8 Obsession-Worthy American History Musicals that Aren't Hamilton

If you consider yourself to be a fan of musical theatre, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve plunged into an obsession with the hit Broadway sensation, Hamilton. Whether one of your other Tony-worshipping friends forced you to sit down and listen to it, you found it on your own, or you discovered it during an in-person performance, you probably fell in love with it.

And why wouldn’t you? Hamilton is one of the greatest masterpieces of our time. Lin Manuel Miranda’s brilliant adaptation of our youngest Founding Father’s story is heartbreaking, inspiring, and not to mention, pretty damn witty. It breaks barriers of gender, sexuality and race through meaningful (and pretty catchy) renditions of cabinet battles, duals, and the Revolutionary War. Hamilton is revolutionary in and of itself through its powerful messages.

Let’s be real--Hamilton is great--the music is completely relatable, and technically brilliant. You probably sat alone in your room and listened to Satisfied, thinking of the one that got away, or jammed out to My Shot before a big exam. Admit it, you’ve had The Room Where it Happens on repeat and you have every lyric to Guns and Ships memorized. But, a time comes when all you hear on your Spotify station is Hamilton and you begin to realize that you’re sick of it.

Either that, or other people are sick of listening to you talk about (or hum songs from) Hamilton. You may be in denial, making the argument, “But Hamilton is the best musical of all time” and “How else am I supposed to learn about American history?”

Well, if you’re like me, and would rather memorize songs than actually read a book (thank goodness for School House Rock for teaching me the Preamble), I’m here to let you know that there are other musicals about American history that aren’t Hamilton! SURPRISE!

So, if you (or your friends) are tired of feeling Helpless to your American History musical cravings, here’s a list of eight of the best bingeable musicals about American History that you can fall in love with!

 

1. 1776

As far as I know, the musical consistently compared to Hamilton is 1776. While it isn’t my favorite musical, it does do a fun and interesting (albeit a little...historically inaccurate) retelling of how the Declaration of Independence was written. I would classify the music and style of the show as being on the classical side (IE: Rodgers and Hammerstein-esque), in comparison to the Hip-Hop era vibe of Hamilton. But who doesn’t want to see bad asses like Abigail Adams and Benjamin Franklin singing and dancing on stage? Count me in.

 

2. American Idiot

A lot of you probably recognize American Idiot as a Green Day album, but what you may not know is that it is also one of the best Broadway musicals of our time. Set during the early 2000’s, American Idiot is a dark, satirical piece on the woes of feeling trapped in American culture and the lengths three men go to escape it. It is an intense musical, dealing with the realities of drug abuse, mental health problems, and the tragedies that occurred during the war with Afghanistan. The punk rock music, that is from the Green Day album, is fantastic, and the harmonies are to die for. American Idiot is definitely worth a listen. If you enjoyed the revolutionary vibe of Hamilton, then this musical is for you.

 

3. The Scottsboro Boys

If you’re a fan of Chicago, Cabaret or Kiss of the Spider Woman, then you’d probably like another brilliant Kander & Ebb musical centered around a group of black American teenage boys who were given an unfair trial during the early 1930’s. This is an important musical that expresses blatant racism that continues to this day in the United States, and the songs are fan-freakin-tastic. If you enjoyed the quick-paced, intense choreographic qualities in Hamilton, you’ll definitely love The Scottsboro Boys.

 

4. Assassins

Any Sondheim fans out there? Assassins is easily (in my personal opinion), his hidden gem. This witty, darkly comedic, desperate retelling of eight US President assassinations and assassination attempts is sure to make you laugh, binge listen, and learn something along the way. My personal favorite cast recording is the most recent one, with Neil Patrick Harris starring as Lee Harvey Oswald and the Balladeer. Assassins is similar to Hamilton not only in the sense of its retelling of American history, but also in its quick wit and fast paced content.

 

5. Parade

If the tear-jerking aspect of Hamilton is something that you look for in a musical, then nothing will tug at your heart more than Jason Robert Brown’s Parade. It tells the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish American who was charged with the rape and murder of his thirteen year old employee, Mary Phagan. After pleading not guilty and changing his death sentence to life in prison, he was captured and lynched. The events surrounding the trial reportedly led to the creation of the  Ku Klux Klan. Some believe this trial triggered the American antisemitism that led to their willingness to disregard Jewish European refugees trying to flee from the Nazi party. This story is incredibly relevant to current American issues and is a fabulous musical to listen to.

 

6. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

This musical is not for the faint of heart, but it certainly has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever listened to. Taking an ironic, modern, and quirky tone to the troubling story of America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is an odd, yet thought-provoking piece on America’s current values and issues. It is interesting to compare and contrast modern culture with Jackson’s take on America. If you liked the blatant, and sometimes harsh tone, of Hamilton, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson takes it to the next level.

 

7. Bonnie and Clyde

One of the best parts of Hamilton for me, was the development of Alexander and Eliza’s romance, and how it affected the story as a whole (including his political career, and ultimately, his death). And of course, when thinking of classic, dangerous romances, which couple fits the mold more than Bonnie and Clyde? The infamous criminal duo now has a musical written about them, and the music is completely obsession-worthy.

 

8. Ragtime

Ragtime is easily one of the best musical representations of the turn of the century (1800s-1900s) in America. If you enjoyed how Hamilton incorporated characters of all social classes, and depicted how their class and status affected them, then Ragtime is absolutely the musical you should watch. Actually, there are a million reasons to listen to or watch Ragtime--from it’s compelling and noteworthy plot line surrounding three facets of society in New York City (African-Americans in Harlem, wealthy white people in New Rochelle, and Jewish Latvian immigrants on the Lower East Side), to the incredible music, to the absolute creativity of the piece, it is absolutely an amazing work of art.

 

These are just a few of the best musicals about American history that you can obsess over, if Hamilton is no longer your go-to! They’re perfect to jam out to when you’re in the mood to learn a little something about people and events in the USA, or just to jive to in general.

Happy learning and listening!

 

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