You’ve seen it plastered all around your Facebook page: your friends raving about how excited they are for the Les Mis Manila tour, and their non-stop selfies at the theater after they’ve seen it. They cheer Rachelle Ann Go as West End’s newest revelation, and revel at the wonder of the young Pinay The Voice finalist as little Cosette.
Somehow, everyone has been into musical theater for some time, and you just don’t get it. Who wants to hear never-ending ballads about a novel written in 1860? But the amazing thing about musical theatre is is its ability to evolve, despite its traditional roots, exploring different kinds of genres to appeal to different audiences. Indeed, the world of musicals has come a long way from operatic performances, campy show tunes and skimpy outfit-wearing showgirls doing chorus lines.
In case you’re wondering and curious here is a list of mainstream-friendly musicals, experimenting with genres such as pop, rock, and even hip-hop to help you get started, ranked in no particular order.
5. Spring Awakening
Before Lea Michele was Rachel Berry, she was Wendla in Spring Awakening, a show that deals with German teens and sexual exploration amidst an environment of repression. Yes, Jonathan Groff gropes her bare boob on the show, but that’s not why it’s on the list. Spring Awakening’s riveting music draws on alternative and folk rock, written by Duncan Sheik. The show has a very angsty and jolting feel, embodying the adolescent characters and their repressed selves waiting to burst just perfectly.
Musical number to watch out for: Check out Bitch of Living (hey, I don’t make up these titles). Oh, and a certain Pitch Perfect star makes an appearance… better watch out for it!
Cristin Milioti isn’t just “The Mother” in HIMYM lore. Before that, she starred in the 2012 Tony Best Musical, Once. She plays the unnamed lead (listed as Girl), who shares a connection with an unnamed man (Guy) through music, set against the sentimental and musically iconic backdrop of Dublin. Definitely for the folk and indie-loving crowd, the soundtrack won’t disappoint.
Musical number to watch out for: The haunting “Falling Slowly”
3. Legally Blonde
Some hit musicals get turned into movies; some hit movies become successful Broadway musicals. Such is the case of Legally Blonde the musical, based from the same film that made Reese Witherspoon a household name. Laura Bell Bundy’s (HIMYM’s Boats! Boats! Boats! Girl) take on the vapid but good-natured law student is distinctly original and hilarious on its own. The musical embodies the heart and humor of the film while still bringing in original elements, making it a fun show to see.
Musical number to watch out for: Giddy sorority girls sing the playful, girly pop-ridden “Omigod You Guys” in the best valley girl accents
2. Avenue Q
Sesame Street? Ah, made you look, didn’t it? This adult-rated, corrupted parody of the popular show was co-written by Filipino-American songwriter Robert Lopez — best known for penning the music of Disney’s Frozen. Before that, he was already widely respected in the theatre community for his Tony Award-winning show, Avenue Q, it’s almost hard to believe how we went into a 360 as he wrote Frozen’s child-friendly music.
It’s crass, politically incorrect, downright hilarious, with seriously catchy songs to boot, giving credence to Lopez’s talent as a composer. The music may sound animated and Sesame Street-like, but that’s exactly the point. If the music won’t draw you in (which I highly doubt), then the laugh-out-loud humor will. And once you’ve discovered the musical comedy gold of Avenue Q, get ready to move on to another Robert Lopez knee-slapper: The Book of Mormon.
Musical number to look out for: The Internet Is For Porn (Medyo NSFW — better listen to it with headphones on!)
1. In The Heights
Before Hamilton, there was In The Heights, a Tony Award-winning musical that introduced rap (as well as hip-hop and salsa) in musical theater, and that first launched Lin Manuel-Miranda’s career as a formidable theatre performer and playwright. Set in New York City’s Washington Heights, it tells the story of a Dominican young man named Usnavi with his friends, and their lives in the Latino neighborhood. The show is just bursting with flava and energy with its hip hop and salsa-inspired music, with the cast pop-and-locking to amazing choreography, and the story is just fun and full of heart.
Musical number to look out for: The “trippy” opening number, 96000