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The SparkNotes Blog

Homework help made hilarious.

If You Like Hamilton (And These Other Shows), Then You’ll LOVE These Lesser Known Musicals

Is there any joy greater than sharing the soundtrack to your favorite musical with someone who’s never heard it before? If your answer to that question was a screeching “YASSSS!” then this list is for you. You know every lyric from Hamilton. You’ve choreographed your own version of The Rocky Horror Show in your bedroom, by yourself. You know all the cast and score differences between the Broadway and West End productions of Wicked. And that’s why we’re taking them as inspirations to introduce you to some musicals that you may not be as familiar with. But once you dive in, we think you’ll be just as obsessed!

If you like Hamilton

Then you have to check out 1776, a musical about the debating, writing, and signing of the Declaration of Independence. While the musical styles differ between the two shows, most of the characters are the same and it’s always interesting to see different perspectives on the same historical event. Heck, you could make a whole night of it and start with the Hamilton soundtrack, watch the film version of 1776, then binge on the HBO John Adams miniseries. Cool fact: the original Broadway production of 1776 and Hamilton were both performed in the same Broadway theatre!

In this clip, John Adams angrily chastises the new congress for not acting faster. Yeesh, this guy’s kind of annoying. Maybe that’s why Miranda cut his character from Hamilton!

If you like Wicked

Then you need to run, not walk, to iTunes or the nearest record store and buy the soundtrack to The Baker’s Wife. Story-wise the two don’t have a whole lot in common, but the music and lyrics are by the same composer, Stephen Schwartz, and if you listen closely you can hear a ton of musical similarities. It’s hard to imagine that the guy who wrote Pippin and Godspell ever had a show that was considered a flop, but that’s exactly what The Baker’s Wife was. Despite having some of the most beautiful songs he ever wrote (and one of the funniest songs in all of musical theatre, IMHO, with “Proud Lady”), this show never even made it to Broadway. It’s a small show that isn’t about witches or kings, but the Act I closer “Meadowlark” packs just as much emotional punch as “Defying Gravity.”

If you like The Rocky Horror Show

Then boy-oh-boy are you in for a delightful surprise: there was a sequel, and it’s called Shock Treatment! Well, not exactly a sequel. In fact, Richard O’Brien, the writer/composer of the RHS, was quoted saying that Shock Treatment wasn’t “a sequel or a prequel, it’s an equal.” The story follows Brad and Janet after the events of Rocky Horror. The two are back in their hometown of Denton and are forced into participating in a reality TV show that pits them against each other. The musical, which only exists in movie form, came out in 1980 and predicts a lot of the insanity of current reality television that was still decades away. A blind, German game show host, mind-controlling sibling doctors, switched at birth identical twins… all this, plus the tunes are just as catchy as anything in Rocky Horror!

If you like Urinetown: The Musical

Then, my fourth wall breaking friend, you will feel right at home with [title of show]. The unlikely Broadway hit, Urinetown, took its cues from Bertolt Brecht with its blatant calling out of theatrical tropes and addressing the audience straight on. While [title of show] doesn’t have the heavy political themes of a Threepenny Opera or Urinetown, it’s plenty meta. Get this: it’s a musical about the mounting of a Broadway musical that the musical’s about. Confused? Just listen to the soundtrack and it’ll all be clear. And by all means start with “Nine People’s Favorite Thing” which has the wonderful lyric that pretty much sums up all of these musicals: “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing/than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.”

What’s you favorite overlooked musical?