New York City is known for being the home of Broadway theatre. New York has 41 professional theaters located in the Theater District in Midtown Manhattan. I have turned to performing arts and musical soundtracks for as long as I can remember to help me clear my head and escape from societal issues. While the common person thinks musicals are too long, too weird, and "too gay" for them the theatre world is where I've felt most at home all my life.
My most recent musical obsession has been this London originated musical about the six ex-wives of King Henry VIII and their not-so-love stories. The show was introduced to me in December 2018 (thank you, Brandon), and had its American stage debut in May 2019 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Directors Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow were inspired by women in the music industry and channeled famous female singers into each of the queen's personalities. The musical is an all female cast and uses colorblind casting (which means women of any ethnic background can play any of the queens). Orchestra members are also an all female cast and represent the ladies in waiting and mistresses of Henry VIII. All the queens make multiple references to modern day things, such as profile pictures, and slang words while also taking stabs at female empowerment - which we LOVE! The show runs for 80 straight minutes with no intermission (that's equivalent to a halftime for you non-thespians), and is more of a concert with a script, compared to a typical musical. SIX is heading to Broadway in 2020, starting previews in February, and having its debut opening is on March 12. Having seen the show in its American debut over the summer makes this show extra special to me, and represents women and their truest, most beautiful form.
5. Kinky BootsGiphy
The 2013 winner of Best Musical influenced so much of my life. I had heard songs here and there from the show at different choir events throughout high school, but didn't religiously listen to the album until my junior year of high school when I found out the touring company would be coming to my local theater the following year. The week leading up to the show in my town, we had insanely low temperatures causing everything in the city to be shut down. I was more than okay with that because that left me way more time to dive into the story and fall in love with the entire cast. Kinky Boots is the story of Lola the drag queen stumbling upon a man named Charlie who has recently inherited a shoe factory. Lola gets him to change up production in Price and Son's shoe factory into a drag queen heel company. Kinky Boots is all about acceptance of everyone, no matter what their lifestyle entails. Seeing the show live not only touched my heart, but it changed how I view everyone, making me want everyone to feel as much love as possible, no matter sexual orientation, race, or religion. I was fully emerged in the story and didn't want it to end.
The story of the Wicked Witch of the West gets her chance to tell the world about her life before Dorothy. Wicked is Broadway's sixth-longest running show, and the second-highest grossing musical. The musical shows us how The Wicked Witch of the West (by the way, she has a name. It's Elphaba.) became green, met Glinda, and became wicked. The Original Broadway Cast Recording is filled with notable stars. A few being Idina Menzel, Elphaba, who might be more known by this generation as Elsa from Frozen. Kristin Chenoweth, Glinda, has also turned to the Disney World, as Maleficent in Descendants. Chenoweth was also in Hairspray Live! on NBC. Wicked was my first exposure to the theatre world (thanks to my mom and sisters for getting the CD) and helped me steer myself to what I wanted to spend the last 11 years of my life doing.
3. Dear Evan HansenGiphy
The story of an anxious high school senior named Evan Hansen is one of those musicals that leaves you feeling every emotion possible. There is a character for every personality I can think of, and each of the teenage characters are fighting their own battles that one doesn't normally think about. This show makes me want to go out and be everyone's friend no matter how they act or behave because everyone needs someone. No one deserves to be forgotten or feel alone. The most notable song in the show is the Act 1 finale 'You Will Be Found' - as it has been used over many different platforms (So You Think You Can Dance, America's Got Talent, YouTube). No show has ever made me want to spread the message of "you are not alone, you will be found" to as many people as I possibly can like Dear Evan Hansen. The 2016 Tony Winner for Best Musical was the first to touch on teen suicide and talk about how things like this do happen in society and to everyone around us.
2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Quasimodo, played by Aaron Hawley and Esmeralda, played by yours truly
Yes, all of the musicals thus far I've written about have all had their time on The Great White Way, however, The Hunchback of Notre Dame never left the Off-Broadway world. This article is all about the shows that have had an impact on me, and I was in this show over the summer of 2018 and it changed my life. I auditioned for this show just hoping to be cast in any role because I didn't want to spend my summer alone in my room. The cast list came out and I had been cast as the female lead, Esmeralda. The plot of the show revolves around the Hunchback who lives in the Notre Dame Cathedral, who just wants to spend one day out in the city around other people who aren't his protector, Claude Frollo. When he sneaks out of the Church, the gypsy Esmeralda saves him from being attacked for being such an ugly deformed thing. Quasimodo wants Esmeralda to love him, but she falls for the Captain of the Guard Phoebus. The musical has a different ending than the Disney movie, as it follows the Victor Hugo novel. This show gave me a voice I wasn't getting a chance to use in my high school, and introduced me to three of the biggest blessings in my life. My three best friends who showed me what friends were after feeling alone for so long. My best friend Thom Greving played my love interest in the show (the captain), and I grew so much as an actress thanks to him. My best friend Erica Ashley was the mother of Quasimodo and in the ensemble, and gave me someone to be crazy with at all hours of the day. Lastly, this show gave me my best friend and boyfriend Quasimodo - yes, the Hunchback ended up with the gypsy girl, but not the characters.. our regular selves fell in love.
The 1992 Disney movie with music brought to life by Alan Menken turned Broadway musical in 2012 has played the most influential role in my life I'd say for obvious reasons. The show is centered around the Newsboys during their strike of 1899 against the newspaper companies for raising newspaper prices, forcing the newsies to have to sell twice as many papers to make the same amount of money. The only person who gives them a light in the public eye is Katherine Plumber, an aspiring writer who will do anything to get her moment to be a credible journalist, but it being the 1899, women were not given a chance to prove themselves. Katherine is the reason this show is the most influential to me, because I want nothing more than to be a credible journalist. I am in college as a Journalism News major and thanks to music like Menken's 'Watch What Happens' inspiring me to write what I know.