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. Our logo has had a bit of a makeover since you last joined us, but we hope you enjoy the change. 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.
I feel like I say this about every show in this column, but Something Rotten! is actually one of my favourite musicals ever. And for good reason too – it’s all about Shakespeare. Set in 1595, we see writers Nick and Nigel Bottom struggling to compete with the legendary William Shakespeare (who’s portrayed as a sexy rock God), so they employ a soothsayer to tell them what the next big theatrical hit is – and it’s a musical! The show is packed with theatre puns and Shakespeare references, brilliantly witty lyrics, an ode to the Black Death, and there’s even a tap battle. Any fan of the Bard will love the tongue-in-cheek jokes and character names, and others will just enjoy the absurd humour. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards but only took home one (Best Featured Actor), and I genuinely believe this show deserved way more love than it got. The original Broadway cast of this show was absolute perfection as well, including Christian Borle, Brian D’Arcy James, John Cariani, Heidi Blickenstaff, Brooks Ashmanskas, and Michael James Scott.
Standout track/s: A Musical; Hard To Be The Bard; Right Hand Man; It’s Eggs!
You’ll like this if you enjoy: The Book of Mormon, Like You Like It, anything about or by Shakespeare.
Runaways is a musical with book, lyrics, music, and direction by absolute legend Elizabeth Swados. More a song cycle or concept show than a full book musical, the plot came from anecdotal experiences from workshops she held with real-life runaways in the late 70s, and explores all the reasons that people ‘run away’ from home. It’s a beautiful mix of monologues, scenes, poems, dances, and songs told from children from an assortment of backgrounds. It’s a really beautiful and passionate piece exploring very real issues, and a lovely collage of youth in the 70s. It would be a really interesting show to see staged now, given the changes (or lack thereof?) society has gone through over the last 40-odd years. There have been a few revival productions of Runaways in the U.S., but I don’t believe it’s ever made its way to Australia.
Standout track/s: Where Do People Go; The Basketball Song; Let Me Be A Kid
You’ll like this if you enjoy: 13 The Musical, Working, Is There Life After High School, Fugitive Songs
Sadly the Runaways cast recording is not available on Spotify Australia, but you can listen to previews of the tracks or purchase the album by clicking here.
Fugitive Songs is song cycle with music by Chris Miller and lyrics by Nathan Tysen, who have collaborated before on shows such as Tuck Everlasting and The Burnt Part Boys. Similar in theme to Runaways, it follows a group of people on the run from various reasons – however, it’s definitely a more young adult themed show. Small in cast, we hear stories of a disgruntled hospitality worker, a miserable party host, a lonely photographer, and others who have felt the need to escape their lives and seek a change. It’s a unique and eclectic score, mixing blues and folk with pop and even gospel. You really get taken on a journey listening to the score. I was fortunate enough to see a production of Fugitive Songs in 2018 (produced by SONDER Theatre Company in Melbourne), and it really was an experience like no other. I would strongly recommend this show to smaller independent or community theatre companies.
Standout track/s: Annie’s Party; Lost; Growing Up; Kansas Highway Sky
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Gone Missing, Runaways, Edges