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.
Based on the very legitimate 1936 morality tale of the same name, Reefer Madness definitely isn’t the anti-drug warning it was intended to be. The film was financed by a church group and was intended as a PSA, teaching children the dangers of cannabis use. However, it was purchased and re-cut as a film for the exploitation circuit. It ultimately resurfaced as an unintentional satire among advocates for marijuana legalisation and reform, and thus the musical was created. While the film may be considered one of the worst to ever exist, the stage adaptation of Reefer Madness is a wild, sexual, high energy (pun intended) romp, sending up its source material in the most sardonic and cynical way possible. The show’s book and lyrics were written by Kevin Murphy (Heathers, Legally Blonde), and music composed by Dan Studney. The musical was adapted into a made-for-television film in 2005, and starred Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell, Alan Cumming, and Ana Gasteyer.
Content Warning – Reefer Madness contains strong and graphic adult themes, including but not limited to: heavy drug use, sex, and death.
Standout track/s: Down at the Ol’ Five and Dime; Mary Jane/Mary Lane; Listen to Jesus, Jimmy
You’ll like this if you enjoy: The Rocky Horror Show, Little Shop of Horrors, Bat Boy: The Musical, The Toxic Avenger
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is a musical revue featuring the songs of… you guessed it, Jacques Brel. Despite the mouthful of a title (which, sadly, is no longer actually the truth), the musical was quite successful, with the cast recording even making it onto David Bowie’s top 25 albums of all time list. Although Brel’s songs were predominantly written in French, bookwriters Eric Blau and Mort Shuman translated them for the revue. The show was even adapted into a 1975 film, which I highly recommend watching.
Standout track/s: Madeleine; My Death (La Mort); Desperate Ones
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Musical revues, the music of Jacques Brel
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an awesome show. It really is like nothing else. When sitting down to write this column, I struggled to find similar shows for the later recommendations because there truly isn’t anything quite like it. Hedwig follows the titular non-binary glam-rocker’s exploration of gender identity as she performs during post-war Germany. The plot draws on childhood experiences of bookwriter John Cameron Mitchell (who also originated the lead role), the child of a U.S. Army major. The show is an androgynous, gender-queer rock concert; an absolute celebration of self. A two-hander musical, past productions have featured performers such as Neil Patrick Harris, Darren Criss, Andrew Rannells, iOTA, and Taye Diggs in the lead role. The show was adapted into a film in 2001, and a production is set to open in Sydney in 2021 starring Hugh Sheridan and Casey Donovan. Hedwig‘s message is loud and queer, and is an absolute must-watch in my books.
Content Warning – Hedwig and the Angry Inch contains discussion of gender identity and sexuality.
Standout track/s: Sugar Daddy; Wicked Little Town; Exquisite Corpse; Midnight Radio
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Rent; Rocky Horror; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; the music of David Bowie