical packs a lot of punch in a relatively short period of time.
3. Be More Chill
Be More Chill is an adaption of a book by the same name, written by author Ned Vizzini. Be More Chill follows unpopular high school boy Jeremy, who receives help from a supercomputer known as the SQUIP as he tries to improve his social standing, with dire consequences. While it received mixed reviews critically, Be More Chill has a devoted following. And, like Dear Evan Hansen, Be More Chill attempts to tackle more serious subject matter, though it does so through a much more absurd lens and ultimately reaches a less bittersweet conclusion. If nothing else, the song “Michael In The Bathroom” alone is worth a listen, and may intrigue you enough to get you to check out the rest.
Based off the 1988 film starring Winona Ryder, Heathers: The Musical retains some vintage flavor from its 1989 setting. This dark comedy follows Veronica Sawyer, who gets entangled with a group of popular girls at her school (all named Heather, which is where the musical gets its name), and quickly falls into a plot involving violence and murder. While its music still has some pop influences, Heathers: The Musical takes plenty of cues from rock music, which fits well with the gritty, darkly funny tone of the musical.
Hadestown is a difficult musical to summarize. Its songs are heavily rooted in American folk music, with influences from jazz and rock, creating a rich soundtrack that calls back to a time long-past. Hadestown is an adaption of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a semi-Apocalyptic world that bears no small resemblance to America during the Great Depression. If that sounds strange, worry not. The story is easier to follow upon listening, and the music is quite frankly good enough to hold attention without precise knowledge of the universe.
By Leslie Williams