Featured image courtesy of Cylla von Tiedemann
We all had that one musical that got us interested in musical theatre. As you may have read in my previous post, my first musical I ever loved with all my heart was Dreamgirls. Of course, I was only able to love this show because of the 2006 film. As such, here are seven currently-running popular musicals (either on Broadway, national tours, West End, etc.) that can be a great introduction to this art form for new fans.
You’ll find that this list is relatively limited; I only wanted to do shows that I have personally seen. For a part two, I plan to branch out a bit more.
Based on the 2007 movie written by the late Adrienne Shelly, Waitress is all about a small-town waitress navigating through the shaky waters of an abusive marriage. With productions on Broadway, the West End, currently touring North America, and even in the Philippines, it’s easy to see that Waitress has resonated with people everywhere. It’s a musical with beautiful music and a powerful message. For first-time theatre fans, it’s a great introduction to the craft not only because of its simplicity but also because of its heart.
You can be in a crowd of hundreds of theatre fans, and chances are that a lot of them will tell you that their gateway musical was Wicked. A story that’s essentially a fanfiction about the “friendship” between Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Wicked has been enchanting audiences all across the world for the past sixteen years. It’s a musical that stands the test of time, and I’m confident will continue to do so for years to come.
3. The Lightning Thief
Having just seen this on tour, this show is fresh on my mind. As a book nerd, The Lightning Thief was everything I had ever dreamed of for this franchise. It’s age-appropriate for a variety of audiences, and it’s just plain fun. I personally think that it’s a great gateway musical for anyone, but especially for people who are coming from a book-based background like I did.
4. The Book of Mormon
Akin to Waitress, this show is super modern and easy to get into. Though its humor can get dark and offensive at times, overall it’s a musical that people tend to find rather enjoyable right off the bat.
5. Dear Evan Hansen
I’m aware that this selection is going to polarize some diehard theatre fans, but as demonstrated over the past couple of years, Dear Evan Hansen is simply a show that appeals to mainstream audiences. Though it tackles a difficult topic not completely unlike Next to Normal, this musical is much more popular with new theatre fans and people who aren’t technically “theatre fans”. After all, it feels like it written for an audience who doesn’t know too much about theatre. It’s yet another very modern musical, however it attempts to tackle unique topics in tandem when it comes to Broadway musicals: social media and mental illness.
6. Disney musicals (The Lion King, Aladdin, Frozen)
Any of the above shows that are currently running, both on Broadway, internationally, and on tour, are musicals that would be a superb introduction to theatre, especially for young fans. These shows are rather imaginative, and because they’re based on world-famous properties, any given Disney musical is going to work as a gateway musical.
What other musicals would be great introductions to musical theatre for new fans? Let me know for a part two segment!