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.
Bright Star was a show that surprised me entirely. I don’t want to give too much away, as it’s definitely one to try and see in person. Written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the show is based on a combination of their Grammy-winning bluegrass album Love Has Come For You and the folk story of the Iron Mountain Baby. The show follows editor Alice Murphy, and how an encounter with a young WW2 soldier sets her on a life-changing journey to understand her past. Melbourne audiences were blessed by an incredible multi-Green Room Award nominated production of the show from last year, with Kala Gare (Six The Musical) in the lead role. I have not openly wept at a musical as much as I did this show.
Standout track/s: If You Knew My Story; Asheville; Sun’s Gonna Shine
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Bluegrass music, folk-style shows like Once and Violet
Violet is definitely one that tugs at the heartstrings. Based on Doris Betts’ “The Ugliest Pilgrim”, the show follows a young disfigured girl who travels across the U.S. to be healed. The original Broadway cast production saw Sutton Foster in the title role, as well as Colin Donnell, Joshua Henry, Christopher Sieber, and Keala Settle. The show’s music was written by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Caroline or Change, Shrek, Thoroughly Modern Millie) and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley (A Little Princess). A story of love, heartbreak, self-acceptance, and faith, there is something in Violet that everyone can connect with.
Standout track/s: On My Way; Lay Down Your Head; Hard To Say Goodbye; Bring Me To Light
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Jeanine Tesori, Country music, folk-style shows like Once and Bright Star
Passing Strange is a super cool musical. With strong overtones of metafiction, extistentialism, and the concept of the ‘artist’s journey,’ the show follows a young African American man’s journey of self discovery through sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Written by singer-songwriter Stew, the musical plays out a semi-fictionalised reflection and representation of his own experiences as a young artist moving through the industry. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk awards, winning one and three respectively. The Broadway production was filmed by Spike Lee in 2008, and is available to watch online.
Standout track/s: Paradise; May Day; Youth’s Unfinished Song
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Meta musicals, theatrical styles like Epic Theatre, rock musicals such as Rent, American Idiot, and Tick, Tick, Boom…!