Hi guys! I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a very real musical phase in high school where at times the majority of what I listened to was musical soundtracks. Maybe that’s because I was in the pit orchestra and always around them or because I was a huge band geek in general. Even if you didn’t listen to them growing up, I think there’s a lot to love with musical soundtracks. The music very much reflects the story that the musical is telling and is intertwined with that story. For that reason, musicals are a great way to explore different genres and styles of music. I think there are many ways to enjoy music with other art mediums and musicals are a great way to do so. To get you started here are a few of my favorite musicals chosen mostly because they have my favorite soundtracks but obviously there are a lot of other great ones out there.
1. The Book of Mormon
If you have a truly sick sense of humor and a love for jazz music, this is the musical for you. It tells the story of two Mormon missionaries who go to Uganda to share the word of God which doesn’t turn out to be as easy as expected. If it tells you anything about how twisted this musical is, it was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Robert Lopez. I grew up in a religious family, so I find the religious themes of this musical extra funny. Some of the things that the music of The Book of Mormon excels in are reaching great climaxes (very high energy, exciting moments) and combining elements of different songs into individual phrases in a beautiful way.
2. In the Heights
In the Heights, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the story of the Latin-American population in Washington Heights. Through the music, In the Heights depicts the very real struggles that immigrants go through when coming to the United States in a very emotive way. The music has a consistently Latin style but varies between moods and tempos. The musical is mostly in English but does have a fair bit of Spanish mixed in. If you want a high energy and very emotional musical, In the Heights is the musical for you.
3. La La Land
I hate myself a little bit for including this one since it isn’t the best depiction of jazz culture, but I really do love La La Land for its soundtrack. La La Land tells the story of an actress and a jazz musician who fall in love whilst navigating the challenges of having a creative career in Los Angeles. The music is primarily jazz based and has very warm, romantic tones to mirror their love story. A fair bit of the music is quite sad as well as the story depicts a realistic modern romance. I’d also like to note how beautiful the cinematography is in this movie especially with the use of color. This musical doesn’t have the talent of Broadway singers but regardless, it has a wonderful and fun soundtrack.
4. Heathers: The Musical
Heathers: The Musical is based on the 1980’s cult classic film, Heathers, which tells the story of emotion in teenagers during high school and their cruel behavior towards each other. This musical leads a little more towards a rock/pop sound than the other musicals which it uses to its advantage to depict the stories of emotionally unstable young people. The music is very punchy, high energy, and extraordinarily fun.
5. Crazy for You
Crazy for You is the only musical on this list that I performed in during high school, so it holds a special place in my heart. The musical was written by Ken Ludwig and the music was written by the American Jazz composer, George Gershwin. The story takes place in Deadrock, Nevada the 1930’s and is about a love triangle between a girl, a boy, and that boy impersonating Bela Zangler, owner of Zangler’s Follies in New York. Together and with others they attempt to save an old theatre in the girl’s hometown while they navigate their feelings for one another. I would attempt to provide a better description of this musical but as the title suggests, it is quite crazy. My love for the soundtrack comes from my love for Gershwin whose broadway jazz style is incredibly exciting and dramatic.
6. Be More Chill
Last and probably the strangest is Be More Chill which tells the story of high schooler Jeremy who desperately wants to be cooler and allows an unknowingly evil supercomputer into his brain to do so. The music is primarily rock with many horror and videogame-esque elements to fit the futuristic theme. What I really like about this soundtrack is how raw and honestly weird it is. One of the tracks, “Michael in the Bathroom” is about a kid hiding in the bathroom during a party which ends up being incredibly heartwarming.
This playlist has my favorite songs from these musicals as well as some of my other favorite musical tracks. I also recommend listening to these soundtracks/ watching these musicals in their entirety. Happy listening!