So… Let’s Talk About Musicals

I have grown up emersed in the world of musical theatre. I’ve been performing since the age of four, and I sing showtunes on the daily. Anyone who knows me knows that I eat, sleep, and breathe musical theatre (and that’s not really an exaggeration, because I just thought of two musical references from that mere sentence).

Don’t take any of that the wrong way. Growing up in performance does not mean that I think I’m better than everyone else. It doesn’t mean that I think I’m going to make it big on Broadway. I don’t even know what I want to major in after I graduate from high school! What I’m saying here is: musical theatre is one of my main passions in life.

There are several musicals that I’ve recently been obsessed with. I’ve been blaring their soundtracks on repeat, rewatching clips from them on YouTube, and fantasizing about being best friends with all of their cast members.

Honorable mentions include:

Hamilton: An American Musical

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Hamilton is extremely mainstream right now, and I joined the bandwagon pretty early on. I never thought that I would like this musical, and at first I genuinely didn’t. It’s so different from the kind of musicals that I’m typically into (i.e.: Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer, Newsies, Ragtime, 13… you get the picture. Some more classical, others pop).

For those of you who aren’t educated on this musical, Hamilton is a historical musical that tells the life story of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Similarly to Les Misérables, there is hardly any dialogue that is not underscored by music— so if you listen to the soundtrack, grasping the entire plot is not difficult. What’s making Hamilton stand out from other Broadway productions is that the style within the musical is hip hop. Most songs sound similar to something you would hear from M&M or Skittles (clearly, I don’t know rappers’ names), with straight up nineteen-words-in-three-seconds rapping. And it’s wonderful.

Hamilton is drawing a lot of people into the world of theatre that typically avoid it like the plague. Because it incorporates both history and rap, you’re getting people from all different spectrums interested in musical theatre.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote In The Heights and co-wrote the music for Bring it On! The Musical, is the man behind this masterpiece. He studied Alexander Hamilton’s 700ish (pretty sure it’s closer to 800?) page autobiography and thought… wow, this sounds like a hip-hop musical. He dedicated six years of his life to creating this new phenomenon. Miranda was in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, starring as the lead role of Alexander.

I was skeptical of Hamilton not only because it’s written in hip-hop and rap format, but also because around half of the 46 songs on the album are explicit. That little word, explicit, always turns me off to music of any kind. To me, it’s like giving the music a label of ‘Rated-R’. I would probably give Hamilton a PG-13 Rating… it honestly isn’t that bad. Anything vulgar in the musical is historically accurate, so I’m not bothered by those things. As for the swear words… I could do without them, but I can also look past them. Many of my friends are infatuated with The Last Five Years, and I’m pretty sure that Hamilton has less f-bombs than that show does. I don’t enjoy Hamilton because of the language; I enjoy the musical because of how the music artfully lays out the true story of a man’s crazy life.

Alexander Hamilton’s life story is beautifully insane. In 8th grade (last year), I had to write a biography on a famous historical figure. Quite fittingly, I chose to write about Alexander and learned many things about his life that were hardly mentioned in the musical. For the most part, Hamilton is historically accurate… except for a few details that turn some people off to the show.

Hamilton’s cast is almost all non-white. Lin’s explanation for doing this is because he wants to tell the story of America then with America now. I’m all for that! I think it’s a very bold and well thought-out move on his part. Back in the 1700s and 1800s, most people in the U.S. were Caucasian, and today America is an incredibly diverse country. My only complaint about this is not due to the fact that different ethnicities are playing founding fathers… it’s that they will only audition non-white people for practically every role (except for, like, King George III). If they had the auditions open to all ethnicities, that would be the perfect thing, in my mind, to correctly portray the U.S. of the 21st century. I’m glad that they allow blacks and Hispanics and Asians (and anyone who wants to) to audition… it just confuses me why they exclude white people. They don’t want an all-white cast: that I can understand. But… America now still includes white people, does it not? This isn’t something I’m angered by, but it puzzles me why they chose to do this. If there is ever an audition nearby me for Hamilton when I’m older (if I’m still involved in theatre), I wouldn’t be allowed to audition… but someone non-white would. A white actor can’t play a white historical figure? That’s my only complaint about this situation. I’m all for diversity, just not for excluding Caucasians when the historical figures being portrayed are actually white.

There are a few other minor inaccuracies throughout the musical, but I don’t believe that they hurt the plot by any means. If you want to know more about the changes, you can hear Lin talk about them in his interview entitled “Hamilton: Lin-Manuel Miranda On The Play’s Historical Inaccuracies” on YouTube.

Overall, I absolutely adore Hamilton. If everything historical was written in the form of musicals, I would ace every history exam. This past year, Hamilton was nominated for 16 Tony’s and won 11 of those nominations… both record-breaking statistics. Obviously, Lin-Manuel Miranda did something right. Hamilton is super unique, and the music always gets me in the mood to run a marathon (but not really, because I don’t enjoy running).

A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel

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Most people don’t know that these musicals exist. A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel are created by a company called Team Starkid. While the two musicals aren’t from Broadway, I still find them just as enjoyable if not more enjoyable than a “professional” production. Both of these musicals are up on YouTube, where the cast recordings can be found as well. There actually is also a third musical that they created, called A Very Potter Senior Year, but I don’t really prefer it. It was thrown together rather quickly compared to the first two shows. A Very Potter Senior Year was performed at LeakyCon, which is a Harry Potter convention in Chicago. So, the cast isn’t in the same theater they had for the first two musicals, which isn’t their fault… but it bothers me that the stage layout is completely different from AVPM and AVPS (which were both performed at the University of Michigan). The third musical also doesn’t have all of the same cast members, and because the cast didn’t have much time to rehearse, they all carried scripts onstage. So, sadly, A Very Potter Senior Year isn’t one I’m into.

However. The first two musicals are brilliant. The cast includes Darren Criss (that’s right, the now-Glee star played Harry Potter), Lauren Lopez (who played Draco Malfoy… you heard me, a female played Draco), and Joe Richter (who has guest-starred often on Jessie, just as a side note) are all wonderful— in fact, the ENTIRE cast is phenomenal and hilarious.

The musicals are hysterical comedies. If a girl playing Draco doesn’t convince you that they are, I’ll note that: the same man that plays Voldemort in A Very Potter Musical also plays Umbridge in A Very Potter Sequel, in AVPS Lucius Malfoy’s character dances everywhere, the character of Cho Chang is a white Southern belle rather than an Asian like in J.K. Rowling’s creation, all that Voldemort longs to do after he gets his body back in A Very Potter Musical is ‘To Dance Again,’ and Dumbledore is obsessed with Zac Efron. Still don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself.

While I wouldn’t label AVPM or AVPS as explicit, they both have language and vulgarity in them. Like I had for Hamilton, I would rate these productions as PG-13. Again, I don’t enjoy the musicals because of this. I enjoy them because they’re hilarious, Harry-Potter related, and have great music. Honestly, the soundtracks of these two shows are all I’ve been listening to recently. If you ever hear me make a reference to how someone is a ‘Butt-trumpet’ (which, by the way, you don’t want to be), know that it’s probably from A Very Potter Musical or A Very Potter Sequel.

If you enjoy comedic musicals, Harry Potter, or you just need something to do, I suggest searching for these productions on YouTube and filling your heart with laughter.

Finding Neverland

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This musical is sort of what you probably assume it’s about. It isn’t another Peter Pan story… instead, it’s the actual life story of the man who wrote Peter Pan. In the original Broadway cast, Matthew Morrison plays the main role of J.M. Barrie. Before it was released on Broadway, original cast of Newsies-star Jeremy Jordan portrayed Barrie. Finding Neverland was actually released as a movie in 2004, and was put on Broadway in musical-form in 2015.

This musical is super whimsical and the music is wonderfully exciting. Personally, it always inspires me to not dream small… which is a main idea that J.M. Barrie expresses in Peter Pan. I believe that unless you dream big, you won’t get the full potential out of yourself. For example: If God is calling  you to go be a missionary in the Dominican  Republic but you choose to stay in your hometown because that’s a more ‘sensible option’ to you… are you really making as big of a difference in the world as you could be?

Also, just for a fun fact… if anyone has heard of Christiana Perri (which I’m assuming almost all of you have), then you might be interested to hear that her song “All That Matters” is actually from Finding Neverland. That song is one of the most moving songs from the musical for me. If you don’t recognize that piece, I suggest looking it up. It’s truly a great song.

Finding Neverland is wonderful. I don’t know as much about this musical as I do compared to the other three shows I mentioned, but nonetheless it is a magical show. Definitely worthy of talking about.

One more thing… It’s officially September! Autumn begins in twenty-two days (my fancy calendar calls September 22nd “Fall Equinox.” Posh.)!

Thank you for reading my rant… I could truly go on about this kind of stuff for hours! Also, thank you SO much for your continuous support of my new blog! The encouragement from many of you is overwhelming in the best way possible.

Blessings! Lauren Joy

 

 

 

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