Sunday, August 7, 2022

Where Do You Go After Hamilton?

OK, so let's say that you have really enjoyed Hamilton, the big musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  But that was several years ago, and now you're ready to try another recent musical.  You're in luck.  The 21st century has been very good for the Broadway musical so far.  Here are a few recent shows that are worth trying:

The Last Five Years (2002):  Jason Robert Brown wrote this show, which premiered Off-Broadway in 2002 and has developed a cult following ever since.  The Last Five Years tells the story of a marriage that failed.  It features only two characters:  Jamie and Cathy, who take turns singing songs from their perspective on the relationship.  The show opens with Cathy singing about the end of the relationship, and then Jamie comes on to give us his perspective on the beginning of the relationship.  From then on, Cathy's songs go backward in time, while Jamie's move forward.  In the last number, Cathy is singing about the beginning the relationship, while Jamie is singing about the end.  In the middle the two actors come together for a duet -- the only time they sing together.  The movie with Anna Kendrick is pretty good, but nothing matches the original off-Broadway cast recording with Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott.

Next to Normal (2008):  Written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, this show won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, making it only the eighth musical in history to do so.  (In 2016, Hamilton became the ninth.)  Next to Normal tells the story of a suburban American family where the mother is struggling with bipolar disorder, and the effects of her disease on the rest of the family.  This is not something you want to listen to just for fun -- it's entertaining, but the story is very intense, and this show deserved every award that it got.  The original cast recording allows you to follow the whole story from beginning to end, and it's really worth paying attention.

Murder Ballad (2012):  Written by Juliana Nash and Julia Jordan, this is another Off-Broadway show with a cult following.  The title comes from the old ballads about murder and revenge that were so popular in 19th century America, and the story is about a love triangle gone wrong.  You have to be in the mood for this sort of thing, but if you are this show is very entertaining.

Come from Away (2017):  Not all modern musicals are depressing.  Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come from Away tells the true story of how 38 plane, carrying approximately 7,000 passengers, were diverted to an airport in Newfoundland due to the events of 9/11.  Come from Away has many qualities of those old shows from the 1970's where a mixed collection of characters are thrown together for an adventure, with some folks falling in love and others learning life lessons.  Small-town life doesn't always get friendly treatment on Broadway, but the presentation of life on Newfoundland is very moving.

Hadestown (off-Broadway in 2016, on Broadway in 2019):  Anais Mitchell originally wrote Hadestown as a concept album that retold the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a world that looks like America in the 1930's.  The album developed a following, and over time Mitchell kept polishing the songs and the arrangements until it eventually became a massive hit on Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical.  I cannot praise this show too highly -- it is a masterpiece about the relationship between humans and tragedy.  I like the Broadway version of the soundtrack, but my kids prefer the off-Broadway version.


  1. I should also mention "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," a rock musical that appeared Off-Broadway in 2010. Written by Michael Friedman for a book written by Alex Timbers, the show does a miraculous job of capturing the energy that drove our Seventh President.

  2. Replies
    1. I will be very surprised if you don't like "Come From Away."