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.
Fiorello! has such an interesting story. The show is all about Fiorello H. LaGuardia, a past mayor of New York City, and how he challenged the democratic Tammany Society. Its music and lyrics are by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick respectively (who famously collaborated on Fiddler on the Roof), and book by George Abbott (The Pajama Game, Once Upon A Mattress) and Jerome Weidman (I Can Get It For You Wholesale). The score is bouncy and fun, and it somehow turns a story about a political squabble into an entertaining few hours. As with many historical musicals, some of the facts have been tweaked, but for the most part many agree that Fiorello! is truthful to the life of its inspiration. I never hear anyone talk about this show nowadays, but it was wildly successful in the 60s. It won 3 Tony Awards (including Best Musical), and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – that latter award only ever having been given to 10 musicals in history.
Standout track/s: Politics and Poker; ‘Til Tomorrow; Little Tin Box
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Golden age musicals like The Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain, Musicals about politics like Hamilton, Evita, and 1776.
Bandstand: The New American Musical tells the story of a group of U.S. Veterans returning home after World War, grappling with Survivor’s Guilt and PTSD, and how they turn to music. The original Broadway Production opened in 2017, directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler (who also worked on Hamilton and In The Heights), and starring Laura Osnes, Corey Cott, and Beth Leavel in lead roles. While American patriotism is not necessarily something relatable to Australian audiences, the show is one of the only I can think of which explores the mental health repercussions of war. The show also worked alongside non-profit Veteran organisation Got Your 6 to ensure it accurately depicted WWII veterans and avoided stereotypes. More than anything, I think the music is fantastic. If you like Jazz and Swing music, give this one a listen. Bandstand was also professionally filmed, and the proshot is regularly streamed online.
Content Warning – Bandstand contains discussion of mental illness.
Standout track/s: Breathe; I Got a Theory; Welcome Home
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Shows set during or after war such as Miss Saigon and Hair, musicals that deal with mental illness like Next To Normal and Anyone Can Whistle
Based on the life of Federico Fellini, Nine is a very cool show. It takes its plot from Fellini’s highly film 8½, which is often considered to be one of the greatest and most influential films of all time. The show follows film director Guido as he faces a midlife crisis just before his 40th birthday, and that launches him into a series of complicated romances and relationships. The character breakdown only has one man (Guido, however there’s a young actor playing a child version of him in some scenes), with the remainder of the cast women – the 2003 Broadway revival is my personal favourite, starring Antonio Banderas as Guido, as well as Chita Rivera, Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski, and Mary Beth Peil in other roles. There’s actually a pretty good Film adaptation of the show, with the cast including Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, and Sophia Loren. Nine has some fantastic songs for women in it, and is a great choice of show for a small independent company or university.
Standout track/s: My Husband Makes Movies; Nine; Be Italian; Me On Your Own
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Woman-heavy shows like Mame, Chicago, and Gypsy, Fellini films (specifically 8½), other Maury Yeston shows like Titanic, Grand Hotel, and Phantom.