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Broadway Week is here! Since opening again in 2021, Broadway has been going back to what it once was before the shutdown in 2020. Between a number of new shows opening this year and last year and the 2022 Tony Awards that occurred in the summer, Broadway is full of shows that are for just about anyone. As Broadway Week kicks into gear, I’m going to give a rundown on my top five Broadway musicals of all time. I know what you’re thinking and I will say this in advance: I’m sorry but Hamilton is not on the list (still a great show!)

  1. Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first show I ever saw on Broadway and made me pursue a career in music post-high school graduation. Jersey Boys is a show that has something for quite literally everyone. There is the nostalgia factor due to the show being about the iconic band The Four Seasons and its highlighting of some of their best work. This includes one of the most well-known love songs of all time “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” by Frankie Valli. Besides the nostalgia factor and fantastic music, the show has incredible dancing, costumes, and featured some of the most amazing actors during its Broadway run. In fact, the show was so loved that after it closed its twelve year Broadway run in early 2017 it reopened back in New York later that same year and ran for another five years. There is a reason it is one of the most beloved jukebox musicals of all time.

  1. The Band’s Visit

In my mind, The Band’s Visit will always be a dark horse of musical theater. At the Tony Awards it was going up against musical adaptations of movies that made a huge impact on pop culture. However, The Band’s Visit walked away with ten Tony Awards, including the unofficial “Big Six” of the award show. I will admit, when I bought the tickets I was mostly doing it because my mom had no desire to see Mean Girls or Frozen (still two fantastic shows!) but looking back on it I am so glad I did. David Yazbek and Itamar Moses did what so few musicals in the past have done when they created The Band’s Visit: introduced a whole new culture to Broadway and musicals in general. The score is absolutely breathtaking with its Middle Eastern and Arabic influences and beautiful vocals by everyone in the cast. Despite it being viewed as a smaller scale production in comparison to other shows that have played on Broadway, the story dives deep into the characters and the relationships they build throughout the show. It is a complex, intricate, and beautiful display of what a musical can really be. I walked into the theater with low expectations and came out feeling like I witnessed a show that would go into musical theater history.

  1. A Strange Loop

A Strange Loop is another show that felt very similar to The Band’s Visit for me. It pushes the boundaries of what we as an audience expect to see when we step into a theater for the first time. The story is honest, raw, emotional, and heart-wrenching as it touches upon race, sexuality, identity, and even more. It is not your typical Broadway show or even musical in general and that’s what makes it so incredible. Michael R. Jackson cuts no corners when depicting what it is like to, in his words, “travel the world in a fat, Black, queer body,” (Jackson). The first song is already so captivating and only gets better for the duration of the show. A Strange Loop is unapologetic in just about every aspect from the lyrics, the content, the costumes, the set. It is a show that may not be at the top of the list for everyone, but is a show that you will never regret seeing if you decide to take a trip to the Lyceum Theater to watch it. After all, it did win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama back in 2020 before it even opened on Broadway.

  1. Company

It is no question that Stephen Sondheim is an absolute theater legend. However, I will admit that I was never a huge fan of his musicals growing up. That all changed with Marianne Elliot’s recent revival of Company. There have been a number of productions of Company since its creation, but it wasn’t until Elliot’s production that I found myself really enjoying and becoming a fan of the show. It does what all great revivals do: reinvent the show. Without changing the script and original story, Elliot is able to tell a whole new one with the simple idea of gender-swapping a number of roles in the show. Now with a female lead and several characters’ genders swapped, a new story about what it means to be a woman in her thirties, an LGBTQ+ couple getting married, and more is told. The performances of everyone in the cast were incredible, the music is undoubtedly phenomenal, and the set design was amazing and unexpected. When I walked into the theater I had one goal: watch Katrina Lenk (who also happened to be the lead in The Band’s Visit). When I walked out I had one regret: that I didn’t have tickets to see it again. 

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

We have all heard about guilty pleasure music, movies, television shows, etc., but the idea of having guilty pleasure musicals is absolutely real. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a show that may not have been the critics’ favorite, but was definitely an audience favorite. Christian Borle may have been a huge pull for me (because who doesn’t love his vocals?), but I walked out of the theater saying to myself that Mike Teavee was actually my favorite (bonus to the understudy who played him that night – he was fantastic!). The show really hones in on imagination and captures it wonderfully by the end of the show. It definitely is not a perfect show, but it is one that I always remember fondly because while I didn’t grow up with The Four Seasons, I did grow up with Willy Wonka. Not to mention the fabulous job by the young actors playing Charlie. I know I would certainly be intimidated working with such experienced performers but they truly do shine in the show. Between the costumes, the acting, the music, the humor, it is a show that I will always love despite what the critics may think of it.

Now I know A Strange Loop is the only musical on this list running on Broadway, but when one story closes, another one starts. Whether a show runs for twelve years or six months, they always seem to find a way to leave their mark with audiences.

Isabelle Foti is an undergraduate student at William Paterson University pursuing a double major in Popular Music and Political Science with a minor in Digital Music Creation and Arranging.