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Top 10 Modern Musicals You NEED to Check Out

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Who says theatre is dead? For this list, we’ll be looking at musicals released since 2000 that might have been critically acclaimed, but which haven’t received the attention they deserve. Therefore, musicals like “Hamilton” and “Wicked” will not be included, because as much as we love them, they don’t exactly need any PR help. We also won’t be including Broadway revivals on this list, as they already had their chance to shine. Our list includes “Newsies,” “In the Heights,” “Heathers: The Musical,” “Waitress,” “Next to Normal,” and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Musicals You Need to Check Out.
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Top 10 Modern Musicals You Need to Check Out


Who says theatre is dead? Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Musicals You Need to Check Out.

For this list, we’ll be looking at musicals released since 2000 that might have been critically acclaimed, but which haven’t received the attention they deserve. Therefore, musicals like “Hamilton” and “Wicked” will not be included, because as much as we love them, they don’t exactly need any PR help. We also won’t be including Broadway revivals on this list, as they already had their chance to shine.

#10: “Come from Away”


“Welcome to the Rock if you come from away.” Originally produced at Oakville, Ontario’s Sheridan College before making its way to Broadway in 2017, “Come from Away” recounts the real story of Operation Yellow Ribbon, which grounded airplanes throughout Canada after the September 11 attacks. 38 planes landed in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, where random citizens housed and fed the nearly 7,000 stranded passengers, because... that’s just what Canadians do. Featuring songs like “Me and the Sky,” “Prayer,” and “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere,” the music strikes a perfect balance of optimistic and desperate. It’s a beautiful musical telling a heartwarming story of everyday heroism in the face of a national tragedy, and will reaffirm every viewer’s faith in the goodness of humankind.

#9: “Something Rotten!”


Despite the unfortunate title, “Something Rotten!” is not rotten. It’s actually quite good. The musical had a risky start, jumping right onto Broadway in 2015. Luckily, the risk paid off, as “Something Rotten!” was critically acclaimed and nominated for an astounding 10 Tony awards. The musical centers around two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, who try to compete against Shakespeare in late 16th century English theatre. The musical is worth seeing for Christian Borle’s Shakespeare alone, as he commands the stage and won a Tony award for his efforts. If you want a musical that’s lovingly tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, then give this a listen. Excuse us while we act out our own performance of “A Musical.”

#8: “Newsies”


While “Newsies” is relatively new to the stage, it was adapted from the now-cult classic 1992 Disney movie starring a young Christian Bale. “Newsies” is based around the historical 1899 Newsboys’ strike, when young hawkers went on strike following a price increase in their newspaper bundles. Business negotiations may not make for the most riveting of storylines, but “Newsies” manages to imbue every scene with vitality, helped by lovable characters, stunning choreography, and incredible music by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. Though this musical was and is successful and well-loved, any musical that leaves you with a better understanding of a little-known, but important, piece of American history and encourages you to “Seize the Day” is worth a listen.

#7: “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”


Some musicals get their inspiration from interesting places; for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” that inspiration was a segment of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel “War and Peace.” Despite being nominated for an incredible 12 Tonys at the 2017 ceremony, the musical only won 2, for Scenic and Lighting Design - that isn’t to say it isn’t visually stunning. The musical implements an original form of audience interaction, ensuring a sense of intimacy with the characters - who by the way, almost all play their own instruments - that’s lacking in more traditional musicals. Critics adored its lavish production design, rambunctious sense of humor, and eclectic mixture of musical styles, which range from modern electronica to Russian folk. It’s a revelation.

#6: “Bandstand”


“Bandstand” is a more heavy experience than some musicals on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving of attention. The musical chronicles the lives of numerous soldiers and their loved ones after World War II ends. While dealing with the stresses of reintegration and PTSD, some vets decide to start a band in the hopes of winning a radio contest. The show contemplates serious and complex themes, all the while showcasing some stunning performances from Corey Cott, Laura Osnes, and members of their band, who hit us right in the feels by switching between toe-tapping jazz numbers and heartbreaking ballads. That, and Andy Blankenbuehler’s sharp choreography make this a musical that surprises and grips anyone who gives it a chance.

#5: “In the Heights”


Okay, we just want to praise Lin-Manuel Miranda any chance we get, can you blame us? Though “In the Heights” has several awards to its name, including the Tony for Best Musical, it usually plays second fiddle to “Hamilton,” and to that we say “No Me Diga”! This musical takes place exactly where the title suggests, in New York’s Washington Heights, and will have you falling in love with Lin, his future George Washington Christopher Jackson, Mandy Gonzalez and Karen Olivo, in addition to a stellar ensemble cast. “In the Heights” is a dizzying musical filled with unique Latin pop and lively choreography that makes every musical number a delight to hear and witness. It’s a great show that showcases Lin-Manuel Miranda’s numerous talents as an artist, and makes us all think about where we come from, but also where we’re going.

#4: “Heathers: The Musical”


If there’s one movie we never expected to be made into a musical, it’s “Heathers.” The 1989 film starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as two sociopathic students who plot to murder the cool kids at school, and went to some pretty dark places. Despite this, the musical is just lighthearted enough to remain enjoyable for casual audiences. With its delightfully ‘80s aesthetic and “Mean Girls” meets “Sweeney Todd” vibe, you’ll find yourself belting along to songs like “Candy Store,” “Dead Girl Walking,” and softer songs like “Seventeen,” all while forgetting what “Heathers” is about for a sec. It works on numerous levels – as a fun musical and as an exciting, subversive story – and should satisfy a wide range of demographics.

#3: “Waitress”


Some things in life are a perfect combination; peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, and Sara Bareilles and songwriting. Like sugar, butter, and flour, Bareilles has crafted a musical made up of country, Broadway pop, and traditional ballad songs. The story of Jenna, who finds herself pregnant, in an abusive marriage, and wrapped up in an affair with her gynecologist, is a complex and daunting one, and often the only way she can express herself is through beautiful songs like “What Baking Can Do” and “She Used to Be Mine” and baking a pie. But with great side characters, engrossing harmonies, and an overarching sense of hope, “Waitress” will give you “A Soft Place to Land” every time.

#2: “Next to Normal”


“Next to Normal” is easily the darkest musical on this list, so your mileage may vary with this one. It centers around a woman suffering from bipolar disorder and the family forced to witness her slow decline. Tom Kitt did the score, with the book and lyrics written by Brian Yorkey, the man who adapted “13 Reasons Why” for Netflix. He clearly has a penchant for punching us in the gut. But despite its difficult themes, the musical is outstanding. It won a handful of Tonys for its music and performances, and it even took home the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Seriously, you’re doing yourself a disservice by skipping out. It begs, and frankly needs, to be seen and heard.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“SpongeBob SquarePants”

“The Prom”

“Holiday Inn”

#1: “Be More Chill”


“Be More Chill” has become a phenomenon amongst teenage theater lovers, and it lives and thrives in its relevance to that specific demographic. It’s relentlessly energetic, loud, and colorful. Nerdy video game, porn and pot-loving misfit Jeremy goes through what most of us go through - wanting to fit in, pure and simple. Lucky for him, he’s got his best friend Michael to help him weather the horrors of high school and talk about the object of his affections: Christine. But despite its childish demeanor, it’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, with a fun blend of Broadway and pop rock sounds to it, and just enough originality to the story to make it work. It’s worth checking out, and that’s us telling you, not some Keanu Reeves intel processor pill, don’t worry!
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