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.
The Spitfire Grill is possibly one of the most underrated shows in the music theatre canon. it takes its plot from the 1996 film of the same name, and follows a young woman who decides to start her life over in Wisconsin after being released from prison. It’s a story of humanity, community, and life, and is a really beautiful piece of theatre. The story behind its development is incredible as well. A week before the musical was first officially presented at Playwrights Horizons, one of the writers, Fred Alley, suffered a fatal heart attack while on a jog. Two weeks later, the show was presented with the Richard Rodgers Production award, selected by a committee chaired by Stephen Sondheim. Since its initial New York debut, it has been produced over 700 times internationally in countless different languages. It’s a show I’m desperate to see in person, and I hope I get a chance to in the foreseeable future.
Standout track/s: Something’s Cooking; When Hope Goes; Come Alive Again
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Bright Star, Once, The Bridges of Madison County
Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens has such an amazing history. The show features songs and monologues inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, as well as a series of poems from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. Each monologue in the show is written from the perspective of a character who has passed away due to AIDS, and the songs represent their grieving friends and family members. It saw reasonable success on both Broadway and the West End, including a 2001 Broadway Benefit concert performance starring Alice Ripley, Brian d’Arcy James, and Norm Lewis.
Standout track/s: I’m Holding On To You; And The Rain Keeps Falling Down; Learning To Let Go
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Rent, Falsettos, Bare: A Pop Opera, A New Brain
Based on a 1984 of the same name, The Toxic Avenger is one of the craziest and most hilarious shows I think I’ve ever come across. With the production team consisting of Jo DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and David Bryan (of rock band Bon Jovi), it is no surprise the musical is awesome – the pair had previously collaborated on Memphis. The show follows a young man who falls into a vat of toxic waste and obtains outrageous superpowers, ones he uses to do good and clean up the polluted town of Tromaville. The show had a short run in Melbourne back in 2016, but it’s definitely one I’d love to see pop up again.
Standout track/s: My Big French Boyfriend; Kick Your Ass; Evil is Hot; Hot Toxic Love
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Rock musicals like Rent, satirical shows like Reefer Madness, Urinetown, and Little Shop of Horrors.
Unfortunately, a cast recording for The Toxic Avenger is not publicly available without purchase. However, a full proshot recording can be viewed on BroadwayHD.