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.
Ready or not, here we go!
35mm is one of my favourite musicals of all time. Anyone who knows me knows how weighty that statement is. But truly, it’s a masterpiece. Written as a “musical exhibition”, each track is based off a photograph taken by the writer Ryan Scott Oliver’s partner Matthew Murphy, meaning the only common thread between each part of the show is the photographs, which are typically displayed as each number is performed. All the songs explore the human condition, ranging from love, to loss, to youth, and even winning Prom Queen. The music is phenomenal, with every song is a mini-show in itself. The original Off-Broadway cast featured familiar names such as Alex Brightman (Beetlejuice, School of Rock), Lindsay Mendez (Dogfight, Carousel), Betsy Wolfe (Waitress, The Last Five Years), and Ben Crawford (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Phantom of the Opera). I could talk about this show for hours but I’ll just say this – listen to the recording from start to finish. You won’t regret it.
Standout track/s: The Ballad of Sara Berry; The Seraph; Leave Luanne; Cut You A Piece
You’d like this if you enjoy…: Song cycles (specifically something like Ordinary Days), Pasek and Paul shows, any of the aforementioned performers.
The Wild Party is an underdog of the show. I’m specifically referring to the LaChuisa show, as there’s another musical of the same name (written by Andrew Lippa, I’ll get into that another week!). The show is based off the Joseph Moncure March poem of the same name, telling the story of a wild Queenie and her crazy, hypersexualised life of parties, alcohol, and tragedy. The show is presented in vaudeville style, as a series of sketches rather than a linear narrative. Australia’s own Toni Collette starred as the lead role in the Original Broadway production, alongside Mandy Patinkin, Eartha Kitt, and Norm Lewis to name a few. The score is highly jazz-influenced, and truly transports you back to the 1920s.
Standout track/s: Queenie was a Blonde; The Lights of Broadway, Taking Care of the Ladies
You’d like this if you enjoy…: Honestly, LaChiusa has a very particular way of writing music. The score of this show is like a wild party in itself, and I truly can’t compare it to anything else that exists in the MT catalog.
The Apple Tree is a gem of a show. It’s technically 3 short musical ‘playlets,’ each with their own storyline, but all tied together by a common theme. Sort of like a more structured song cycle. The creative team features Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (who together wrote shows like Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me), and the show received a Broadway revival in 2006 with Kristin Chenoweth and Brian D’Arcy James. I’d recommend this show to anyone looking for some new repertoire – it’s packed with fantastic songs!
Standout track/s: What Makes Me Love Him?; Gorgeous; I’ll Tell You A Truth
You’d like this if you enjoy…: Classical Musicals such as She Loves Me, Once Upon A Mattress, The Most Happy Fella, and My Fair Lady