Contrary to popular belief, Hamilton was not the absolute pinnacle of modern musical theatre. While it is an excellent musical, all mainstream media outlets make it seem like there was no other musical released during the 2015/2016 season, and there will never be another musical like it. The fact is that absolutely amazing musicals were ignored or cast to the side in terms of awards and media coverage to uphold Hamilton. Here are just a handful of musicals released or revived in the past couple of years that are beautifully written, diverse, and deserving of attention. (Links to some of the songs from these shows are in the name of the show, for the reader’s convenience)
Based off of the real life story of the surprise success of a musical written, directed, and performed by an entirely black cast in 1921, Shuffle Along, starring Broadway legends such as Audra MacDonald and Billy Porter in the main cast, is incredible. Featuring copious amounts of jazz singing and dance numbers and gorgeous costume design, this musical was up for 10 Tony Awards at the 2016 Tonys, and won none, despite the fantastic choreography, scenic design, and music, with the added bonus of Audra MacDonald absolutely letting loose multiple times.
A musical adaption of War and Peace containing every style of music from Broadway ballad to Russian folk, to punk riffs, shouldn’t work as well as it does. The original cast off-Broadway cast starring Hamilton’s Philippa Soo and the current Broadway cast – which is eligible for 2017 Tonys, just saying – combined with the unique reinvention of the characters of a clunky classic, plus the variety of musical styles, make this musical so much fun to listen to, and even better to watch.
Specifically, the 2015/2016 revival starring Cynthia Erivo. Though any version of the musical The Color Purple – based off the game-changing novel by Alice Walker – is good, the newest revival hits it out of the park. Another all black lead cast, starring familiar faces such as OITNB’s Danielle Brooks, with the added presence of the love story between Celie and Shug, and the biggest draw? Cynthia Erivo as Celie. Erivo puts every ounce of feeling and heart and talent she has into this role and it shows.
Another brilliant musical which had the rotten luck to be on Broadway during “Hamilton season.” Instead of using people of color to tell romanticized stories of white people, Allegiance brings a spotlight to the history of the Japanese internment camps during World War II in the United States. The show stars well known actors Lea Salonga and George Takei, and is poignant and beautiful.
Quite possibly one of the best revivals of all time, the 2015/2016 production of the 2006 smash hit improves the show immensely. One of the very few mainstream musicals to at all be accessible to Deaf/HOH people, Spring Awakening, directed by Michael Arden and starring multiple deaf actors – Sandra Mae Frank as Wendla and Daniel Durant as Moritz to name some – in principal roles, is transcendental.
No brilliant show deserves to be cast aside for one that’s getting the mainstream hype. Revisit these snubbed shows while keeping that in mind.