I’m the youngest member in a family of Broadway junkies. Every year, we go to New York City solely to see every show that can be crammed into a week. Some of my favorite memories involve my family and I waiting outside stage doors on 20º nights, numbly gripping Sharpies and hiding our playbills in our coats so they don’t get wet with snow before being signed by the actors. We sing showtunes everywhere we go (even my dad knows all the words), text each other about new shows in the works and what actors will be in them, and just completed a 1000 piece puzzle of Broadway Playbills.
That’s why I was a bit exasperated when a friend told me the only musicals she listened to were Wicked, Hamilton, and The Lion King. Don’t get me wrong—those are all excellent shows, but what so many people seem to miss is that these amazing shows are not rare occurrences. Most musicals aren’t songs-for-no-reason, 1950-sounding snoozefests your grandma makes you watch recordings of on VCR. There are hundreds of thrilling, relatable, well-written shows that just never got the recognition needed to go viral.
Here are 10 musicals of varying popularity whose soundtracks will have you dancing around your room and singing on public transportation.
1. The Book Of Mormon
A hilarious story about two young men—one the perfect Mormon who’s never failed at anything, and the other an awkward geek with a lying problem and a goal to finally make someone proud of him—on their first mission together, to Uganda, where disease is rampant and the locals curse out God with a smile.
Best Songs: Literally all of them, but my favorites are "Man Up", "I Believe", "You and Me (But Mostly Me)", "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", "Hello"
2. Bright Star
A beautiful, toe-tapping bluegrass musical about the stories we tell, and the ones we don’t. The music has a lot of soul, and the story is both heart-breaking and heart-warming.
Best Songs: "If You Knew My Story", "Bright Star", "Sun Is Gonna Shine Again", "I Had A Vision, Please Don’t Take Him"
Taking place during the newsboy strike of 1899, this Disney story (much better than the movie version, in my opinion) follows strong, lovable characters as they fight for their rights and the rights of their friends, and dream of a better life.
Best Songs: "The World Will Know", "Seize The Day", "Once And For All", "King of New York", "Santa Fe"
4. Next To Normal
A musical that makes you feel every emotion at once, N2N revolves around a family struggling to live each day and come to terms with their past, particularly wife and mother Diana, who struggles with bipolar depression brought on by the loss of her son. Despite the obvious tear-jerking qualities, the show is not without humor, and the music is chilling.
Best Songs: "Superboy And The Invisible Girl", "I’m Alive", "I Miss The Mountains", "I’ve Been", "I Am The One"
5. Big Fish
A musical that will give you chills right from the opening measures, Big Fish is about family and a search for the truth, told through magical flashbacks (or tall tales) about circuses, mermaids, witches, and heroic deeds.
Best Songs: "Fight The Dragons", "Prologue + Be The Hero", "What’s Next", "How It Ends", "The River Between Us" (which was cut from the show, but is amazing)
6. Side Show
This show will stick with you for the music and originality alone. It follows conjoined twins Violet and Daisy as they’re forced through the cruel world of show business, dreaming of one day falling in love, and learning that no matter what happens, they will always have each other.
Best Songs: "Come Look At The Freaks", "I Will Never Leave You", "Who Will Love Me As I Am", "Finale"
7. Shrek: The Musical
I was never a fan of the movie Shrek, but the musical made me fall in love—the score fills this modern fairytale with love and hope, and turns a funny and relatable story into something truly magical.
Best Songs: "Who I’d Be", "Big Bright Beautiful World", "I Know It’s Today", "The Ballad Of Farquaad", "Build A Wall"
8. Finding Neverland
The beautiful story of how writer J.M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan, with the help of a loving woman and her four sons, all of whom know the importance of never growing up.
Best Songs: "Stronger", "Circus Of Your Mind", "All That Matters", "Finding Neverland", "All Of London Is Here Tonight"
9. Bonnie And Clyde
Like the notorious couple themselves, this show did not live very long, but with music like this—both gritty and melodic—it definitely deserved to.
Best Songs: "Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad", "This World Will Remember Us", "Raise A Little Hell (reprise)", "Picture Show", "You Love Who You Love"
10. Reefer Madness
Reefer Madness is a comical parody of the public fear of marijuana rampant in the 1930s, as high school sweethearts Jimmy and Mary Lane learn about the danger of weed (which evidently leads to rape, murder, and the loss of everyone you love).
Best Songs: "Reefer Madness", "Listen To Jesus Jimmy", "Romeo And Juliet", "The Brownie Song", "The Stuff (Reprise)"