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.
tick… tick… BOOM! is such a beautiful show. Written by Jonathan Larson (who went on to gain mass acclaim for his next show, Rent), the musical is an autobiographical exploration of the composer’s life, inspirations, and relationships. It’s a beautiful glimpse into his life, and a poignant discussion about what constitutes ‘success’. tick… tick… BOOM! was originally written as a solo piece and performed by Larson, but after his death in 1996 playwright David Auburn (Proof) revised it into a three actor piece, and premiered it on Broadway. This off-Broadway cast featured Raul Esparza as Jon, Jerry Dixon as Michael, and Amy Spanger as Susan. Since its premiere, the show has been well loved globally, developing a similar (albeit smaller) cult following to Rent. A particular favourite production of mine is the Encores! Revival, which starred Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Karen Olivo. Lin has always been a huge fan of Jon Larson and his work, and is now directing a film adaptation of the show, with Andrew Garfield as Jon.
Standout track/s: Therapy; Real Life; Come To Your Senses; Louder Than Words
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Other Jonathan Larson works (particularly Rent), autobiographical shows like Gypsy, Evita, and Side Show, anything to do with Stephen Sondheim (there are several references to the composer throughout the musical!)
Standout track/s: I Want It All, The Ladies Singing Their Song, With You
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Shows about parenthood like Into The Woods, Gypsy, and Falsettos, musicals about relationships like I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and It Shoulda Been You.
Assassins is quite possibly my favourite Sondheim show. It’s very tonally different to his other work, but boy, is it cool. It’s a revue-style musical that portrays a group of people who all attempted to assassinate Presidents of the United States – we’re talking Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Guiteau, John Wilkes Booth, and more. Each assassin recounts their attempt (successful or not), and you get a glimpse into just what their motivations were. Although both Sondheim and the show experienced some backlash for the controversial nature of its plot, Assassins was well received critically, winning a Critics’ Circle Award, an Olivier Award, 5 Tony Awards, and 3 Drama Desk Awards (amongst many others) since its 1990 premiere. Assassins also has this amazing ability to assemble amazing casts in its productions – through the years, we’ve seen actors like Victor Garber, Terrence Mann, Alex Brightman, Aaron Tveit, Steven Pasquale, Catherine Tate, and Denis O’Hare performing in various productions. It made its Australian premiere in 1995 with the MTC, but more recently saw a run with Hayes Theatre Co. I personally love the Broadway Premiere cast the most – you can listen to it below.
Standout track/s: Everybody’s Got The Right; Gun Song; Unworthy of Your Love; Something Broke
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Musicals about American politics and history like Hamilton, Parade, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Stephen Sondheim shows (Into The Woods, Company, Sweeney Todd)