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.
Dear World follows three Countesses scheming to stop a businessman drilling for oil in their local neighbourhood. The show is based on a French play, The Madwoman of Chaillot, with book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Angela Lansbury starred in the original Broadway production and won her second Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the role. But, despite seeming like a fun story on the surface, Dear World has had a pretty troubled history. From the director leaving because of ‘artistic differences’ to poor reviews, it’s not a surprise that many haven’t heard of it. The original production was also conceived as a chamber musical, which ultimately was just too overwhelming for the simplicity of the plot. A revised version was produced in 2000 at Goodspeed Musicals which revised the plot and added additional songs – this is the version that current audiences would often see in a production.
Standout track/s: I Don’t Want To Know; Garbage; And I Was Beautiful
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Jerry Herman musicals like Hello Dolly and La Cage Aux Folles, musicals about older women like Follies and Mame.
Based on a 1938 film of the same name, The Baker’s Wife is about a town fascinated with how an old but famous baker was able to win over a young, beautiful woman. When a young flirt woos her away from the baker, he is unable to bake, and the town are forced to reunite the Baker and his wife. It’s a cute and reasonably simple story, and the music fits perfectly. Its book was written by Joseph Stein (Fiddler On The Roof), and music and lyrics were by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). In its time, the show has seen some stars in its leading roles – Carole Demas, Patti LuPone, and Alice Ripley have all played the titular role. The Baker’s Wife has developed a cult following despite never having been produced on Broadway, and the song “Meadowlark” has been recorded by countless performers including Betty Buckley, Susan Egan, Sarah Brightman, and Liz Callaway.
Standout track/s: Meadowlark; Chanson; Endless Delight; Romance
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Stephen Schwartz, shows like A Little Night Music and Into The Woods.
Cry-Baby is so wildly underrated. It’s the second John Waters film (after Hairspray) that Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell have adapted into a stage musical – but it is far from family friendly. It follows Allison Vernon-Williams, a young girl in Baltimore, who is lured away from her good-girl lifestyle by the leader of a rebellious gang – Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker. If you enjoy Hairspray, Cry-Baby is like its 18+ equivalent. I mean, the opening song is called “The Anti-Polio Picnic”. It’s a hilarious send up of rom-com movies, particularly those ‘forbidden romance’ style ones. Unfortunately, Broadway audiences didn’t seem to agree, with the show playing 45 previews and just 68 performances before closing. Cry-Baby had its Australian premiere in 2018 with Hayes Theatre in Sydney, which still remains one of the best productions I’ve had the good fortune of seeing. Due to its small cast size, Cry-Baby is a favourite of independent and amateur theatre companies.
Standout track/s: Screw Loose; I’m Infected; Misery, Agony, Helplessness, Hopelessness, Heartache, and Woe
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Hairspray, John Waters films, satirical shows like Batboy, Reefer Madness and Little Shop Of Horrors.