In the world, in all aspects of life, there are two types of people. The ones who can re-watch or reread a type of media and those who cannot. In some ways I am both grateful and ashamed to be the type who can re-watch the same thing over and over; while gaining a deeper understanding of the characters, music and plot is something I deeply enjoy, I know that every time I see the same musical (or film or television show) I am restricting myself from broadening my creative horizons. I almost feel ashamed that instead of spreading my imaginative wings and delving into some of the many musicals I haven’t listened to, I shuffle the same album I’ve heard times before.
However, there are some musicals that I feel such a strong emotional attachment to that I cannot help but feel obligated to re-watch and continue to listen to the soundtracks. Whether that musical has a deeper implication on my feelings or if I just genuinely enjoyed the plot, there are several which I would jump at the chance to see again.
And that is how this post came along; I recently considered all the performances I have seen in my life and realised that a few sit more prominently in my mind. Those are the ones I have probably already seen multiple times, but there are also some which I’ve only experienced once, but would deeply appreciate a second glance.
Though the task seemed difficult, I have narrowed this post down to the top three musicals that I would gladly re-watch, with reasons why as well as my traditional photo of the curtain or stage before the show has begun.
1. Finding Neverland
I came across this musical on a “what to see in New York” website while planning my 2015 holiday there. The musical was just about to have its opening night and despite the fact there was minimal information online, I knew I had to see this show. The musical follows the life of J.M. Barrie, the playwright most well-known for writing Peter Pan. With Matthew Morrison (who also starred in one of my favourite television shows Glee for many years) fronting the musical in the role of Barrie, along with Laura Michelle Kelly playing Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, I had an instinct that the show would be something magical. And I was correct. The score is something incredible; the music ranges from very forward and loud empowering songs to more playful and youthful tunes often sang by the younger cast. My favourite song in particular, Stronger, had such clever and demanding choreography that I was left speechless at the end of act one.
The show had the perfect combination of heartbreak, love, honesty and humour to make it enjoyable for all age ranges. The dialogue was witty as well as heartfelt when the plot took darker and more heart-stopping twists. The bittersweet ending tugged on all the audiences heartstrings and I was left in tears as the curtain drew. The music struck a deep chord within me, the instrumental melodies and the lyrics are crafted so cleverly that every beat and every utterance has a meaning. The music repeats and replicates; a tune from the first few songs is repeated in the second act, a technique that completely changes the way the audience see the musical.
I was so amazed and enthralled with the musical the first time I saw in on Broadway that I had to see it an extra two times before coming home. And I would gladly go again; the musical has had such a profound and deep effect on the way I not only view musicals but also on the way that I remember them afterwards. Though the messages the musical covers may seem simple and very easy, the choreography, music and acting in general twist the simplicity into something that touches the deepest part of everyone’s heart. And for those reasons, that is why Finding Neverland is one of my all time favourite musicals and one that I would re-watch over and over again.
2. Jersey Boys
Jersey Boys is an autobiographical musical narrating the trials and errors of the classic band The Four Seasons and their frontman Frankie Valli. Alongside short episodes of dialogue wherein each member of the band narrates their role in the group and their thoughts on the scandals that enveloped their career, the music is purely The Four Seasons.
Though some people find it difficult to enjoy a musical which has no fictional element, I found that Jersey Boys was a musical whose choreography, staging and more elements such as inclusion of the audience and interaction with the orchestra meant I could feel more involved and, therefore, that I could enjoy it more.
I first watched the musical on Broadway in 2015, the same time I saw Finding Neverland, after my grandma watched the film adaptation on the flight and decided we should take a trip. Going into the first act, after briefly perusing the Playbill, I was a little uncertain due to thinking I knew none of the music, thus believing I wouldn’t be enthralled. However, I slowly realised I was wrong. After the musical ended I found myself at how much of the music I actually knew; I never knew that songs such as Beggin’, December 1963 and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You were covers and that they were originally sung by this band. I had to take a moment to consider how, had I not seen this musical, I would still be in this lost mindset that the interpretations I had heard weren’t the originals.
And that is one of the reasons I have found this musical so important. Jersey Boys is a musical that really opens the audiences eyes to not only how difficult it stardom can be, but also how influential musicians can be. By including many of their most popular songs, the musical emphasises how much effect The Four Seasons have had on the music industry, the extent of which I would never had known were it not for the musical.
Most musicals cover very difficult and prominent themes either in modern society or in society when the plot occurs. While Jersey Boys can perhaps do this, with the occasional showing of prison sentences and mentions of serious debt, I feel Jersey Boys focuses more on how the industry can change a person’s life as well as the people surrounding the “Stars”. We see how the fame causes complications in Frankie Valli’s life as well as how touring causes strain on many relationships. But we also see how the industry changed their lives, shot all the members into a fast-moving cycle of producing music, releasing music and performing music.
Viewing the musical can perhaps offer an insight into how difficult the music industry is, but then the audience can see how much their work has affected many people and how it is still replicated and admired today and we see a different side. A positive side. A side that showcases the successes of musicians; and for that reason, Jersey Boys is one of the musicals I could view again and again.
In addition to viewing the musical on Broadway, I also saw it when the touring production came to hometown and I’m planning to book tickets again when the tour runs this year. It’s a musical that excited every fibre of my body, one that has me gleefully singing the lyrics in my seat and exciting me as the scene changes. The opening beats to a song can make me gasp or laugh: the effect it has on me is profound. Combining this physical effect with the beauty of the overall show is what easily places Jersey Boys in my top three “would re-watch” list.
The only adaptation I have been able to see of this show so far has been a small show performed during the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (hence why I have no photographs of the stage). I’d heard about this musical before, heard some of the songs sung by a variety of people in a variety of shows, but I’d never listened to the soundtrack.
I listened to it once; after that first listening I immediately searched the Fringe website for a potential showing of the musical and, luckily, managed to find one the week before the festival. I booked, and I was excited.
The show was performed in a little community centre in Edinburgh, and the showtime was 10 in the evening. It was late, I was tired. I almost fell asleep in the bar before hand. I also felt intimidated; among the entire audience I was the youngest, being a relatively small girl of the meagre age of 16. I felt people watching me and supposed they were wondering why someone so young was watching a musical like RENT.
However, I thought having young people see the show would be something admirable, another indicator about the power of theatre. A young person had been brought to the show that would teach me about the seriousness of AIDS within New York; the show would inevitably teach me the harsh truths about living conditions.
And that is the first reason I would see, and am seeing, this musical again. Out of the three I’ve listed, RENT is perhaps the one that covers such serious, and possibly taboo, themes. Alongside AIDS, there is a great variety of LGBT+ and minority characters as well as ones who explore drug abuse and sex work. There are harsh death references and a very direct assessment of economic struggles as well as mental health problems. The musical explores many characters in such an exquisite and realistic way that the audience are almost forced to feel as though they are experiencing the lifestyle.
The alternative score, with a heavier lyrical meaning as well as heavier beat, adds to the directness of the musical. The songs are often loud and very direct in what they are expressing; the audience are very aware about what is being sung about and how the characters are feeling in that precise moment. Though the musical leaves areas open to interpretation and lyrics that provoke a variety of scenarios, for most characters the feelings and story arcs are very clear and very hard-hitting.
I found all the characters to have a proper amount of depth; all the relationships had a wonderful explanation and the chemistry between the couples added to the realism of the musical. The main reason I felt I enjoyed the musical so much was because of the characters and the way the actors and actresses portrayed them.
Any show on the Fringe has an element of individuality; most of the productions are using a minimal budget and performers who are still learning. The fact I saw it on the Fringe makes my feelings so much stronger. There was so much emotion and dedication from performers who are most likely classed as “amateurs”. They put so much love into their show and conveyed that love and emotion to the audience. RENT is powerful, and with an equally powerful cast can become something spectacular. And that is why I would re-watch, and plan to re-watch during the UK tour, the very beautiful musical RENT.