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.
Hands on a Hardbody is based on a documentary, following the story of 10 contestants trying to win a Nissan “hardbody” pickup truck. The show was initially commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse in California, and delves into the backstories of each character, showing each of their individual motivations and reasons for wanting to win the truck. It sounds like a bizarre idea for a musical, but it really is a gorgeous piece of theatre. It tells a very human story, full of sincerity, but with a twist of humor and cheek. The book was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife), and music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, and lyrics by Amanda Green. The original Broadway cast also featured some well known names, including Jon Rua (Hamilton, In The Heights), Hunter Foster (Little Shop of Horrors, Bridges of Madison County), and Keala Settle (Waitress, The Greatest Showman).
Standout track/s: Human Drama Kind of Thing; Uncontrollable Laughter; Stronger; Used to Be
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Musicals based on real events, country/folky shows like Bright Star and Bridges of Madison Country.
The Mad Ones (fka The Unauthorised Biography of Samantha Brown) has a really interesting history. The show was majorly rewritten from it’s original release as Samantha Brown, but still has the same essence. The plot sees young Samantha processing with the death of a close friend, and realising that she must push through her grief and sadness to take a big step towards adulthood. It’s another human story, with lots of important messages and discussions that teenagers consider on their journey to adulthood. Kerrigan and Lowdermilk are well known for their work on the cabaret scene, with several songs from The Mad Ones very popular at Broadway concerts or benefits. It’s a beautiful piece, dealing with several heavy themes, but handling them well. It also notably passes the Bechdel test with ease, which is always a big plus for me. The off-Broadway cast was absolutely loaded too, featuring Krystina Alabado (Mean Girls, American Psycho), Ben Fankhauser (Newsies, Beautiful), Emma Hunton (Freaky Friday, Spring Awakening), Jay Armstrong Johnson (The Phantom of the Opera, Catch Me If You Can), and Leah Hocking (The Last Ship, Billy Elliot).
Standout track/s: The Girl Who Drove Away; Freedom; Run Away With Me; Drive
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Any Kerrigan and Lowdermilk music, Next To Normal, Edges, Ordinary Days
That Bloody Woman is another show based on a true story, exploring the life of the iconic suffragist Kate Sheppard, and her move towards granting women the right to vote in New Zealand. The show takes on a rock concert format, with Kate and her crew leading the pack towards a petition to allow women the right to vote. It also explores her personal life, her troubled marriage, and her love for her best friend. It’s one that I’d love to see more productions of, especially since the story is quite close to home for us in Australia. To my knowledge, it hasn’t seen many productions outside of NZ. Plus, it’s always awesome to see strong, inspirational women of history being represented in theatre, and having their stories shared to those who may not have heard them.
Standout track/s: Enough; Hands off My Property; The Line; History/Her-Story
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Rock musicals like Rent, feminist shows like Lizzie and Six, Australian musicals like The Hatpin.