25 Musicals And Their Source Materials

25 Musicals And Their Source Materials

Just about every musical is based on something even if that basis is remote and/or circuitous.  Musical theatre is not an art form that lends itself to pulling ideas out of thin air.  Below is a list of some of the most popular musicals of all-time and their source material.  As you’ll see, the stage has drawn a tremendous amount of inspiration from a variety of sources.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Is based on… Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2014, is based on the Roy Horniman novel, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal.  In 1949, the Brits turned the book into a movie called Kind Hearts and Coronets.  For some reason, (almost certainly legal) theatre producers were unable to use that title.

Is based on… Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
It’s hard to believe that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is based on anything.  In fact, the musical has no book (which really caused problems during rehearsals—the cast didn’t know what to do).  Webber based his Tony Award winning musical on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.  The lyrics to “Memory” were penned by Trevor Nunn and based on Eliot’s “Preludes” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.”

Guys and Dolls
Is based on… stories by Damon Runyon
If it wasn’t for Damon Runyon and his short stories, “Blood Pressure” and “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,” middle schools all over America would be without material for their spring theatre production.  That’s because Runyon’s prose were the basis for Guys and Dolls.  The musical would have won the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama but the book’s co-writer, Abe Burrows, was believed to be a communist. 

Kiss Me, Kate
Is based on… Taming of the Shrew
Kiss Me, Kate is the first production to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.  The show was composed by Cole Porter and was his response to Oklahoma!  KMK is not only based on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, but the show’s plot revolves around a musical production of the Bard’s play.  It’s a show within a show sort of thing.

Legally Blonde
Is based on… a movie and novel of the same name
Legally Blonde is a thoroughly entertaining musical but it’s not the deepest work to ever walk the boards.  The feel-good musical is based on a novel by Amanda Brown.  Her tome also fueled a 2001 film.  Both are dubbed “Legally Blonde.”  Although she didn’t receive a degree, Brown study at law at Stanford and Legally Blonde is based on her experiences.

Miss Saigon
Is based on… Madame Butterfly
Miss Saigon is an updated version of Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.  Puccini based his opera, one of the world’s most performed, on a short story by John Luther Long.  In Madame Butterfly, the tragic romance is between an American lieutenant and a Japanese girl.  In Miss Saigon, the setting is the Vietnam War and the star-crossed lovers are an American G.I. and a Vietnamese girl.

My Fair Lady
Is based on… Pygmalion
Sometimes called “the perfect musical,” My Fair Lady is based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion.  “Pygmalion” is also the name of a character from Greek mythological that fell in love with one of his sculptures—which explains why Shaw used it.  The play was first produced in 1912.  My Fair Lady first hit the boards in 1956.

Is based on… Green Grow the Lilacs
Oklahoma! is not only one of the greatest and most successful musicals ever created, it’s also one of the first to incorporate songs into a coherent and serious plot.  Hitherto, musicals contained a collection of tunes that had little to do with the plot—and creators usually went for laughs.  The play Green Grow the Lilacs ran on Broadway a little more than 60 times in 1931.  The Lynn Riggs’ work is largely forgotten while Oklahoma! is synonymous with musical theatre.

The Phantom of the Opera
Is based on… Le Fantôme de l’Opéra
The Phantom of the Opera is currently running on Broadway, London’s West End, Asia Pacific, Budapest, Hamburg, and Moscow.  There’s also a U.S. Tour of the Phantom of the Opera.  In 2015, look for Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles and Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco.  While you’re waiting to hear the music of night, break out a little TPOTO trivia.  The longest running show in Broadway history is based on the novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux.  The novel was first published as a serial in 1909 and 1910.  The novel also inspired the famous 1925 film of the same name starring Lon Chaney.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Is based on… Spider-Man comics
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is the most expensive Broadway production in the history of the Great White Way.  The show also holds the record for the most previews.  Turn off the Dark is based on the comic book character Spider-Man which was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  The web slinger is one of the most popular comic book heroes of all-time.

South Pacific
Is based on… Tales of the South Pacific
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II used James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific as the basis for their 1949 musical South Pacific.  They believed Michener’s 1947 novel would be the perfect vehicle to take on racism.  Both the musical and the novel won Pulitzer Prizes.

Is based on… La boheme
Rent is the second musical on our list based on an opera by Giacomo Puccini.  Puccini’s La boheme debuted in 1896.  Rent debuted on Broadway almost exactly a century later.  There are obviously a few differences between Rent and La boheme.  The most glaring is the specter of AIDS/HIV in the former.  La boheme is one of opera’s most performed works.  Rent won a Pulitzer Prize.

West Side Story
Is based on… Romeo and Juliet
Arguably the Sgt. Peppers’ of Broadway musicals, West Side Story and its dancing gangs were inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Instead of the Montagues and Capulets, the musical gives us the Jets and the Sharks.  In the musical, only Tony (Romeo) dies.  In the play, both lovers depart this mortal coil.

Is based on… Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
If you said Wicked was based on the 1939 film the Wizard of Oz and/or L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz give yourself half credit.  Technically, the blockbuster musical is based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Of course, Maguire’s worked is based on the aforementioned movie and Baum’s novel.  By the way, Wicked the musical differs greatly from the Maguire’s manuscript.  The one thing that didn’t change was his idea of telling the story from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical "Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
Is based on… The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Colloquial known as the “The Wiz,” the 1975 production won the Tony Award for Best Musical.  It was a retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz through the lens of African-American culture.  Theatre fans loved it.  The musical was turned into a film in 1978 that starred Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Richard Pryor.  Despite picking up four Academy Award nominations, movie fans hated it. 

Several musicals have been based on the films.  Below is ten of the most famous “silver screen to musical theatre” adaptations of all-time.  Interestingly, two of the following musicals were eventually turned into films thus giving us the whimsical genre of “a movie based on a musical that’s based on a movie. “

Beauty and the Beast… the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast
Billy Elliot the Musical… the 2000 film Billy Elliot
Hairspray… the 1988 film Hairspray*
The Lion King… the 1994 film The Lion King
Monty Python’s Spamalot… the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Newsies the Musical… the 1992 film Newsies
Once… the 2006 film Once
The Producers… the 1968 film The Producers*
Sunset Boulevard… the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard
Young Frankenstein… the 1974 film Young Frankenstein
*= turned into films

By David B.

Straight No Chaser Making A Cappella Cool

Straight No Chaser Making A Cappella Cool

My grandfather was in a barbershop quartet.  His a cappella group was called The Four Guardsmen.

They were pretty good.  They played some big rooms in Reno.  They all had great voices and harmonized quite well.  Their concerts were very entertaining.  Between songs, they talked to the crowd and told jokes. 

I only remember seeing them perform a few times but I liked what I heard and saw.  They probably could have gone professional but they were all family men with good jobs who didn’t want to spend 300 days a year on the road making a go of it.

They were also about a decade too late.  By the time they started performing, popular culture had been hijacked by teenagers and the dominate music genre was rock and roll—about the furthest thing from barbershop quartet.

My grandfather, who had a great voice, led a hardcore barbershop quartet.  They weren’t part barbershop and part doo wop.  They were full on barbershop and performed traditional barbershop songs like “Down by the Old Mill Stream,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and “Wait ‘Til the Sun Shines, Nellie.”

Let’s be honest, barbershop quartet is not, nor has it ever been, the hippest genre of music.  It’s down there in the dustbin of nerd alongside polka, marching band music, and that genre from the 1920s where the singer used a megaphone.  Barbershop quartet is not even the coolest sub-genre of a cappella—that would be doo wop. 

That’s not to say my grandfather and his mates, or any other barbershop foursome for that matter, can’t or don’t make great music.  It’s just that the music they make is far from the vanguard.  Even my pop-pop would agree that barbershop, and a cappella music in general, is the opposite of hip hop and a general chick repellent (no offense to my grandmother). 

It’s not that a cappella is inherently lame.  The style has been used by popular musicians for generations and has produced some hit songs.  Artists that have dabbled in a cappella include Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, and Brandy Norwood. 

Some pop stars have released vocal-only versions of their most popular songs/albums—sort of a backdoor a cappella.  The most famous example of this is Jay-Z’s Black Album.  Danger Mouse took the a cappella version of the Black Album and mixed it with The Beatles’ The White Album.  He called his final product The Grey Album.

What kept my grandfather’s barbershop quartet in anonymity, and what stunts most pure a cappella groups, isn’t a lack of instruments but material.  Music written for a cappella groups seldom light up the charts.

To get around that, all you have to do is one simple thing.  It’s the same thing the a cappella dectet Straight No Chaser does all the time and that’s perform hit pop songs.

It’s an unexplained phenomenon but people love it when artists from marginalized music styles, like a cappella, perform popular songs.  The geekier the musicians, the cooler the song, then the more people will love it.  I don’t know why or how but that’s just the way it is.

This explains why we love it when country musicians cover hip hop bands and "Weird Al" Yankovic does Polka versions of Top 40 hits.  You probably don’t even like polka music, and you might not even like the original songs Yankovic covers, but hearing the “Best Song Ever” and “Thrift Shop” played on an accordion is awesome.

The phenomenon also explains why people love it when Straight No Chaser performs songs like “Moves Like Jagger,” “Blurred Lines,” “Call Me Maybe,” and “Sexy and I Know It.”

This fall and winter, you can catch the thoroughly entertaining Straight No Chaser live and in concert.  Their “Happy Hour Tour 2014” kicks off Oct. 14 in Bakersfield, California.  It ends Jan. 3 in Honolulu at the Hawai’i Theatre.

Highlights of their outing include Straight No Chaser in Dallas on Oct. 26, Straight No Chaser in Atlanta on Nov. 14, and Straight No Chaser in New York City on Dec. 5.

Look for SNC to perform matinees in Denver, Hershey, Cleveland, Chicago, and Indianapolis.  Since the band formed at Indiana University, they’ll spend two days in Indianapolis, Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, performing at the Murat Theater at Old National Centre.

In the New Year, SNC ventures overseas for a series of shows in the United Kingdom.  Their European tour begins Jan. 28 in London and ends Feb. 24 in Zurich.  They will also visit Dublin, Berlin, and Paris.

Straight No Chaser Lineup
Michael Luginbill
Randy Stine
Dave Roberts
Charlie Mechling
Jerome Collins
Walter Chase
Don Nottingham
Seggie Isho
Tyler Trepp
Steve Morgan

In addition to the great harmonies and vocalizations, Straight No Chaser is super charming and they yuck it up on stage.  They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you dance, and if you’re a mom, grandma, or aunt, they’ll make you swoon.   

There is another way an a cappella group, or artist performing a marginalized style of music, can win over fans and that’s performing Christmas music.

The so-called “cool” bands generally eschew holiday carols (because Christmas music isn’t cool) and to be quite frank they don’t really do the Yuletide tunes justice.  Dave Matthews Band and Justin Timberlake are great for most seasons but they don’t come to mind when one thinks of the Noel season.

Needless to say, Straight No Chaser performs Christmas music.  In fact, their first two albums were dedicated to Santa’s big day. 

They released Holiday Spirits in 2008 and Christmas Cheers in 2009.  The works contains secular and religious carols as well as “Indiana Christmas,” “Who Spiked The Eggnog?” “Donde Esta Santa Claus,” and a live version of "The 12 Days of Christmas."  Expect to hear some holiday harmonies during Straight No Chaser’s upcoming tour.

The ten-man band released their first non-Christmas album in 2010.  With A Twist contains instrument-less renditions of “Wonderwall,” “Single Ladies,” and “Fix You.”  Their latest opus, Under the Influence, dropped in May of 2013.

If my grandfather’s barbershop quarter had covered some popular music tunes then maybe this writer would now be enjoying the boons of a hefty trust fund.  As it is, my grandfather and his fellow crooners did their thing and entertained a lot of people.  That’s exactly what Straight No Chaser is doing today.

By David B.

Motley Crüe Is The Most Important Unimportant Band Of All-Time

Motley Crüe Is The Most Important Unimportant Band Of All-Time

Motley Crüe is the most important unimportant band of all-time. 

Here’s why they’re unimportant: they only have one number one album and two top ten singles. 

They’ve never won a Grammy Award.  In fact, the only trophy on their mantle is an American Music Award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album (Dr. Feelgood), which they won in 1991.

They didn’t really advance, innovate, or revolutionize any genre of music—unless you think “hair band” is a legitimate category.  They’re not particularly great musicians.  They’re not transcendent songwriters. 

Despite all that, I have not come to bury Motely Crüe.  In fact, I’ve come to praise them. 

They may not be artistic pioneers with an overabundance of musical prowess, but they are the epitome of what think of when we think of a hard rock band.  Their music, as well as their behavior on and off the stage, is hedonistic, wanton, and licentious. 

They are the living cliché of a rock band.  Some of the clichés they invented while others they leaned into.

When you see a decedent and fictional rock band in a television show or movie, you’re seeing Motley Crüe. 

Motley Crüe sing songs that champion reckless lifestyle choices (like “Girls, Girls, Girls”) and they live(d) that reckless lifestyle.  In doing so, they have endeared themselves to millions of fans. 

That last paragraph is part of the “important” part as well as the band selling more than 75 million albums and countless Motley Crüe concert tickets all over the world.

Love them or hate them, Motley Crüe provides the ultimate rock and roll fantasy.  For millions, Crüe’s music and their escapades offered the perfect escape from the responsibilities and commitments of everyday life. 

I’m not talking about the behavior that resulted in committing vehicular homicide, getting arrested, or dying from an overdose and then bolting from the hospital before being released.  I’m talking about the behaviors that said “screw it” to society’s norms and expectations because I’m going to do whatever the hell I want to.

Motley Crüe extols the virtues of drunkenness, promiscuity, and general debauchery.  We don’t want those values in our politicians, professional athletes, and offspring, but we do in our rock bands.

The escapism they heaped on fans should account for something.  While the band has done some inexcusable things since forming in 1981, they have also transported millions of fans from the banalities of reality to the “Never Never Land” of rock and roll.

During their 30-plus years of existence, Motley Crüe has pretty much kept to their degenerate ethos. Yes, they’ve released just four albums in the past 20 years (and one in the past six) while launching 23 tours, and they have a bunch of greatest hits collections, but they’ve never really allowed themselves to get bloated like Fleetwood Mac and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

To prove that point, the band not only announced that “The Motley Crüe Final Tour” will be their last but they signed a binding legal documenting stating as much.  This legal document says the band will never tour again—at least under the banner of Motley Crüe—once the calendar turns to 2015.

How exactly will the Motley Crüe’s “Magna Carta” prevent further tours?  I have no idea.  They probably don’t either but that’s not the point. 

What is the point is the band that epitomizes the sex, drugs, and rebellion promised by rock and roll is trying to end their career still embracing those concepts—at least as much as four guys can that are north of 50.

Motley Crüe is trying to end things the same way they started and that’s on their own terms.

Their final musical odyssey began July 2 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The first leg concluded on Aug. 31 at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in western New York. 

They resume their tour Oct. 10 in Oklahoma City.  On Oct. 15, Nashville welcomes Motley Crüe to the Bridgestone Arena.

Motley Crüe has two shows planned for Hollywood, Florida and the Seminole Hard Rock Live.  The band also has two shows planned for Atlantic City.  One is scheduled for Oct. 24 and the other for Oct. 25.

The highlight of the band’s final leg is when New York City hosts Motley Crüe at Madison Square Garden.  That concert is scheduled to go down on Oct. 28.

After that, Crüe visits a bunch of mid-size cities like Moline, Madison, St. Paul, and Edmonton. 

The penultimate date in the touring career of Crüe is Nov. 21.  That night Motley Crüe performs in Vancouver, B.C. at Rogers Arena. 

The city that will host Motley Crüe’s final concert is Spokane, Washington.  The last time the band will ever rock a stage will be Nov. 22.

Opening for Crüe will be legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper.  According to reviewers, Cooper doesn’t disappoint.  Besides playing hits like “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen,” and “Welcome to My Nightmare,” Cooper also entertains fans with a boa constrictor, macabre decorations, and a very convincing beheading.

As for Crüe, their live show is packed with pyrotechnics.  Their evening terminates with a pyro display suitable for a bicentennial celebration or a small war in Central America. 

Motley Crüe has designed a setlist that will please just about everyone.  If you’re into early Crüe or late 1980s Crüe you will leave the venue satisfied.  The band also plays some of their new stuff (relative) like “Saints of Los Angeles” and “Mutherf—— of the Year.”

The band ends their set with “Kickstart My Heart” and then encores with “Home Sweet Home.”  Other songs in their setlist are “Primal Scream,” "Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” “Shout at the Devil,” and “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.).”

When you attend a Motley Crüe concert make sure you make some noise.  If you don’t you might be chastised in a Tommy Lee tweet.

After an Aug. 27 show in Allentown, Pennsylvanian, Crüe’s drummer posted the following on his Twitter account: “Wow! Allentown! You guys win the “Most Absent” award tonight! Thanks for trying to be there!!!”

The media’s excuse for the apparent subdued crowd was the fact that the band played the same songs when they performed in nearby Bethlehem in the summer of 2013.  Fans who actually attended the concert said the crowd was restrained because the sound wasn’t very good.

By David B.

5 Great Tours Beginning In The Fall Of 2014

5 Great Tours Beginning In The Fall Of 2014

Dave Matthews Band is set to perform at the beautiful Gorge Amphitheatre from Aug. 29 through Aug. 31.  That’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.  This year, Labor Day comes early, Sept. 1, but it’s still the unofficial official end of summer.

Summer, as music fans know, is the best time to attend a concert.  Nothing beats listening to your favorite band on the lawn of some amphitheater with nothing but the night’s sky overhead and a little “something special” in your red cup.  The halcyon days of summer are perfect for just about every genre of music.  Besides, you should attend a music concert in shorts and sunglasses, not scarves and mittens.

This summer was ripe for great tours.  You had Lady Gaga’s “Art Rave: The Artpop Ball,” Aerosmith’s “Let Rock Rule” trek, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “On the Run Tour,” Motley Crüe’s “The Final Tour”, Tom Petty hitting the road with Steve Winwood, Cher’s “Dressed to Kill Tour”, and several live dates from The Zac Brown Band.

Now, just because summer “ends” on Sept. 1 doesn’t mean you’re done with live music until next Memorial Day (the official unofficial start of summer).  The fall of 2014 is shaping up to be a good one for live music.  Below, BSTLV looks at several great live music tours that begin this coming autumn.  Sadly, you might have to wear pants and a sweatshirt to some of these shows but that doesn’t mean you won’t have one hell of a good time.

A few of the tours we mentioned above stretch into autumn.  Motley Crüe’s last show of the summer is Aug. 31 in Darien Center, New York.  They return to the road Oct. 10 in Oklahoma City and will keep rocking until Nov. 22 when they play the Spokane Arena in Spokane, Washington.  Tom Petty’s fall dates are highlighted by a three-night stand at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  That much-anticipated run begins Sept. 30.  Cher resumes the concert trail on Sept. 11 in Albany, New York.  Her massive trek, which began in the spring, finally ends Nov. 3 in Wichita.

A Phish tour is a usual staple of the summer music scene.  In 2014, they will also leave their mark on autumn.  Phish embarks on a 12-concert trek of the U.S. on Oct. 17 in Eugene, Oregon at the Matthew Knight Arena.  This short jaunt ends Nov. 2 when Las Vegas welcomes Phish to the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  That date is the last of a three-night stand in Sin City (which includes a show on Halloween night). 

All 12 Phish concerts will take place in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada—that’s great news for West Coast Phans.  If you get some time off of work, you’ll be able to follow the band throughout their entire autumn tour.

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks is back.  After retiring from the recording industry in 2001, Garth Brooks returns to touring on Sept. 4 with a concert at the AllState Arena in Rosemont, Illinois (Chicago).  Brooks will perform ten concerts in Chi-Town between Sept. 4 and Sept. 14.  On three of those nights he performs two shows (Sept. 6, Sept. 12, and Sept. 13) one at 6:00pm and another at 10:30pm.

After Chicago, Brooks visits Atlanta.  He performs one show at the Philips Arena on Sept. 19 and two on Sept. 20.  So far, those are the only two stops of what is being billed as “The Garth Brooks World Tour With Trisha Yearwood.”  Since Brooks is the third bestselling artist in the history of the United States you can rest easy that plenty of more dates are coming.  His world tour might not end until next autumn.

The Australian Pink Floyd Show
Yes, the Australian Pink Floyd Show is a tribute act.  Yet, this isn’t the kind of tribute act you’ll find on a sea cruise.  The Australian Pink Floyd Show is arguably the greatest tribute band of all-time.  They not only sound like Floyd but they recreate the experience of seeing everyone’s favorite psychedelic band in concert.  They’re able to do this because they’ve been recreating Pink Floyd for more than 20 years and they work with many of the same professionals the real band did.

Beginning Sept. 19, The Australian Pink Floyd Show kicks off the U.S. leg of their “Set the Controls Tour” with a gig at McCaw Hall in Seattle.  They’ll remain in America through Oct. 26.  That night they’ll rock the Best Buy Theater in New York City.  Highlights of their autumn journey include a Sept. 25 concert in Phoenix, an Oct. 2 show in Chicago, and an Oct. 11 performance in Philadelphia.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots?  Is that Scott Weiland’s new band?  No, Kinky Boots is the name of a Tony Award winning musical.  Hey, actors singing their emotions on stage may not be Jimmy Buffett at Red Rocks but it’s a still live music and it still counts.  Besides, the weather is getting colder, so why not retreat to a warm and cozy theatre and enjoy one of the best musicals of the decade.

Kinky Boots is about a shoe factory owner and a drag queen.  The owner, with help from the drag queen, stops making traditional men’s shoes and begins making shoes for drag queens.  The hilarious and heartwarming show contains music and lyrics by pop diva Cyndi Lauper.   Her hard work earned her the Tony Award for Best Score. 

The first U.S. tour of Kinky Boots kicks off Sept. 4 in Las Vegas.  After that, the show visits Tempe, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Costa Mesa.  That pretty much takes us into the New Year.  Kinky Boots has dates scheduled deep into 2015.

Enrique Iglesias
In the fall of 2014, Enrique Iglesias is hitting the carretera with Pitbull.  Their tour begins Sept. 12 in Newark, New Jersey and ends Oct. 28 in Orlando, Florida.  The highlight of their musical odyssey has to be their Oct. 26 concert in Miami, Florida.  Miami is the hometown of both artists.  Also on the marquee is Colombian recording artist J Balvin.

You want to keep an eye on this tour because it’s the only one where you can catch the top selling Spanish-language artist of the 1990s.  Iglesias has sold more than 100 million records in a career that began in 1994.  It’s easy to see why he’s called “The King of Latin Pop.”

Five Touring Musicals You Must See

Five Touring Musicals You Must See

WickedJersey BoysThe Lion KingLes MisérablesPhantom of the Opera.  When one of those musicals comes to your town you drop everything and attend.  It doesn’t matter who’s in the cast, who’s the director, or the name of the production company, you have to get tickets.  To put it another way, those five shows, regardless of geography, are can’t-miss musicals.

Of course, they aren’t the only traveling Broadway shows and they aren’t the only musicals worthy of your hard-earned cash and precious time.  Below are five other touring musicals that you’ve absolutely must see when they come to your corner of the world.  The following five shows are entertaining, inventive, and enthralling—a few are even hilarious.  These shows are so good they might even usurp the aforementioned quintet of musicals as your favorite.

The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is in the argument for the greatest musical of the century.  The side-splitting show is the brainchild of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the guys who created South Park) and Robert Lopez (co-composer of Avenue Q and the music from the movie Frozen).  The original cast included Andrew Rannells (from The New Normal) and Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf in Frozen).

The production, which makes more fun of musicals than of Mormonism, is about a pair of missionaries stationed in Uganda.  These intrepid proselytizers try to teach the Book of Mormon but the villagers are more concerned about AIDS, war, and famine then their spiritual life.  It’s hard to believe but that’s the backdrop to arguably the funniest musical of all-time. 

The Book of Mormon is currently playing on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre.  The show is so popular that it has spawned two national touring companies.  One will be in Philadelphia until Sept. 14.  The other will visit Seattle, Spokane, and Minneapolis during that same time frame.  Also, look for TBOM in Miami from Dec. 2 to Dec. 14, Houston from Jan. 20 to Feb. 8, and Chicago from Feb. 24 to May 15.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots came out of nowhere to be the smash hit of the 2013 Broadway season.  When it debuted in March of 2013, it was not well liked by critics and it struggled at the box office especially against its rival, Matilda the Musical.  Undeterred, the musical kept plugging away and a month later it had surpassed Matilda.  Not long after that, Kinky Boots was nominated for 13 Tony Awards.  It won six of them, including Best Musical.  The following day, fans snatched up $1.25 million in Kinky Boots tickets.  The show became so popular that a special lottery system was created to prevent fans from camping outside of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots is about the relationship between Charlie, a prim and proper shoe factory owner, and Lola, an outrageous and vivacious drag queen.  With Lola’s help, Charlie saves his factory by producing shoes for drag queens and kings.

Kinky Boots’ music and lyrics were written by Cyndi Lauper.  Her first attempt at writing a musical earned her a Tony Award for Best Score.  By winning, Lauper became the first woman to ever snatch up that award all by herself.  The book was written by the incomparable Harvey Fierstein.

Kinky Boots will be in Los Angeles from Nov. 11 to Nov. 30.  In 2015, look for Kinky Boots in Houston from Feb. 10 to Feb. 22, and Philadelphia from April 28 to May 10.

If you want a great old fashion musical with memorable melodies and rousing dance numbers, then you need to see Newsies.  Nominated for eight Tony Awards, Disney’s energetic musical landed on Broadway in 2012 at the Nederlander Theatre.  The show is set to close Aug. 24, 2014 after more than 1,000 performances.

The North American tour kicks off Oct. 11 in Schenectady, New York.  The trek is scheduled to last 43 weeks and will visit 25 cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

Newsies probably sounds familiar.  It’s based on the 1992 film of the same name and it’s about the Newsboys Strike of 1899 that occurred in New York City.  Two historical figures are characters in the musical, Joseph Pulitzer and Theodore Roosevelt.

Alan Menken wrote the music while Jack Feldman penned the lyrics.  The duo won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Original Score.  Newsies is also the second musical on our list with a book written by the great Harvey Fierstein.  One of the best things about Newsies is the dance numbers.  The extravagant routines are choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. 

Once is the third musical on our list based on a movie and the third that won the Tony Award for Best Musical.  The show made its Broadway debut in February of 2012 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.   The stage adaptation contains many of the songs from the movie, including “Falling Slowly,” that were written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.  The book was the product of Enda Walsh. 

The original Broadway cast starred Cristin Milioti.  You may remember her as “the mother” from the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”  She originated the role of “Girl.”  The male lead is called “Guy.”  When actors are done with their scenes they sit on chairs situated on the outskirts of the stage.  They also play instruments and serve as the musical’s orchestra.

The touring production of Once is currently in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre.  In the near future you can catch the show in San Diego (Aug. 12 to Aug. 17), Costa Mesa (Aug. 19 to Aug. 31), Baltimore (Sept. 9 to Sept. 14), and Nashville (Sept. 16 to Sept. 21).

The U.S. national tour of Pippin begins Sept. 6 in Denver.  After that, the show relocates to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Theatre.  Then, from Oct. 21 to Nov. 9, Pippin will be in Los Angeles.  Other cities on the itinerary include Las Vegas, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.  In 2015, look for Pippin in Atlanta, at the Fox Theatre, from May 5 through May 10.

Pippin is the only revival on our list.  It premiered on the Great White Way back in the early 1970s.   Most people know the work through a watered-down, amateur version.  The Broadway version, if done in the vision of its original director, legend Bob Fosse, is actually one of the deepest, surrealist, and most unsettling shows to ever hit the boards.  The revival, which adheres to Fosse’s concept, is directed by the incredible Diane Paulus who won a Tony Award for her efforts.

Pippin tells the story of its titular character, the son of Charlemagne, and his search for purpose and meaning in life.  Although Pippin and Charlemagne are representatives of their famous namesakes from the Middle Ages, the plot adheres little to historic events.  The musical was originally conceived by its composer Stephen Schwartz as a student project.  If you recall, Schwartz went on to concoct the music and lyrics for Wicked.

As you might imagine from a musical originally directed by Bob Fosse, the dancing in Pippin is done in his iconic style.  The show also features the amazing acrobatics of Les 7 Doigts De La Main.  The touring production will star Sasha Allen as the “Leading Player” and the brilliant John Rubinstein as Charles.  Rubinstein originated the role of Pippin when the production premiered at the Imperial Theater on Oct. 23, 1972.  Also in the original cast were Ben Vereen, Jill Clayburgh, and Irene Ryan.

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