It’s been longer than I would like, but alas, such is life. Today I thought I’d talk about something I’ve been doing a lot of lately: discovering new Broadway shows.
Over the last, oh, 6ish years, I’ve spent a lot of time finding new shows. Sometimes I find one show and obsess over it for 6 months and other times I find five shows at once and take turns loving them. There’s not really a rhyme or reason to it. But I thought, if I may, that I would talk about how I’ve found some of my shows and also, maybe give my thoughts on what it means to be a Broadway fan.
Let’s get started.
One of the best ways to get into Broadway shows, in which I mean musicals–I may talk about plays at some point, but not today–is to listen.
Listening usually involves radio services like Pandora, Spotify, or Amazon Music. I use all three of these depending on the day and whether or not I’m at school. Though I’m a teacher, Spotify is still blocked at school, so I use it less than the others.
Once you have a listening service, you’ve really only got to listen and let the songs play. When I start listening to a new radio station, I give every song a chance–at least once. I’m quick to give the thumbs up or thumbs down on Pandora, especially, if I have strong feelings about a particular song.
I like this method because it slowly helps shape my own version of the radio station and also tells the listening service what kinds of things I might like.
I also find out what I know I don’t like. Sometimes I’ll like a song from a new musical, something I’ve maybe heard of or maybe a new one entirely, but the next song that plays from the same album isn’t really doing it for me. I think that’s fine. No reason why anyone should like everything.
I also do things like create my own radio stations. When I was bogged down deep in a pit of An American in Paris obsession, I created an An American in Paris station on Pandora. Since then, I listen to the station almost daily and I’ve also added some variety onto the station manually. The only bad thing about this is that some songs play more than once during a listening session, which I’m sure means that I might need to start a new station.
However, it also means that I’ve discovered songs from Jason Robert Brown musicals like The Last Five Years. Lately, a new favorite is Dogfight. There’s a song from the show called “Pretty Funny” and I must have listened to it 10 times before I looked it up and finally read what the show is about.
And also that it is heartbreaking and co-stars Derek Klena. I mean, why didn’t I look it up sooner??
And though Pandora means I’ve maybe only listened to a few songs from musicals, and completely out of order, it means that I’ve found out there’s a lot I don’t know.
I like that feeling, knowing that there are musicals out there that I’ve never heard of that are just…waiting.
Another way I like finding new musicals is getting obsessed with certain actors. It’s happened and it’s sometimes good, sometimes not. One recent-ish example, from almost a year ago, is James Barbour.
I know what you’re thinking. Shit went down with James Barbour several years ago. I get if you don’t want to read me talking about it. But I’m talking about musicals he’s been in, not necessarily him as a person.
It all began last spring break when I was gearing up for seeing Beauty and the Beast on tour with my sister in May. I bought the original cast album (I’m surprised I hadn’t thought to buy it before) and began listening in earnest. This led to me watching as many youtube videos of the show’s original cast as I could get my hands on.
I also got quite the little attraction to mid-1990’s Terrence Mann. It’s funny because I remember years ago, on tumblr, following someone who loved him unconditionally and I didn’t get it. OH, but do I get it now.
Anyway, here’s a video of him from the performance Beauty and the Beast at the 1994 Tony Awards that did me in.
Now, where does James Barbour fit into this? Well, as one does on youtube, I started watching some videos that even I couldn’t take seriously. A 1996 Beauty and the Beast on Ice was one such video. It was TERRIBLE. I mean, really bad. And I made fun of it mercilessly to multiple friends. The person that caught most of the flack was this guy:
My apologies for the crap photo. It was taken from a shoddy video upload of the ice special. And anyway, if I wanted to find a better picture, I think I’d need to be a better investigator.
But, back to the point of this post. After making fun of him, I got a little bit obsessed and found out that James had actually replaced Terrence Mann as the Beast and had played the part for several years. Very interesting.
The best part about this was that I learned about several musicals as a result of this little obsession. A few that I’ve listened to as a result of this are Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities, and Dracula. I own the concert DVD of A Tale of Two Cities and the cast album of all three musicals.
So, basically, happy accidents. Get interested in an actor and sort of follow them around. Adam Pascal is a great example. Get into him for RENT and then follow him around for Aida and Chess and, most recently, Something Rotten.
Say what you will about leather, but this is a good look. A very good look.
For my last method, I’m actually using one that I don’t use very often and that is…suggestions from friends.
Now, usually, I AM the suggester. That’s my role. What I do. I get people obsessed and then we are obsessed together. It works and I like it that way.
But what’s super interesting is that earlier this past week, a friend did a thing to me. I was hanging out, not doing anything, and one of my friends sends me this message:
And then this happened.
So for a day and a half, I avoided talking about it. But then, we were in the car and she hijacked my auxiliary cord and then we listened to the whole thing. The WHOLE Dear Evan Hansen cast album. I liked it. But then, THEN I listened to it again on the way home from a speech and debate tournament while I lay on a bus with 21 teenageers (obviously in my own seat–I realized that sounded weird) and this happened:
And she was right. The musical that I was vaguely avoiding for no particular reason except that I was more interested in other things was beautiful and heartbreaking and, not gonna lie, I might see it this June when I go to NYC for the first time.
So here’s a recap:
1. Listen. LISTEN to everything and give everything a chance. I’m not quite there yet (still mostly avoiding Hamilton–SORRY!!–but still).
2. Get into that obsession with a new actor or an old favorite. It’s always a good idea. Some of my absolute favorites have been discovered this way.
3. Take suggestions. Even if you feel like you’re not ready or if you feel too busy. You can handle some new music in your life.
And lastly (because I remembered one last one):
4. Don’t avoid listening to musicals just because they are based on a movie. I know, I know…Hollywood keeps making remakes and we’re a little tired of it, but also, not all musicals based on movies are bad.
I’ve discovered a lot of musicals because of movies. I love Shrek the Musical–yes, I know, but watch it and get back to me. Seriously. I only know a few songs from Sunset Boulevard, but gosh I love that movie and this revival with Glenn Close on Broadway right now is making me super excited.
And, my, Beauty and the Beast and An American in Paris and Cinderella. And also Legally Blonde. There’s a lot more, but those are the ones I can think of right now.
So do all the things and remember: being a fan of Broadway means you don’t just stick to the things you love without trying anything else.
If you were to talk to the me that went London in May 2011, the me that had only seen a few movie musicals and didn’t really think about anything else, THAT me would tell you that the only things I needed in my life were The Phantom of the Opera and RENT. That’s it.
That me, however, was sadly, if naively, mistaken.
And so I think, to me, that’s what it means to love Broadway. Don’t just stick to the Phantoms and the Wickeds of the world. They’re wonderful and flashy and touching and the music will stick in your head for the next 30 years. BUT–
But, your head definitely has room for more than that. I promise, it does.
Until next time…