Top 5 Underrated Musicals

The Tony Awards advertise plays and musicals to the max. With familiar names like Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Hathaway and even Hugh Jackman as hosts, plenty of people watch the show. I, a musical theater addict, call up all my drama-geek-friends from high school to watch dancers, singers and actors perform on that semi-circular stage. But not every promising musical gains the attention or the Best Musical award it should have. So I present to you my Top Five Underrated Musicals:

1. Next To Normal

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What’s it about?: Diana struggles to regain her mental health after a past tragedy causes her to hallucinate. Her husband Dan and daughter Natalie deal with her deterioration as they both wish for their lives to be normal.
Comedy or Drama?: Both.
What makes the musical so special?: Characters spout out dark humor that will make audience members say “oof…I shouldn’t have laughed at that.” The show deals with mental illness in a powerfully unique way and there is QUITE the twist at the end of Act 1. With a variety of catchy, witty and heartfelt folk-rock songs, the show will stay stuck in your head. Bring several tissues because teary-eyed moments follow one after the other.

2. Reefer Madness: The Musical

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What’s it about?: Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane giddily sing about their innocent teenage love, but they don’t know that REEFER will ruin their lives forever. A satire of the original Reefer Madness film, this musical shows how life in a typical 1930s town is ravaged by the “evils” of Marijuana.
Comedy or Drama?: Comedy.
What makes the musical so special?: The show makes fun of the original exploitation film without coming off as mean-spirited. The cast’s playful overacting and the Disney-esque music give this musical a cartoony vibe bursting with originality. Set designers usually create pen-and-ink set pieces that make Reefer Madness loveably cheap.

3. Ordinary Days

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What’s it about?: Four people live their lives in New York City. Jason and Claire are thirty-somethings moving in together while Deb and Warren are twenty-somethings meeting through fate. A simple story to the tune of simple piano accompaniment.
Comedy or Drama?: Mostly a comedy with drops of drama here and there.
What makes the musical so special?: Any person can relate to the characters. Thousands of people have been that girl struggling through grad school or that guy trying to be an artist or that couple fighting in the rain. The characters’ stories intertwine while the only instrument playing is a piano. The songs’ lyrics build entire scenes while garnishing the characters’ specific and fully-developed personalities.

4. Fugitive Songs

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Matthew Gilherst

What’s it about?: A cluster of characters physically or mentally run away from their problems. The show features scenarios ranging from a disappointing Appalachian hike to a messy run from the law.
Comedy or Drama?: Both.
What makes the musical so special?: Six to seven actors portray 2-3 characters each. This is a song-cycle, so there is no dialogue and the songs are detailed with entertaining short story arcs. The songs’ order depends on the production and directors arrange them in creative ways. Fugitive Songs mixes several genres together including folk, pop and gospel. Several songs feature six-part harmonies that sound gorgeously rich.

5. Xanadu

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What’s it about?: Based on the 1980’s film of the same name, Xanadu focuses on young Sonny’s quest to be an artist. After the Greek muses from his mural come to life, one of them (Clio) decides to inspire his greatest piece: a roller disco. Two of Clio’s sisters curse Sonny and Clio to fall in love while Sonny’s patron struggles to choose between money and passion.
Comedy or Drama?: Comedy.
What makes the musical so special?: The show takes place on an island stage and 90 percent of the time characters move on roller skates. As a jukebox musical, it features hits from the Electric Light Orchestra. The best joke showcases actresses exaggerating their voices to sound like Olivia Newton John and Cher. Xanadu is a fun musical that oozes with 80’s tropes, which now seem nostalgic.