Whether I’d been riding in the backseat of my mother’s minivan or taking center stage as “jungle person number four” in my elementary school’s mediocre production of “The Jungle Book,” I was enamored with the idea of musical theatre. Thus, a long history of trips to Manhattan, in order to feed my addiction, was born.
Here is a list of my top 10 favorite shows I’ve attended.
10. “The Little Mermaid”
Nobody ever forgets their first, which is why “The Little Mermaid” still holds a very special place in my heart, even nine years after the fact. With the entire ensemble sporting Heelys in order to emulate the fluid-like movements of Ariel and her fellow mermaids, my 10-year-old heart nearly burst with joy at the thought of any musical number. “Under the Sea” lived up to my Disney fanatic expectations and had me, a redhead with a whole lot of dreams, hoping that one day I might too get to dance among my peers with a mermaid tale.
9. “The Book of Mormon”
To be fair, my next choice is low on this list because I do not remember the last time that a show’s language and innuendos actually had me feel as though I needed to go and seek confession. “The Book of Mormon” was crass, brilliant and everything you would expect from the writers of “South Park.” An ingenious and hilarious commentary on religion, this show held no bounds. “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” in particular is a scene that is forever engrained in my memory. The same most likely goes for the rest of the audience whose laughter continuously carried throughout the theatre during the musical number, along with the entirety of the performance, for that matter.
My next choice wasn’t even on Broadway, technically. “Heathers,” with its abundance of plaid skirts and songs that must be belted, was something straight out of an old school Britney Spear’s music video. Not only was the score expertly arranged, it was fast and comical.
7. “The King and I”
Let me set the record straight: anytime I have the opportunity to hear and see Kelli O’Hara perform is a golden one; when I was offered the chance to see her in “The King and I,” I couldn’t help but take it. After having read through the script myself in an acting for musical theatre class, the story of Anna Leonowens, a head-strong school teacher who meets her match in her employer, the king, resonated with me on a level I couldn’t understand until I had seen it performed on a large stage. The plot, a social commentary on the way people treat individuals who are unlike themselves, is a classic rendition of learning to accept people for who they are.
6. “Something Rotten!”
Beyond the abundance of literary allusions and nods to the Bard, “Something Rotten!” introduced a whole new experience of musical theatre. The dialogue was clever, entertaining and completely demolished the fourth wall typically held between actor and audience. The addition of Christian Borle’s portrayal of pompous Shakespeare was reason enough to have this on my top ten.
5. “The Phantom of the Opera”
Probably one of the most widely known musicals to date, “The Phantom of the Opera,” still haunts my 15-year-old self to this day. With a torrid and twisted romance that only leaves the audience questioning at the end, the show exquisitely captures and embodies unrequited love for all to see.
With a score written by the brilliant Sara Bareilles and sung by Jessie Mueller, “Waitress” was spectacular. The musical followed the same plot as the film adaptation starring Keri Russell yet established a level of quirky that no film could accurately transfer on screen. Plus, they sold mini pies at intermission. Needless to say, I left very satisfied.
3. “If/ Then”
Somehow I managed to witness Idina Menzel strut her stuff in this fantastical story that broaches the quandary of whether life is determined through choice or chance. In the opening number, Elizabeth (Menzel) is given a simple choice. It is from that point forward in the show that both outcomes of this decision are told. Elizabeth’s life suddenly splits in two, and the audience is left with deciding which ego they sympathize with more: Liz, the more spontaneous and self serving version, or Beth, the “play it safe” and considerate version.
2. “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”
Growing up, my parents played an embarrassing amount of Carole King throughout the house. Naturally, I have inherited that same unhealthy obsession so when I was gifted tickets to see a show all about her life, I got overly emotional. Sitting front row, I was awestruck. The show made a point in including the vast repertoire that King was responsible for. Although she is mainly known for her work on her own album, “Tapestry,” the show included pieces she had written when she was strictly pursuing a career as a songwriter. This included a hilarious musical number of “The Locomotion” and appearances from Little Eva, The Righteous Brothers, The Carpenters and the Shirelles.
1. “Finding Neverland”
Finally reaching my number one choice, I admit that I cannot put into words how phenomenal and awe-inspiring seeing “Finding Neverland” had been. Already having seen the original film adaptation starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, I thought I was adequately prepared to watch this musical and not leave the theatre an emotional trainwreck; I was wrong. From the beginning sequence of the show, I entered an almost trance-like state, and that wasn’t primarily due to the fact that I was within a few hundred feet of Matthew Morrison. Morrison portrayed J. M. Barrie, the Scottish playwright who meets the Llewelyn Davies family, whose youthful energy inspires him to write “Peter Pan.”
Pixie dust aside, the musical grasped a handle on the three abstractions of life: death, love and time. It was not until the penultimate scene that I found myself overcome with emotion as the moral of the plot came to surface: growing older does not always have to mean growing up.