If you're a musical theater buff, you probably already know these musicals. But, if your Broadway musical knowledge stops with Hamilton and Wicked, then this list is for you! Here is a very biased list of musicals, in no particular order that everyone should know.
1. In the Heights
If you like Hamilton, then you'll love In the Heights. Also written by Lin Manuel Miranda, with a book by Quiara Alegría, this Tony-award winning musical chronicles three days in the lives of various characters from the largely Hispanic-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.
2. Next to Normal
My absolute favorite musical, Next to Normal tells the story of a middle-class American mother who struggles with bipolar disorder, and the effects it has on her family. It won three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Score, and was also the recipient of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. With an emotional rock score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, this musical will tear you apart emotionally, while also giving you a glimmer of hope.
3. Merrily We Roll Along
Written in 1981 by the great Stephen Sondheim, this musical was considered a major flop, closing after only 16 performances to horrific reviews. In fact, Stephen Sondheim considering leaving musical theater writing after this production, and ended his partnership with Hal Prince for many years. While the original show was a bit problematic, the score is incredible and updated versions of the script have made great improvements. Shedding light on themes such as friendship, art, and growing older, this score will be relatable to nearly everyone.
4. Sunday in the Park With George
Another musical by Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park With George is based on French pointillist painter George Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Winner of the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this musical with a gorgeous score is a must-listen.
Yet another Stephen Sondheim musical, Gypsy is based on the true story of the creator of the striptease, Gypsy Rose Lee, and her crazy stage mother, "Mama Rose." This musical examines mother-daughter relationships and the death of Vaudeville and the struggles of its performers.
6. Little Women
Based on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women follows the lives of the four March sisters and their mother as their father is off at war. Interspersed throughout the musical are moments throughout Jo's writing career, as she presents her stories to newspapers and publishers. With a beautiful score by Mindi Dickstein and Jason Howland, you must listen to this marvelous adaptation of a classic work.
7. A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line is one of the most iconic musicals to date. Based on various taped workshop sessions with Broadway chorus dancers, A Chorus Line tells the story of 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for a spot on a chorus line, providing a glimpse into the lives of performers, and introducing each performer as a unique individual, rather than just another cookie-cutter chorus line member. Opening on Broadway in 1975, the production won 9 Tony Awards, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
8. Fun Home
Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home tells the true story of Alison Bechdel, her childhood, her coming of age as a lesbian, and her discovery of her closed gay father's sexuality and his subsequent suicide. It was the first musical with a lesbian protagonist. With music by Jeanine Tesori, and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, the musical won five Tony Awards, including best musical. Be sure to give the gorgeous and heartbreaking score a listen, you won't regret it.
9. Thoroughly Modern Millie
Also with music by Jeanine Tesori, Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 film of the same name, and chronicles the life of Millie Dillmount, a small-town girl who moves to New York City in 1922, to live the lifestyle of a "modern flapper" and marry for money rather than love. With high-energy tap numbers and comic mishaps, this fun musical is performed very often across the country, especially in high schools.
If you're a fan of Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman, or La La Land, then you'll love Dogfight, written by the same musical songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Based on the 1991 film of the same name, the musical only ran Off-Broadway in 2012. Set in 1967, the musical follows Rose, a shy waitress, who gets asked out by Eddie Birdlace, a marine, as a part of a cruel game he and his friends play, where the boy who brings the ugliest date wins the pot of money they each contributed to. With a gorgeous score, this musical is sure to tug at your heart strings.
All of these musicals have cast recordings that can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, or YouTube, and many also have filmed versions that can be found on various streaming sites. Or, better yet, find a live production at your school or in your community and go see it! These musicals are performed often, so you're bound to find a production playing near you sometime soon. Go out and support the arts in your school and community!