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 beloved children’s books, A Year With Frog and Toad is a wonderful family-friendly musical, following the titular amphibians embarking on wonderful adventures with friends over the course of a year. The show was commissioned by Adrianne Lobel, the daughter of the novels’ author Arnold Lobel. The show was workshopped in 2000 before opening off-Broadway in 2002. It made its Broadway premiere in 2003, but closed after just 73 performances and 15 previews. It remains a hit for children’s and community theatre companies globally.
Standout track/s: Spring; Alone; Shivers; I’m Coming Out of My Shell
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Children’s musicals like Annie and Flat Stanley, The Wind in the Willows
The Grand Tour is a forgotten gem of a show. The show’s book was co-written by Michael Stewart (Bye Bye Birdie, Hello, Dolly!, Barnum) and Mark Bramble (42nd Street, Barnum), with music and lyrics written by Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles, Mame) – with a team like this, I often wonder how this show slips under the radar. The plot is based on a play, following a young Jewish man forced to work alongside an aristocratic anti-Semitic colonel in order to escape the Nazi occupation of Europe. The show’s themes are definitely heavier than other works by the writing team, but the music is truly beautiful, and the message rings true. The original Broadway cast included Joel Grey and Ron Holgate in the leading roles.
Standout track/s: I’ll Be Here Tomorrow; Marianne; One Extraordinary Thing
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Hello, Dolly!, Mack and Mabel, Cabaret
Grey Gardens is based on the 1975 documentary of the same name, about Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Edie), relatives of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The show follows their lives from rich aristocrats into their eventual downfall, exploring the dynamics of a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. Although the first act of the musical is largely fictional, the second takes most of its dialogue and events directly from the documentary. The show opened off-Broadway in 2006, staring Christine Ebersole (42nd St, War Paint) and Mary Louise Wilson (Cabaret, On the Twentieth Century) in the lead roles, following the show to its Broadway premiere. The Australian premiere was staged by The Production Company in 2011, starring Nancye Hayes and Pamela Rabe in the lead roles.
Standout track/s: Goin’ Places; Will You?; The House We Live In; Another Winter in a Summer Town
You’ll like this if you enjoy: 42nd St, The Light in the Piazza, An American in Paris, shows about parenthood such as Mame and Gypsy.