After nearly five years of blogging, I’ve made a lot of really great blogging friends. Not all of them blog about music, but all of them have a unique perspective to share. Throughout the year, I’m inviting them to guest post on The Good Groupie and share music they’re passionate about. Today, meet my favorite party planner and greeting card maker, Chrystina Noel, who is sharing her love of musicals.
Growing up my parents didn’t listen to much music. As far as bands and pop stars go, the only people I knew existed before the age of seven were Whitney Houston and Peter, Paul & Mary. Instead, I grew up on musicals. When there was music playing it was usually the Andrew Lloyd Webber greatest hits CD; I grew up on songs from “Phantom of the Opera”, “Cats”, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Aspects of Love”. I fell in love with full orchestras, belting voices and songs that tell stories.
Not everybody’s eyes light up when they hear the word “musical”, sometimes they comes with the connotation of being corny, unbearably long or boring. Today I want to share with you five musicals that I think will help change your mind.
So you may find yourself wondering, why bother listening to musicals if you haven’t before? I’m glad you asked.
You may discover a new artist you really like. Some of my favorite musicians I listen to I discovered from musicals. I learned about Carrie Manolakos because she was Elphaba in Wicked, Jeremy Jordan from The Newsies and Megan Hilty from Smash.
It’s one of the few chances you get to hear people sing in chest voice. Most music today is sung in head voice instead of chest voice. Chest voice uses your full voice and has more power behind it. It really is cool what the human body is capable of.
You can fully appreciate Neil Patrick Harris’ 2013 Tony’s opening act. The talents that man has are incredible. I’m still trying to figure out how they pulled off that magic trick.
Musicals are becoming more main stream. You can see musical influence everywhere these days. Between Glee, Pitch Perfect, Smash, Frozen, NBC and all of the television sitcoms with a musical episode, it’s everywhere. Part of the fun of being a good groupie is finding out about these people before they make it big, and musical theater is great way to do that.
It’s really great to jam out to in the car. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more exciting to do in the car than act out the role of your favorite musical character. Yes, you might look like a weirdo, but I assure you that you’re having more fun than the person in the car next to you.
Did I mention there’s a full orchestra? A full orchestra makes everything more powerful, it brings out the full emotion of a song. And who doesn’t love a full string section?
There are places I wouldn’t recommend starting. “Hair” might be too out there for anybody just starting out. “Sweeney Todd’s” cannibalistic singing barber might be too much as well. “Anything Goes”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and Guys and Dolls” follow the traditional musical plot to a tee, which might be considered boring – and unless you love “Romeo and Juliet”, the star-crossed lovers “West Side Story” plot might seem too far-fetched.
These five musicals don’t necessarily follow the traditional musical road map, have some rocking music and tell great stories along the way. Please enjoy the playlist at the end of this post with some of my favorite songs from these and other Broadway musicals. All show descriptions are taken from Wikipedia.
Description: Rent is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Why it made the list: The characters are so real – they talk about love, loss, finding where you belong, feeling accepted, and accepting yourself. The original cast is incredible; this is where Idina Menzel got her start, among many brilliant others. If you see it live the band is on stage as part of the set, which definitely adds to the vibe. There are also drag queens, an exotic dancer, a protest where Maureen dresses like a cow, and they manage to use about a dozen inappropriate phrases in a satirical funeral scene. I’m always torn between whether I relate better to Mark, the photographer who realizes he’s missing out on life because he’s always hiding behind the camera or Mimi, the exotic dancer who sings “tonight I want to put on a tight skirt and flirt with a stranger.” There’s something for everyone.
Favorite songs: My two favorite songs are “Out Tonight”, the flirt-with-a-stranger song, and “What You Own”, a duet featuring an electric guitar between the two lead male characters when they both start to realize who they are and what they want in life.
Description: Spring Awakening is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. It is based on the German play Spring Awakening (1891) by Frank Wedekind. Set in late-19th century Germany, the musical tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of sexuality. In the musical, alternative rock is employed as part of the folk-infused rock score.
Why it made the list: This is one of the most rocking musicals I’ve seen on stage, it’s hard to sit still. Also, it’s still incredibly relevant even though it’s based on a play from 1891. The story gets a little heavy, but essentially it’s about teenagers learning about sexuality and growing up – and how one girls’ parents unwillingness to talk about the birds and bees leads to a devastating situation. The director put together an incredible original cast with epic voices including Lea Michele (Rachel in Glee), Jonathan Groff (Jesse in Glee, Kristoff in Frozen), and Skylar Astin (Jesse in Pitch Perfect). Also, yes, that’s right, this is what Duncan Sheik did after “Barely Breathing”; he wrote this musical.
Favorite songs: My favorite two songs to jam out to are “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally F*cked”, they’re perfect for those days that you’re just not feeling it.
The Little Mermaid
Description: The Little Mermaid is a stage musical produced by Disney Theatrical, based on the animated 1989 Disney film of the same name and the classic story of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen about a mermaid who dreams of the world above the sea and gives up her voice to find love.
Why it made the list: Who doesn’t love a good Disney movie? This recreation of one of the most loved Disney movies of all time includes additional awesome songs. Sierra Boggess plays Ariel and her voice is beautiful. Ursula’s songs are given much more of a jazz vibe in this rendition, there’ something about evil villain and jazz that just go together. Oh, and Flounder is an adorable 10-year-old boy on roller skates. Overall, it’s just a great rendition of an already wonderful show.
Favorite songs: “The World Above” and “Beyond My Wildest Dreams” are two additional Ariel solos that have so much more passion behind them than Part of Your World ever did. Another song is “If Only (Quartet)” sung by Ariel, Eric, Triton, and Sebastian; the way their voices blend together does it for me every time.
Phantom of the Opera
Description: The Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart with additions from Richard Stilgoe. Based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius.
Why it made the list: I know it sounds super traditional and opera-y, but this musical finds a way to blur the lines of good vs. evil throughout a fiery, forbidden lust between The Phantom and Christine. The stage production builds even more passion than the movie, but the movie is quite good as well. The organ adds the perfect ghostly overcast to an already incredible orchestra. This is the only musical I have purposely gone back to New York to see more than once, and I would absolutely go again.
Favorite songs: “The Point of No Return” is the peak of passion in this musical, which means it has to make the list. There will also always be a place in my heart for “All I Ask of You”, possibly because in eighth grade my friend Kristine and I sang it in a talent show – I was Raoul.
Description: Memphis is a musical by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s.
Why it made the list: This is arguably my favorite musical on the list (and of all-time). It tells an important story about how black music finally made its way into the white music stream in Memphis, Tennessee. And I’m just going to lay it out there, “colored folk sing like white people can’t” – a direct quote from “Change Don’t Come Easy.” And goodness gracious is it true; it’s jazzy, soulful, and full of rock and roll. It’s the perfect combination of struggle, passion, love and heartbreak.
Favorite songs: “Love Will Stand When All Else Falls” is a great soulful, jazzy, love song with heartfelt lyrics and one of my favorite to belt out in the car. Also, “Steal Your Rock and Roll” is one of the catchiest songs in the show and brings the talents of the whole cast together.
I also want to point out that there are also some musicals that are no brainers to listen to if you like certain types of music, for example “All Shook Up” for Elvis fans, “Mamma Mia” for Abba fans, “Movin’ Out” for Billy Joel fans and “Jersey Boys” for Frankie Valli fans.
Here’s a playlist featuring some of my favorite songs and other songs that I’ve learned to love along the way. Maybe you’ll find something you love.
What are some of your favorite musicals?
Leave a comment below or send them my way on Twitter.
Chrystina is a blogger, greeting card designer, and singer living in Philadelphia, PA. She blogs at Chrystina Noel and writes about greeting cards, hosting parties and staying in touch. She writes posts to inspire others to connect with people they love and to give party planning tips she has learned through her own mishaps. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.