In our last sermon, I mentioned my love for musical theater so I thought I would share five great musicals you may never have heard of. Given that I haven’t seen as much musical theater lately, these are much older shows, but great ones that from time to time have been revived. If it happens to be performed in your neighborhood, give it a shot! I would love to know your favorites.
Starlight Express – The only musical I know performed on roller skates! Produced in the 1980’s in London and Broadway, it was a smash hit in the UK and even more so in Germany where it still runs today as the longest running musical in German history. However it was short-lived on Broadway, running only 761 performances. This innovative musical was the brainchild of legendary theater superstar Andrew Lloyd Webber and I found it interesting that ALW wanted to do a musical based on Thomas the Tank Engine but they folks who make Thomas wouldn’t let him. So he came up with something on his own and this was the result. The book isn’t as innovative as the staging and choreography, but the music is a delight. I saw it while it played in Las Vegas and thought it was terrific.
By Jeeves – Another ALW musical, this one is designed for small theaters. I saw a limited run of it in Westwood at the Geffen Playhouse and thought it was just fantastic. It didn’t get great reviews, but it was so different than most ALW stuff that for me it was delightful. I love the smaller, more intimate setting and the stage direction was brilliant (I loved the way they showed the gang traveling in an automobile on stage – it was like what a kid might do for a class project except life size). The plot was cute. It wasn’t grandiose as we see with most ALW musicals. Instead it was more befitting a quiet night at home watching a British comedy.
Buskers – Or as I saw it Stage Door Charley. This musical starring another legendary figure, Tommy Tune, only made it as far the touring stage. Slated for Broadway, the producers pulled out after Tommy was injured and it never made it. For Disney fans, this show was a treat since it was written by the Sherman Brothers. The idea was conceived back in the sixties and just never was produced until 1995 when Tommy agreed to be in it. It was a charming love story about two “buskers” or street performers. And with Tune attached it was a visual treat as he is such a gifted performer. I happened to see it when it came to the OC Performing Arts Center.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – This show was cute, clever, funny, and touching. Instead of a narrative that continues throughout the musical, instead it is the story of people falling in love told in vignettes. Four people play all of the parts. I saw it originally at the Laguna Playhouse and if you’ve been there before it’s a great venue for a play like this. I saw it again in 1998 at the Coronet Theater with Jennifer Simard. I remember her specifically because she was part of the original cast and because after seeing it, I bumped into her at a local restaurant and told her what a wonderful job she did. It was a cool moment for me. If you want to see a cute musical about love, take your significant other to see this one.
Forever Plaid – The absolute best play ever! I’ve seen it about three dozen times and I’ve taken lots of friends with me to see it. One in particular, Sharon, came with me about 2/3 of those times. We went so often that for her birthday I got her the seat in the front row where the cast comes up and asks her what the date is. Very cool. Except for the fact that Sparky kept leering at her the whole show. Hey, buddy. She’s with me. During the show, they sing classic harmony songs from the 40’s and 50’s like “Three Coins in a Fountain,” “Heart and Soul,” “Sixteen Tons,” and “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.” They did make a movie of it, but like most shows adapted to film, there’s something missing. If you get the chance to see it live, go and check it out. Especially in a smaller theater. It also loses something in too big a venue. But it is amazing.
So what are your favorite musicals?