So, you loved Hamilton! Hooray! Maybe you’re familiar with the classics – Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom – or maybe not. Maybe musicals are still new to you. Well, as a seasoned musical theater enthusiast, welcome to the club! I’m here to tell you two things:
- You should definitely watch the Tony Awards tonight. (How else will you fall in love with new shows?)
- You should play Bingo. And look, I made a card just for you!
- Musical theater is wonderful and diverse and we’re happy to have you in the family.
So, if you’re trying to figure out what to make of all the new musicals and revivals on the block, look no further! I’ll give you a rundown of “If you liked Hamilton because of XYZ, you might like [insert show]” for the new musical nominees this year, as well as a few performances to look out for, and my predictions and favorites.
So, with that, let’s get started!
If you loved Hamilton because you love fantastic ensemble performances, a bit of girl power, and a focus on US history, you might love…
Come From Away
The basics: Billed as the “9/12” musical, this show follows the residents of Gander, Newfoundland in the aftermath of 9/11, when 7000 travelers were stranded in their small town. This charming musical weaves together the stories of the residents and the “come from aways” who were stranded there. Really, this story is a testament to human compassion.
Musical style: Ensemble-heavy numbers with a strong folk music influence
Performances to watch: Jenn Colella is captivating as Captain Beverly Bass, the first female captain for a commercial airline in the US. Her song, “Me and the Sky”, follows her optimistic attitude and how it changed after 9/11.
Katarina’s feelings: What can I say, I love this show. The energy leaps out even from the cast recording, and I love any show that doesn’t rely too heavily on a specific actor being able to carry it off. While the show verges on sentimentality, it toes the line well. 9/11 is a sensitive topic, and it’s been done really poorly before. I felt good listening to this soundtrack, which is mostly about the triumph of human spirit and our ability to come together in times of need. Also, I went from listening to sobbing with one line. Props if you can guess which.
Will it win?: Maybe. It’s 50/50 between this and Dear Evan Hansen, but Jenn Coella stands a pretty good chance of taking home a Tony.
If you loved Hamilton because you loved energetic group numbers and stellar lead performances, you might love…
The basics: This musical is a straight-forward adaptation of the Groundhog Day movie with music by Tim Minchin (of Matilda, to the musical theater world). It follows Phil as he is stuck day after day on Groundhog Day, exploring what it means to use our time well.
Musical style: Typical Broadway style, large group numbers and a lot of energy
Performances to watch: Andy Karl as Phil. He literally tore his A.C.L. in this role, and originated the role in London as well. He’s perfect for the part.
Katarina’s feelings: Eh. I have to admit, I hate this movie. I think it’s because Bill Murray is creepy as hell. Andy Karl is cuter, and Barrett Doss is fantastic. I don’t doubt this is a fun night at the theater, but it feels done to me. Nothing new, nothing particularly innovative. I do like “If I Had My Time Again”.
Will it win?: No. It doesn’t stand a chance against the other musicals, though Andy Karl is the only competition for Ben Platt. But even so, Ben Platt is on another level, so it would be a major upset if he won.
If you loved Hamilton because you loved the mix of music styles, actors to fall in love with, and racial diversity, you might love…
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
The basics: An opera based on about 70 pages of War and Peace. I know, a pretty specific topic to cover. Great Comet stars Josh Groban (yes, your mom’s favorite performer), and it has a truly wide variety of musical themes as it tackles Natasha’s love story and Pierre’s search for truth. The musical is staged as in a Russian club, with lots of audience participation and interaction.
Musical style: All of it? The show’s opening number “Prologue” is perhaps the most musical-theatery, but some of the songs were written specifically for these voices, including “Dust and Ashes” and “Sonya Alone”. “No One Else” is sweet and will be an audition song for years to come.
Performances to watch: Lucas Steele as Anatole, the rake who seduces the innocent Natasha (Denée Benton, who is also fantastic). He plays the violin and oozes sex. As the prologue states, “Anatole is hot” and it’s certainly true.
Katarina’s feelings: The music is fantastic. So many styles, and such wonderful performances. However, maybe due to the immensity of having to tackle even a little bit of War and Peace, it doesn’t pack the emotional punch I wish it did. I’ve been dancing to the soundtrack and daydreaming of being sung to by Pierre and Anatole all month, though. This show experiments the most out of any of the nominees, breaking down a lot of your preconceptions of musicals.
Will it win?: Probably not, sadly. I love this musical, but it’s not quite cohesive enough to win the big prize. However, you will probably see it picking up some other awards (set design, maybe orchestrations, hopefully costumes (THE COATS)). Lucas Steele SHOULD win best featured actor, but probably won’t. Denée Benton is wonderful, but Better Midler has this in the bag.
If you loved Hamilton because you loved crying and relatable characters, you might love…
Dear Evan Hansen
The basics: If you heard of one musical this year, it’s definitely this one. Dear Evan Hansen chronicles the story of one lonely, anxiety-ridden high schooler (Evan Hansen, played brilliantly by Ben Platt) as he accidentally inserts himself into another family’s tragedy. It mixes social media with a tiny cast a huge story about finding somewhere you belong. It’s heartbreaking and heavy and important.
Musical style: Pop. Written by Pasek and Paul of La La Land, the musical isn’t particularly innovative with its styling (don’t kill me, Fansens, but we’ve heard the orchestrations from “Waving Through a Window” before). However, each song is absolutely packed with emotion and the performances are phenomenal.
Performances to watch: Ben Platt as Evan Hansen has got Best Actor all locked up. He sweats, stutters, cries, and spits through his astounding performance. Platt is Evan Hansen, and even had to start physical therapy so he didn’t take on the slouch of the character. Rachel Bay Jones, as Evan’s mother, is also incredible. Her number brings me to tears every time, and I was surprised to realize I related more with the parents than the teens.
Katarina’s feelings: Without a doubt, this is the hit of the year. And I love it. I do wonder what the show will be like without resting on the shoulders of these powerhouse performers. Even the slightly wrong move and it comes off as trite and overdramatic. I have to admit, the fandom scares me a little (really, we’re pairing Evan and his imagining of a guy who was abusive to his sister)? The show asks a lot of important questions about the lies we tell ourselves and how we make real connections. I would love to see it.
Will it win? It’s likely! Ben Platt will certainly win, and Rachel Bay Jones stands a chance. Either way, it has won at the box office for sure, and is “THE musical” of the year.
This was a really good year for musical theater. I’ll miss some performances, particularly Anastasia, but the nominees make sense to me. Hello Dolly will clean up as far as revivals are concerned, and Bette Midler proves she is once again a star.
The thing that was missing for me this year was diversity. It will take a few seasons for the impact of Hamilton to hit new shows, particularly in the casting department. However, it became abundantly clear how much I missed seeing different people on the stage and hearing different stories. Even, for me, to the point where I completely dismissed shows with all white casts, such as Bandstand, which tried to justify its lack of diversity by yelling “It’s about veterans!” as if POC were not veterans, while using styles of music made popular by African Americans. Laura Osnes is charming, but that’s a big nope from me. It’s 2017, let’s embrace all the stories we could tell.
I’m interested in War Paint because Patti LuPone. Also, I love the idea of staging rivals who never met. There were a lot of shows this season, and as usual, I wish I lived close enough to see them all. Oh well, I’ll have to settle for playing Bingo, eating snacks, and staying up all night to watch!