Musical theatre is one of the greatest joys in my life. But for most of us, especially in Australia, our exposure to musicals is very limited.
We tend to only see the big export shows from New York and London, like Wicked and The Lion King. It’s understandable, as Australian theatres generally produce ‘safe’ shows in order to guarantee an audience. The more niche shows are often done by smaller independent and amateur companies, but even then, they’re still “well known” niche (like Spring Awakening). However, these safe choices mean that even the most seasoned theatre attendees here are missing something that overseas viewers get. The theatre landscape has definitely improved over the last few years, but we’re still a little bit behind.
So that’s the point of this column. I hope to bring your attention to shows that, I believe, are worth an extra look. Shows that may never make it to an Australian mainstage, but are still deserving of some love.
Every second Monday I’ll list a few shows, give you some comparisons, and a few examples of songs for you to check out, so you can get a taste of the shows!
So, let’s kick things off with a few of my favourites…
The Light Princess is a chillingly beautiful musical based on a Scottish fairytale, telling a story of a princess unable to ground herself (literally and metaphorically) until she finds a love that can bring her down to earth. The title role was played by Rosalie Craig, who recently received critical acclaim for her performance as Bobbie in the new West End Company revival. Written by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson, the show had a very limited run at the Royal National Theatre in London and has disappeared into the black hole that is niche musical theatre. The show is unlike anything I have ever heard before. Amos’ music is gorgeous, emotive, and haunting. Just closing your eyes while listening to the soundtrack transports you to another world.
Standout track/s: Darkest Hour; Amphibiava; Better Than Good
You’d like this if you enjoy: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. It melds modern music with classical composition, as well as fully contemporary ones. Just listen to it, you will not regret it.
Marry Me a Little happens to be a secret favourite of mine. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show is a revue-esque, dialogue free compilation of songs cut from several of Sondheim’s shows and the then unproduced show Saturday Night. The plot revolves around two lonely New Yorkers who are aware of each other’s existence, but are too scared to leave their apartments and meet one another, and instead simply imagine what it would be like if they met. With songs cut from Company, Follies and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, it’s amazing how Sondheim managed to make the songs all fit and interweave in the new context of the revue.
Standout track/s: There Won’t Be Trumpets; Marry Me a Little; All Things Bright and Beautiful; So Many People.
You’d like this if you enjoy: Sondheim in general, musical revues, romantic-comedy driven plots.
Edges is a song cycle about four young adults facing universal issues of adulthood, such as belonging, identity, love and commitment. It’s a confronting, raw, and beautifully written piece of theatre which I think everyone can identify with. No two performances of this show will be with the same, with the creators providing a heap of additional tracks that companies can pick and choose from when staging the show. It’s kind of like 13 The Musical but for teens/young adults. And less linear.
Standout track/s: Be My Friend; Perfect; I’ve Gotta Run
You’d like this if you enjoy: Pasek and Paul (of Dogfight, Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land fame), 13 The Musical, coming of age shows.
Unfortunately, the cast recording of Edges is hard to come by. Click here to listen to selected tracks.