The Ten Best Musicals For People Who Hate Musicals

It’s Tony season, and quite frankly none of my friends give a damn.

In their defence, Australia makes it tough to celebrate this camp time of year. From the fact that when people down under use the phrase ‘Tony’s’ it is usually to refer to a group of middle aged men who are all probably in upper-management positions, to the Australian tale as old as time ‘this content is not available in your area’, the Tony Awards do not tickle the fancy of the masses here.

Personally, I am a longstanding musical theatre buff whose love of storytelling and music was perfectly enraptured by musicals at a young age after watching Grease for the first time. I have withstood the sneers and questions as to why I would enjoy a perfectly good movie being interrupted with cheesy songs, yet I continue to feed this unquenchable thirst for more and more show tunes.

So hence, a love of Tony’s season.

But as a young adult living in Queensland, I can’t say many share my passion. I do of course have friends who enjoy watching the classics, or will venture out of the clubs to the latest musical if it appears to be trending. But I cannot say that I have any friends like myself that will move mountains and save their pennies to attend every musical that may grace the local theatre. My partner in crime at most musicals is my mother who, before my dancing days, was only acquainted with The Sound of Music and of course Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. I also have a partner who, not by choice, has been introduced to most shows through a radical exposure technique I call ‘locked in the car on a two hour road trip with no escape from my personal renditions of Broadway from the beginning of time to now’. And in a Stockholm Syndrome style coup, he too is coming around to enjoying the art of the musical, even going as far as listening to a few of his favourites when I am not around.

So if you too are suffering with a group of musical theatre novices and are looking to lead them down the yellow brick road of musical enlightenment for the better, here are some musical suggestions to start the toes tapping of even your most indignant and theatre loathing friends; because we all know forcing someone who hates musicals to watch The Phantom of the Opera several times over isn’t going to spark any life long love of the theatre.

10. Shrek The Musical

Let’s start this obviously bias list off with an absolute doozy – SHREK. THE. MUSICAL. I wish I could leave my explanation at just that, but I know you have a lot of questions, as did I when I first read those three confusing words.

Shrek The Musical it literally an on stage adaption of the very well loved 2001 Dreamworks animation about everyone’s favourite ogre, Shrek. Though the musical does not include any renditions of ‘All Star’ or ‘Hallelujah’, it does treat the audience to a musical finale of ‘I’m A Believer’. The production tells in a musical way the original story of Shrek and Donkey on their quest to save Princess Fiona from the Dragon, for Lord Farquard. Though it can be somewhat unnerving to see Shrek as a live-action being, the comedy and genius of the movie is brought to life again in this production.

Why Will They Like It?
Musical haters will love the retelling of an already well-known concept with great comedic writing and timing. The musical also treats the audience to some true to Shrek character singing, as well as some new origin stories on a number of characters, especially Lord Farquad and how he came to have such a … short reign.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Freak Flag” – Gingy, Mama Bear, Pinocchio, Three Pigs, Humpty Dumpty, Papa Bear, Elf, Wicked Witch, Mad Hatter, Big Bad Wolf, Fairytale Creatures
    Freak Flag is one of the final songs of the musical, bringing together all of the magical creatures led by Gingy, in a dizzying array of colour and creativity that keeps you captivated as you listen to each character’s hope for change.
  • “What’s Up, Duloc?” – Lord Farquad, Duloc Performers
    The number starts with the familiar What’s Up, Duloc jingle from the movie and moves quickly into a short tune from Lord Farquad all about himself…and Duloc!

9. Hadestown

Hadestown is the newest musical on this list, coming off the back of winning 8 Tony’s at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Those familiar with a bit of Ancient Greek Mythology, will recognise the tragic love story of Orpheus and Eurydice; where Orpheus embarks on a quest to the underworld to win back the love of his life, Eurydice, from Hades. The musical tells the ancient tale through funky American folk style tunes, and an incredibly technical lighting system that really takes you down to Hadestown.

Why Will They Like It?
The Hadestown soundtrack is unlike most in the theatre genre; taking instead a ‘folk-opera’ approach to story telling, similar to that of the rhythm and blues genre which swept through America in the 1940’s. The musical is self-aware, often breaking the fourth-wall thanks to the narrator Hermes, and offers to take you on a journey through a mythical story that is over 2000 years old, and is so familiar that it has stood the test of time.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Living It Up On Top” – Persephone, Orpheus, Hermes, Company
    This upbeat tune embodies the soul of the musical to stay positive even when things aren’t going quite right. It makes the audience think of the good times, and invites them to enjoy themselves, and this musical, right from the get go.
  • “Road to Hell I” – Hermes, Company
    This song introduces the characters and gives the audience a brief understanding of the Greek Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It is enough to peak your interest of the story, making you ask what happens next.

8. Wicked

No, please hear me out! I fully understand that Wicked is already walking that fine line of overplayed, cheese-town, show tune, and ‘I didn’t like the Wizard of Oz so why would I like the sequel’? But like Les Mis, it became a fan favourite for a reason. Based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, it is in itself a retelling of the classic story of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Told from the perspective of the witches, Glenda The Good, and Elphaba The Wicked Witch of the West, this musical follows them through college and tells their origin stories in a brand new, and highly relatable, way.

Why Will They Like It?
Despite being set in the fantasy land of Oz, Wicked’s relatable themes of good vs evil, guilt and blame, family, and identity struggles, modernise this well known tale, making it relatable to people of all ages. You think you know the ending, but this musical flips what you know on its head, keeping you guessing what will happen the whole way through.

Songs To Get You In

  • “What is this Feeling? – Glinda, Elphaba, Ensemble
    Most of us are familiar with the belting ballads of Wicked and Glinda’s nasally rendition of the ever popular, Popular, so this is cheeky number about absolutely hating that really annoying co-worker/colleague/acquaintance is a great place to rediscover Wicked.
  • “Defying Gravity” – Elphaba, Glinda, Company
    I don’t care how much you’ve heard it, go listen to it again as it is a modern master class in not only song writing, but also ‘classical’ singing.

7. Six

Musical retellings of historical figures is so hot right now. The British musical Six is a modern history lesson on the lives Henry VIII’s six wives. The music is in the style of all of your favourite pop icons, and the musical is portrayed as an American Idol style singing/sob story competition to see which wife had the worst time with Henry.

Why Will They Like It?
If the songs from Six were put on shuffle within your favourite female pop playlist, you would not realise a show tune was playing until you started asking whether or not it was Katy Perry or Jessie J who dated this highly talked about Henry. Kick-ass track after kick-ass track, these six girls’ voices absolutely slay the theatre.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Don’t Lose Ur Head” – Anne Boleyn
    Telling the story of Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn who he executed via beheading (get it!), this song gives the boring historical figure a modern, feminist recount.
  • “Ex-Wives” – Company
    A great CliffNotes summary of King Henry and his wives, but more memorable as it sounds like an Ariana Grande song.

6. American Idiot

Hey, like the Green Day album? Yes! Exactly the Green Day album. This musical is a sung-through rock-opera based on the 2004 concept album of the same name by the punk rock band. The musical expands the story sung through the album of three disaffected young men, Johnny, Will and Tunny. Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays at home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend – relatable af.

Why Will They Like It?
This musical boasts all the best Green Day songs from their albums American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown that you, and your dad, are already familiar with. The songs get a musical twist, whilst keeping to their classic rock roots to tell a heart-wrenching story of the struggles of growing up.

Songs To Get You In

  • “American Idiot” – Company
    Sit back and enjoy this rendition of American Idiot, the opening to the musical, because I’ve never met someone who didn’t rock out to this tune. It will make you question whether or not they really did let Green Day into Rockerfeller Plaza.
  • “21 Guns” – Whatsername, Extraordinary Girl, Heather, Tunny, Johnny, Will, & Company
    This song gets completely reworked with a female soloist at the lead, giving the song a new depth and more emotional telling of the story it portrays.

5. Avenue Q

Avenue Q is the sole link between Gary Coleman, swearing Sesame Street puppets, and Broadway. As the 24th longest running musical of all time, this outrageously funny show tackles some of the trickier subjects in life such as racism, pornography, purpose, and what people can do with a mere B.A. in English. Consisting of several human characters and number of puppets, Avenue Q is able to breakdown the audiences’ own awkward barriers, to share confronting stories that we are all able to relate to and laugh at.

Why Will They Like It?
The shows success rides of its simple story telling of difficult subjects, not unlike Sesame Street, but in a bizarrely rude and comical way – especially when remembering that most of these songs are sung by fluffy, but far from innocent, puppets.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” – Princeton, Kate, Gary, Brian, Christmas Eve
    Despite the fact they are mostly talking about different races of puppet, this song will make you stop and say, ‘well aint that the truth’, in between stifling giggles at clearly inappropriate jokes of course.
  • “It Sucks to Be Me” – Brian, Kate, Rod, Nicky, Christmas Eve, Gary Coleman, Princeton
    This song speaks to all of us who have recently had to face life and grow up overnight into adults, it makes you feel heard and that it probably doesn’t suck as much as you think, knowing everyone else is in the same boat.

4. Mean Girls The Musical

Never have I ever met a person who didn’t like the movie Mean Girls, and with Tina Fay returning to write the musical’s book, I doubt I’ll meet anyone who doesn’t like the musical either. With the movie already having all the makings to be a musical, Mean Girls The Musical brings back all of our favourite Queen Bees and Wannabes in fantastic naughties fashion. The songs ooze personality, teen angst, and include all of our favourite quips and quotes from the movie. Honestly, the only way to describe this musical about the highs and lows of teenage life is – so fetch!

Why Will They Like It?
With an already familiar concept and story, the musical takes this teenage tale to new heights by giving a number of the characters the ability to speak their mind during a number points in the movie that they remain silent.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Apex Predator” – Janis, Cady, Gretchen, Karen
    This song takes the literal comparison of teenager behaviours being similar to that of wild animals to a more drastic level. It gives Janis’ explanation of the Plastics much more gravity and style than the movie ever did.
  • “I’d Rather Be Me” – Janis, Ensemble
    Straight from Janis’ famous rant about how crappy her friends have been to her in front of the entire school, this song is an anthem for anyone who has ever felt left out and gives the finger to all the ‘Mean Girls’ of the world.

3. The Lion King

If the sweet nostalgia of this Disney classic doesn’t reel you in, the amazingly crafted puppets and props to portray all of the animals of the savannah will. The stage adaption of The Lion King, famously based on Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, brings you all of the classic songs by Elton John and Tim Rice from the original 1994 movie, peppering in a few new show stoppers to keep things interesting.

Why Will They Like It?
The Lion King Musical has a rule that at least six of the cast members must be South African performers, and seeing The Circle Of Life performed by these actors in a native language, sends a shiver up even the most non-musical human’s spine, creating a magic moment that only a live production can truly inspire.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Shadowland” – Heather Headley, The Lion King Ensemble and Tsidii Le Loka
    As one of the new songs added to the musical to increase the number of songs performed by a female cast member, this track brings the pride lands to the stage with some rhythmical chanting and some poignantly performed notes.
  • “Circle of Life” – Faca Kulu, Lebo M, The Lion King Ensemble and Tsidii Le Loka
    It’s the O.G. Lion King song that stirs hearts and hits you hard with nostalgia; but its bigger, better, and bolder with the entire Lion King Ensemble joining in to heighten its grandeur.

2. The Book of Mormon

The boys behind South Park thought it would be a good idea to make light of various Mormon beliefs and practices, and it was. Not only did this musical gain a cult following and overwhelmingly positive reviews, it also picked up nine Tony Awards including for Best Musical. Following two Mormon missionaries who are given the unfortunate job of preaching their faith to a poor Ugandan village filled with crime and violence, this musical takes some big hits at the flaws within the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as a number of crude songs that remind you that, yes, some people really DO be like that. But honestly, parody aside, this production does nothing but certify the power of love and positivity, whether you are left cringing in your seat or peeing yourself laughing.

Why Will They Like It?
The Book Of Mormon truly is a new musical, pushing the boundaries of what you can and can’t do. It’s a musical that can be enjoyed by musical lovers and rookies alike, with all of the songs being parodies of already famous show tunes such as Wicked’s ‘The Wizard and I’, ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ from The Little Shop of Horrors, and ‘One’ from A Chorus Line, and a tasteful number of South Park and pop culture references.

Songs To Get You In

  • “Hasa Diga Eebowai” – Mafala, Price, Cunningham, and Ugandans
    A parody of the Lion King’s Hakuna Matata, this song makes you quickly realise that this show isn’t fluffing around when it comes to religion and poverty.
  • “Hello” – Mormons
    This song embodies how Mormons are viewed by most people around the world, giving you flashbacks to the last time you had someone actually knock on your door and not just text you that they were ‘here’.
Please enjoy this 2012 Tony Award performance of Hello.

1. Hamilton

This musical has not only changed how musicals are made, but how they are viewed. This production by the God that is Lin Manuel Miranda, tells the story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, through hip hop and rap music, taking the world by absolute storm. Everybody who is anybody has seen this musical. It has seen constantly sold out performances from Broadway to West End, across the US and even in Puerto Rico. It has made Lin Manuel Miranda a household name. It has given me a reason to live, quite honestly. This musical has been a gift to the world of theatre, reigniting people’s passion for live productions and rewriting what makes a musical.

Why Will They Like It?
The remarkable rap rhymes and rhythms give a nod to a number of modern performers like Beyoncé, whilst explaining in incredible detail who Alexander Hamilton was, and how America came to be independent. It makes what seems like a boring history lesson, a production that people can’t stop talking about.

Songs To Get You In

  • “My Shot” – Hamilton, Laurens, Lafayette, Mulligan, Burr, and Company
    Writer and original cast member Lin Manuel Miranda explains this song as completely capturing the entire musical into just a few minutes, claiming that it took him over a year to complete the piece. It is empowering, talented, and is not a song you would have guessed would be the face of the biggest musical of the 21st century.
  • “Alexander Hamilton” – Burr, Laurens, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Eliza, Washington, and Company
    The opening song to the musical gives a summary of Hamilton’s struggles and life up until moving to New York in 1772. It instantly sets the tone, displays the talent of the cast, and makes you want to know who the hell was Hamilton.

Please enjoy Lin Manuel Miranda personally serenading President Obama at the White House just after this idea was originally conceived:

Well, that’s all folks. May your days be blessed with your own theme song and a number of show tunes.

– Courtie