When I say the word “musical” you probably think of shows like Hamilton, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Dear Evan Hansen, Les Mis, etc. I love all of these shows so much, and you better believe they are all in my shower playlist. However, there are a ton of shows you’ve probably never heard of that are SPECTACULAR. They deserve more recognition, and I am here to provide that! Here are five shows with strong female leads that you might not know about and are totally about to become your new faves!
Photo via Citadel Theatre
Hadestown is a musical adaptation of Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera concept album of the same name. Take the story of Orpheus and Eurydice and drop it into a Great Depression-era, post-apocalyptic world where the path to the underworld is a railroad. Orpheus is a starving artist, and Eurydice loves him with all her heart, but is it enough? Hades manages the Underworld like a factory, and Persephone runs a speakeasy. Are you hooked yet? This musical is beautiful from start to finish. Even though we all know the ending, each time you listen to it you’ll think, “Maybe this time…”
Start Songs: Way Down Hadestown (It’d be helpful to listen to this one first. It introduces the characters and plot), All I’ve Ever Known, Wait For Me, and Our Lady of the Underground
2. Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812
Photo via Jewel 98.5
Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 is a musical based on a 70 page section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Believe it or not, this musical makes 19th century Russia super relatable. Pierre is a depressed conspiracy theorist, Natasha has a crush on the hottest guy in town (and he asked her to a ball!!!), and Anatole is an entitled dirtbag who is, in Natasha’s defense, super cool and hot. Worried that the music will be super old school and boring? There are lit songs in here! The Duel is actually a club bop, and it’s impossible to listen to The Abduction without dancing. This musical is wonderful, fun, and so full of heart. It deserved better than what it got.
Start Songs: Prologue (Seriously. Listen to this one first.), No One Else, Dust and Ashes, and The Abduction
*There are actually two recordings of this musical. One has Dave Malloy (the musical’s writer) as Pierre and Phillipa Soo (yes, from Hamilton) as Natasha. The other features Josh Groban as Pierre and Denée Benton. My personal favorite is the one with Josh Groban and Denée Benton.
Photo via AmelieBroadway
Amélie is the musical adaptation of the 2001 French film of the same name. Amélie was not allowed to play with other kids when she was little because of her strict parents. Although she was often lonely, she learned to entertain herself with her imagination. Once she was old enough to move out, she packed her things and headed out on her own to find her place in the world. She gets an apartment and a job, but she struggles to truly connect with the people around her. Instead, she decides to be an anonymous do-gooder. With as much imagination as Amélie herself, this show is so fun and joyful. I dare you to listen without smiling.
Start Songs: Times Are Hard For Dreamers, Tour De France, and When the Booth Goes Bright
Photo via Music Theatre International
Violet is a musical about a woman’s journey to become “beautiful.” Violet was injured in an accident with an axe when she was a little girl, leaving a large scar across her face. Now an adult, she decides to travel across the country to meet her favorite televangelist to ask God to heal her face. This show is all about forgiveness, self-love, and surrounding yourself with people who love you as you are and not how you could be. It’s a wonderful show, featuring the always spectacular Sutton Foster as Violet and Joshua Henry as Flick.
Starter Songs: On My Way, Let It Sing, and Bring Me to Light
Photo via RTD Archive
Dogfight is a musical adaptation of the 1991 film of the same name with music written by Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman’s Pasek & Paul. The show is about three Marines spending their last day in San Francisco before shipping out to Vietnam. To celebrate, they’ve planned a “dogfight” in which whoever brings the ugliest girl to the party that night gets a money prize. One girl is not putting up with it. I know, it sounds awful, but the show is amazing. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll learn a little something about true “beauty.”
Starter Songs: Hey Good Lookin’, Come to A Party, and First Date / Last Night