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Top Ten Musicals of the 00s

The Best Musicals of the Deacde

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Some folks just don’t care for musicals. They just can’t appreciate a world where people suddenly burst into song – a place where, for some inexplicable reason, everyone knows just the right choreography.

But for those of us who love musicals, there’s no other art form as entertaining or endearing. Of the hundreds of original musicals that were created in the last ten years, these shows are the most exceptional and inspiring.

10. Urinetown

This musical parodies dystopian worlds of an Orwellian caliber, all the while keeping its audience laughing at its bathroom humor. Creators Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis clearly have their minds in the toilet – and the result is a funny, quirky little masterpiece filled with songs that are simultaneously cheerful and diabolical.

What’s It About?

The citizens of a drought-ravaged community must pay to use the toilet. Those who cannot afford the “fee to pee” are sent to a mysterious place called “Urinetown.”

The Best Part:

The banter between Officer Lockstock (the morally ambiguous narrator) and Little Sally (the pesky interrupter who criticizes the title of the show).

9. The Light in the Piazza

Perhaps the most introspective musical on this top ten list, The Light in the Piazza is a bittersweet love story. Songsmith Adam Guettel, the grandson of Richard Rogers, lives up to his legacy. His compositions, in particular the female solos and duets, are powerful yet fragile.

What’s It About?

An American mother and daughter are vacationing in Florence and Rome, when all of a sudden: love strikes! When the daughter falls head-over-heels for a handsome Italian, the mother tries to prevent the relationship, believing that her daughter’s secret disability will prevent the relationship from flourishing.

The Best Part:

The opening song: “Statues and Stories.”

8. Memphis

This 2009 Broadway hit captures the spirit of Rock and Roll’s early days. Complete with break-out performances by Chad Kimball and Montego Glover, this original show (penned by the versatile Joe DiPietro) offers audiences a lot of passion, fun, and an uplifting message. (And Bon Jovi fans will be pleased by David Bryan’s original tunes).

What’s It about?

Inspired by real-life disk jockeys of the 1950s, Memphis tells the story of a white DJ who is not afraid to cross social boundaries in order to find the best music in town. He discovers the love of his life – but will their inter-racial relationship survive the closed-minded perspective of the 1950s? Forbidden love is no stranger to theater – but the choreography and musical numbers are a fresh change of pace in a decade filled with stale jukebox musicals.

The Best Part:

I’m a sucker for gospel-tinged numbers like “Memphis Lives in Me.”

7. Little Women

Musical elitists might wonder why I have included a musical that was panned by most critics. The simple answer: I love the material. Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel contains a wonderful series of heartfelt stories, many of which were based upon the author’s experiences. The songs capture the enthusiasm and the courage of the incorrigible Jo March – a strong female lead (and a wonderful role model for my daughters). Frankly, I’m surprised the show lasted for less than 200 performances on Broadway.

What’s It About?

While their father is away during the Civil War, the four March sisters keep the home-fires burning.

The Best Part:

“Some Things Are Meant to Be” – the duet between Jo and her ailing sister Beth. (Okay, I admit it; I burst into tears when I first heard this song!)

6. Avenue Q

If you grew up addicted to Sesame Street, then you probably love Avenue Q for its devious satire. Or perhaps you hate the show for its sacrilegious portrayal of Muppets. Love it or hate it, you would be hard-pressed to find funnier lyrics or more seething social-commentary.

What’s It About?

Princeton, a puppet and recent college graduate, learns that life in the big city is a lot more challenging than getting a B.A. in English. The show is filled with lots of hilarious numbers and twisted (though perhaps truthful) messages.

The Best Part:

The sexually repressed Rod and his cheerful yet obnoxious roommate Nicky (patterned after Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie).

5. Hairspray

Adapted from the cult-classic film by John Waters, Hairspray is quirky, silly, and sweet. Despite the light-hearted tone of the show, this Shaiman and Wittman musical says a great deal about gender, racial equality, and self-image. Tracy Turnblad, the plus-sized protagonist, represents a shift from the typically thin and glamorous leading ladies often seen in today’s media.

What’s It About?

Set in segregated Baltimore of the early 1960s, Hairspray chronicles the misadventures of a optimistic teen who dreams of dancing on the Corny Collin’s Show. Along the way, she helps to make the world a better place by fearlessly standing up for equal rights.

The Best Part:

The upbeat finale: “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” I dare you not to bob your head along to this tune.

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