In an age of your Phantom’s and your Hamilton’s, people sometimes forget that there are millions of musicals out there that haven’t truly reached the pinnacle of the aforementioned…maybe because of their commercial appeal… well, it is exactly that. No matter how good a show is, if it doesn’t bring in the big bucks it won’t last, and that’s business, and it’s tough. So to steer away from all that doom and gloom, I’ve compiled a list of musicals scores that if you asked a person on the street would probably say they “didn’t know it was a thing,” and in a way that’s why I love it, because it’s ours and not there’s. For each show I’ve given my favourite songs just to give you an idea of how special they all are.
10. Ragtime and “Our Children”
I saw this musical last year and although it was not a full production (as one of the actors was taken ill so they performed a minimally-staged concert version) it was one of the most powerful theatre experiences I’ve ever had. This score is stunning, and this is my favourite song; the first time I heard it last year I was overcome with emotion, not because it’s an overly sad song, but just the melody is so beautiful.
9. Michael John La Chuisa’s The Wild Party and “People Like Us”
Earlier in 2017, this show was brought to the West End, and I didn’t know what to expect because Andrew Lippa’s version (which originally had it’s New York debut around the same time as La Chuisa’s) is considered the better version of the same story – and having not seen Lippa’s I can’t comment too much, but all I know is that this show is basically a masterpiece. It’s so powerfully different and the score carries the characters and plot in such a unique crazy way. I remember hearing “People Like Us” for the first time and getting so many chills. The production I saw featured a phenomenally dedicated cast including Frances Ruffelle, John Owen-Jones and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. A once-in-a-lifetime one!
8. Titanic the Musical and it’s Opening
Another musical I finally got to see last year and how stunning. I hadn’t been effected by a something in such a way before. I think coming out the same time as James Cameron’s film was not the best for it, but Maury Yeston is a genius – the whole score is tense, beautiful and fulfilling. The opening number showcases the phenomenal voices it takes to make this show a reality.
7. The Bridges of Madison County and “Falling into You”
The Last Five Years may be my favourite Jason Robert Brown score, but Bridges comes a very close second. It is perfect in every way, the melodies, the lyrics and Brown’s naturally ability to connect character with song. “Falling into You” closes the first act, and it’s just stunning. Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale’s voices here are majestic and pulse-racing.
6. The Toxic Avenger and “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore”
Arguably the funniest thing I have ever seen, Toxie is the gem of all gems. This show is so brilliant it’s unreal. The incredible score helps as well. David Bryan and Joe DiPietro have created a satire that pleases fans of the original material and musical theatre fans alike. This act one closer involves the actresses having to play two characters at the same time – once/if you see it, you’ll get it! It’s genius! As I write this, I’m about to go to the closing night of the show’s limited London run and it’s going to be incredible, high energy, laughs and powerhouse vocals, because it’s that kind of show and one that everyone needs in their lives!
5. The Lord of the Rings and “Now and For Always”
Ten years ago I saw my first West End show, The Lord of the Rings. The score of this show remains one of my favourites and has the best Orchestrations of any score. The show didn’t last long because not everything worked i.e. the book, but what was perfect was how each song sounded. My favourite song is “Now and For Always,” which captures the relationship of Frodo and Sam perfectly, doing justice to the material, with some to-die-for harmonies along the way.
4. Bonnie & Clyde and “You Love Who You Love”
Oh, Frank. Frank Wildhorn is my favourite composer because I like to think he writes for singers. And that’s what I love. There is always opportunity to show off your vocal ability (and stability) with a Wildhorn song. Broadway flop (I know, what?!) Bonnie & Clyde is my favourite of Frank’s shows because it represents the human condition in a powerful way and the score is perfect. “You Love Who You Love” is a contender for my favourite song in Frank’s repertoire; the multi-dimensional lyrics and the vocals here of Laura Osnes and Melissa van der Schyff kill me every time.
3. The Girls and “Scarborough”
I will forever go on about how much I love and miss this show; in my top 5 now for sure. One of the most special, perfect pieces of theatre ever written; it didn’t have a long commercial run in the West End, but don’t let that dishearten you of the quality of this emotional true story with a lot of laughs along the way. What writer Tim Firth managed to do so effortlessly is capture the real, and that is why I will never forget this show – a true one-off. “Scarborough” introduces us to Annie and her struggle in her current life, the lyrics are simply stunning and Joanna Riding’s heart-breaking portrayal breaks me every time.
2. Jekyll & Hyde and “In His Eyes”
Again, another Wildhorn show, this musical actually ran on Broadway for a while, until a lot of terrible star casting dragged it under. Overall, my favourite complete score of any musical, and my favourite music altogether, the concept album of this show in particular is the best thing my ears have ever heard! “In His Eyes” is THE female duet power ballad, and I’m the biggest sucker for it. Carole Carmello and Linda Eder (the latter, my favourite voice of all-time) are perfection on this record.
1. Shrek the Musical and “Who I’d Be”
Ah, this show. Next to Wicked, my favourite musical – it changes between the two honestly! So underrated. The Broadway version, starring Brian d’Arcy James and Sutton Foster is everything – and what can I say, I love singing green people! But not only that, the story is perfect and relatable. To be alienated against, to not think you’re good enough but to remain strong and go for what you love. The incredible “Who I’d Be” which closes act one, encompasses the whole relevance of the show in 4 minutes – nothing can quite compete with it in my eyes.