The Soundtracks of My Summer
Everyone always talks about the song of the summer that will inevitably be bouncing around all of the radio stations, but don’t we all really just wish that we had a soundtrack that we can relate to and jam out with? I sure do, especially since the music from one musical is often a playlist or two worth of songs. I can cover my favorite songs as I please. But with musicals, I could actually be in the cast for a production of it - or I can at least dream about it. I would love to be able to see all of these musicals live, but, for now, I will be listening to their albums on repeat and watching as many clips from them as I can.
I think most people have heard about Hamilton, and for good reason. It’s worth the hype. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the showcasing writer, has a trademark sound that seamlessly combines the best of hip hop into traditional Broadway stylings. He first introduced it in his breakout musical, In the Heights. His songs are powerful and so catchy, the lyrics memorable and empowering. Miranda first debuted the basis of Hamilton at the White House for a Poetry Jam he was invited to perform at. The show itself - as well as its casting - embodies the kind of America that would always remind us “how lucky we are to be alive right now” - and how lucky I feel being able to see the rise of this sensation as it happens.
Listen To When: you want to start a revolution
Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance of “The Hamilton Mixtape” at the White House:
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Originally a hit off-Broadway show and cult movie, the show finally reached Broadway in 2014 with Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Hedwig. The show takes many twists and turns, and does not have a clean or happy ending, mirroring life. A main theme of the show is that you must leave something behind to move forward. Hedwig’s story starts when she is still named Hansel, and must undergo a sex-change operation to marry a male American GI named Luther so she can leave East Germany while the Berlin wall is up. However, the surgery is botched and Hedwig is left by Luther in Junction City, Kansas with an “angry inch” and a trailer home to live in. Though it’s not necessarily obvious from the soundtrack itself, Hedwig is a physically exhausting show since the cast consists of only the characters of Hedwig, her husband Yitzak, and Hedwig’s backup band who play live on-stage.
Listen To When: you’re looking for your place in the world
Watch a backstage look at the cast, crew, and creators:
A musical that originally debuted on Broadway in 1996, most of the original cast were present in the movie adaptation that came out in 2005. RENT is based on Puccini's La bohème and addresses the reality of homelessness, drug addiction, and HIV/AIDS, among other topics. Many of the characters are queer, including lesbian, bisexual, and transgender representation and portrays various romantic relationships. It’s likely you’ve already heard the song “Seasons of Love” from the show, as it’s become a musical theatre staple and a popular song in general. Tragically, composer Jonathan Larson passed away the day that the show was supposed to premiere off-Broadway, and was never able to see the great success and impact of his work.
Listen To When: you need some hope
Watch an original promo for RENT:
Based on a German play from the 1800s, Spring Awakening discusses the tension of teenage sexuality and the reactions of adults around them. I’ll be listening to the original Broadway cast recording this summer, but I hope to be able to see a touring cast or recording of the revival cast, which includes deaf and hearing actors using American Sign Language to make the show accessible to more people and visually appealing in a groundbreaking way. At the 70th Tony Awards, Marlee Matlin’s ASL introduction for the revival cast she was a part of was translated into spoken English, giving hearing viewers a small insight into the experiences of deaf audiences when shows in spoken English are translated into ASL as the performance goes on.
Listen To When: you are feeling angsty
Watch the performance from the revival cast of Spring Awakening for the 70th Tony Awards:
Next to Normal
A realistic look at a mother and her family’s struggle with her bipolar disorder and trauma, this show sheds light on the day-to-day fight that people who have mental disorders and diseases face. It explores the way that their loved ones can be impacted, which is only exacerbated when tragedy strikes. This show delves deep into many hard and heavy topics, so be ready for that and be sure to have tissues with you when you listen to this album.
Listen To When: you need to feel too much
Watch “Catch Me I’m Falling” performed by the Original Broadway Cast of Next to Normal:
A live-action version of the classic Disney movie, the Broadway version of Aladdin brings me back to my childhood with one of my favorite movies, while breathing new life into the songs that many of us know so well. Genie is a strong character and allows Robin Williams’ legacy to last, while increasing the spectacle of some of Prince Ali’s most lavish moments.
Listen To When: you want to have fun
Watch a montage of the show, in all its glory:
Jessica Keller (She/Her) is part of the Concept: Staff. Learn more about the staff here.