Culture Feature

9 New Musicals to Stream Now

Tired of "Hamilton" and ready to discover your new musical theatre obsession? Look no further than the Internet's many streaming services.

Been So Long Movie Still

With Broadway dark and "Hamilton" on the receiving end of a multitude of scathing critiques, you might feel like your life is lacking musical theatre in a big way.

Fortunately, the Internet offers many, many shows you can stream to fill the void. There's really nothing like falling in love with a new musical, memorizing all the songs, singing each character's part and generally losing yourself in the world of the stage.

And though streaming services can't compare to the actual experience of entering a darkened theatre to lose yourself in a maze of lights and sound, sometimes even recordings can capture the magic of a musical.

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The Best Moments from the 2019 Tonys

James Corden celebrated the Tony Awards winners of 2019, from newcomers like "Hadestown" to revived classics like "Oklahoma!"

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

A female director finally won.

New York City (the superior city) beat out Hollywood last night—proving theater is superior entertainment. Rachel Chavkin, the only female director on Broadway right now, won Best Direction for Hadestown and made sure no one will forget it. She proclaimed that the lack of diversity in the industry is "not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be. So let's do it." Brava.

Rachel Chavkin Wins Best Direction Of A Musical At The 2019 Tony Awards www.youtube.com

Hadestown Awareness

Speaking of Hadestown, the show's 14 nominations resulted in 5 wins and exposure for those who had yet to hear about the phenomenal show. The performance of "Wait for Me" piqued the interest of many who had never seen something like it before. Let's just say ticket sales are now booming.

The Cast Of Hadestown Performs "Wait For Me" At The 2019 Tony Awards www.youtube.com

A Taylor Mac Appearance

His outfit alone was delightful enough to be a marvelous moment, but Mac outdid himself. Mac introduced his play, Gary, A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, lighting up the room with a smile while explaining the horrifying premise.

Playwright Taylor Mac Shines As He Describes Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus At The 2019 Tony … www.youtube.com

Billy Porter Owns Every Red Carpet

best moments tonys 2019 billy porter

Enough said.

Elaine May is Marvelous

The six decade career-actress spoke humbly, noting, "I've never won a nomination for acting before." The 87-year-old not only gave away her character's ending in The Waverly Gallery, but cracked a few jokes along the way. The short and sweet speech was a perfect moment for the icon. Bless her.

Elaine May Wins Best Leading Actress In A Play At The 2019 Tony Awards www.youtube.com

Being Reminded Oklahoma! Is a Great Musical

Oklahoma! is definitely benefitting from the comeback of yeehaw culture. Between Ali Stoker's heartfelt speech and the fun, catchy performance, the cast proved Oklahoma! earned its Best Revival Tony.

Ali Stroker Wins Best Featured Actress In A Musical At The 2019 Tony Awards www.youtube.com


The Cast Of Oklahoma! Performs "I Cain't Say No/ Oklahoma" At The 2019 Tony Awards www.youtube.com

MUSIC

Broadway Will Never Be the Same After Hadestown

Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin have created a revolutionary work of art.

Near the end of the first act of Hadestown, the stage goes completely dark, save for an array of huge lamps swinging from hooks somewhere in the rafters.

They swirl around Orpheus (Reeve Carney), lighting his descent into hell. With each rotation, they narrowly avoid his body, instead spinning to the rhythm of the electrifying beautiful song that he's singing, called "Wait for Me"—a song which we later find out made a crack in the wall, a crack that opens up a passage into the blinding lights of Hades' industrial lair.

"Wait for Me" from the Broadway Production of Hadestown www.youtube.com

As the show's narrator, a version of the god Hermes, describes the treacherous journey to the underworld over an exhilarating backdrop of violins and drums, the set begins to change. Wooden walls open up and roll back to reveal the framework of Hadestown itself, consisting of pipes and blinding lights that throw the stage into stark relief.

It's one of the most spine-chilling and seamless transitions in modern musical theatre history, so magnetic and moving in fact, that the audience cheered for around a full minute after the set change was complete. It's also one of many meticulously orchestrated moments in Broadway's most innovative show. That's Hadestown for you, though. The show is equal parts technical precision and raw emotion, winding mythology and searing social commentary into a kaleidoscopic carnival.

Hadestown is the project of singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, who began writing it over a decade ago. She first performed the show on a bus in Vermont, touring around schools and using the songs to teach kids about the myths of Hades, Persephone, Orpheus, and Eurydice.

Anaïs Mitchell. Image via Broadway Direct

Sometimes, even in a theater in the heart of Times Square, you can almost feel the remnants of the songs' beginnings on that bus—a closeness to the land, the rhythm of wheels turning on uneven terrain, the emptiness that defines so much of the American landscape. That closeness to the earth, and the show's intimate connection to real struggles faced by everyday people, are unexpected on a stage that usually celebrates glitz and glamor and in a show about ancient Greek myths.

Hadestown winds together two old tragedies: the stories of Hades and Persephone, and Orpheus and Eurydice. In the first myth, Hades steals Persephone away while she's playing in a field. Due to the protestations of her mother, the earth goddess Demeter, Hades agrees to let Persephone return to earth for six months out of the year—and so summer was born.

In the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Orpheus follows his lover down to Hades after her death. After enchanting Hades with his music, the god of death agrees to let them go—if Orpheus can make it home without looking back to see if Eurydice is following.

Mitchell's reinterpretation, enhanced by brilliant directing from Rachel Chavkin, transfers these myths to a modern-day setting, painting Hades' underworld as a walled factory-wasteland filled with dead-eyed workers forever constructing a wall, "punching in and punching in and punching in" for all of eternity.

Eurydice, played by the extraordinary Eva Noblezada, is a jaded runaway who falls for Orpheus after he makes a red flower bloom with his music. Their love is strong in the summer, when Persephone is back "living it up on top" and food is abundant, but by winter Eurydice grows frustrated by hunger and Orpheus's disconnect from reality, and finally agrees to go work in Hadestown in exchange for what is essentially eternal job security. Naturally, Orpheus—directed by the silver-clad god Hermes, who serves as his guardian as well as the show's narrator—follows her into the underworld.

Image via Broadway Direct

Hermes and the three fates, who float gracefully around the stage and sing in heart-stopping harmony, are instrumental to the show's rhythms, pumping real magic into the music. When Orpheus sings his epics, his voice is stark at first against the sound of just his electric guitar, but soon harmonies seem to grow up from the shadows themselves, followed by a haze of warm piano, ghostly violins, and a virtuosic trombonist. "[Orpheus] could make you see how the world could be, instead of how it is," repeats Hermes throughout the show, and when you hear the music rise to its full heights, it's hard not to share in that vision.

Hadestown, on the whole, doesn't shy away from showing you how the world is—but it also shows you how it could be, painting that world with its soft lighting and bittersweet poetry. Ultimately, it's an example of the transcendent works of art that human beings are capable of creating, using ancient stories and melodies to tap into the universal stories that connect us all and hint at the existence of much larger, even divine forces.

Despite its grandiose foundations, Hadestown is so game-changing because of how relevant it is to modern life, and how intimately it explores the deepest human experiences we share. Essentially, it's a show about working, about greed and struggle, about love in the midst of hunger and poverty; and perhaps most of all, it's a critique of capitalism. It's a damnation of the American ethos of greed and unchecked consumption that lift up the super-wealthy while leaving the poor in the dust, an ethos that has generated the wastefulness that created the modern environmental crisis. This is what makes the show so radical, radical enough that it may be the start of a pronounced change on Broadway and in musical theatre on the whole.

That's not to say that Hadestown doesn't also offer an escape. On the contrary, the whole production is so captivating that you hardly know where to look and at times may forget how to breathe. But it also reaches beyond the cloistered walls of New York's bubble of liberalism, beyond Broadway and Hollywood's tendency to worship the glamorous and the gilded, instead of approaching the reality we're all actually living in—of course, through the lens of Mitchell's finely wrought poetry and virtuosic compositions.

That reality becomes apparent when, just after Orpheus enters Hades, the god of death leads his workers in a song called "Why We Build the Wall." It's impossible not to think of Donald Trump when the chorus rings out, "Why do we build the wall?" croons Hades, and the crowd of faceless workers chants, "The wall keeps out the enemy / and the enemy is poverty / and we build the wall to keep us free." Mitchell actually wrote the song way back in 2006, but it's a stunning protest anthem for right now, one that laments the evil hypocrisy of a capitalist society that hoards wealth, exploits its own workers, and rejects its weakest citizens who cannot keep up with its relentless pressures. With every day brings another revelation about the state of the US-Mexico border—from the removal of protections for asylees seeking protection from domestic violence to the family separations and children's deaths at the hands of ICE—the song feels like a searing indictment of this border wall and all of the American exceptionalism and greed that it symbolizes.

Hadestown: Why We Build The Wall #NoWalls www.youtube.com

In spite of this, "Why We Build the Wall" and Hadestown, on the whole, are not located in any specific time period or place, and the show never expresses an us-against-them sentiment. Instead, it humanizes even Hades. "The heart of a king loves everything like the hammer loves the nail," Orpheus sings, as part of his plea to Hades. "But the heart of a man is a simple one, small and soft, flesh and blood...What has become of the heart of that man? Now that the man is king? Now that he has everything?"

So Hadestown is not an overt damnation of Trump. It is, however, a rousing call to protest even in the face of seemingly indomitable evil. "If it's true what they say, then I'll be on my way," sings Orpheus, considering the futility of his task. "But the ones who deal the cards / Are the ones who take the tricks / With their hands over their hearts / While we play the game they fix." His hope inspires other factory workers to look up from their machinery, and eventually wins him and Eurydice passage out of Hadestown. It is a doomed passage, of course, as Hermes tells us from the beginning, the inevitable ending of a very old story that has always ended in tragedy.

13 - If It's True (Anaïs Mitchell - Hadestown) www.youtube.com

At its heart, Hadestown asks why human beings keep singing, creating, and falling in love despite knowing that it all might be useless in the end. It asks why we bother to speak out when individual protests and art seem so futile, and when forces like capitalism and climate change seem too vast and overwhelming to comprehend, let alone fight. "Cause here's the thing," Hermes says at the very end of the show, just before launching back into the opening number. "To know how it ends, and still to begin to sing it again, as if it might turn out different this time…"

Ultimately, Hadestown doesn't promise that if we just hope a little harder, everything will be fixed. But it does, in Mitchell's words, raise a glass to the ones who try.


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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MUSIC

"Pretty Woman" Cast Celebrates at Album Release Party

Theater legends and theater lovers gathered in SoHo, NYC to celebrate the release of the original Broadway recording

Atlantic Records

"Pretty Woman" has officially moved from the screen to the stage, and now to your earbuds.

It was hard to distinguish cast from crowd at Nomo SoHo on Monday night, where the team behind "Pretty Woman: The Musical" was celebrating the release of the official Broadway recording at an intimate reception. When not performing, cast members Samantha Barks (Les Miserables) and Andy Karl (Groundhog Day: The Musical) could be found rubbing elbows and making small talk with fellow theater lovers.

Barks and Karl — who take on the roles originated by Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, respectively — treated the small audience to favorites from the new show, including "Anywhere But Here," "Freedom," and "Never Give up on a Dream." But perhaps the biggest treat of the night was a surprise appearance by Bryan Adams, who co-wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway adaptation. Adams was joined by his cast for a performance of his 1985 hit, "Summer of '69."

Samantha BarksAtlantic Records

"Pretty Woman: The Musical" is based on the 1990s romantic comedy, with a book by Garry Marshall (who also directed the film) and music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. Its run continues at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City. Not in NYC and want the fairy tale right now? Get your hands on the cast album by Atlantic Records.



Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.


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Previewing this spring's biggest Broadway musicals

All the big shows to be aware of before your next visit

Evan Agostini- Getty Images

Both familiar and original stories are hitting the Broadway stage looking to be the next Hamilton

Even while a chunk of the country faces a burst of winter fury, it's important to remind ourselves that spring is just around the corner. One area of the country where this is particularly clear is New York's Broadway theater district, where several massive Broadway musicals are hitting the stage in time for Tony Awards consideration. Rather than risking getting overwhelmed by the options, we decided to do a run down of this spring's biggest productions.

Groundhog Day

Based on the beloved Bill Murray film of the same name, the musical tells the story of Phil Connors, a vain jerk of a weatherman whose life is turned upside down when he's forced to live out the same day over and over again. Boasting the same creative team as the acclaimed Matilda, the production comes from an acclaimed London run and carries with it a good deal of Tony hype. While we'll have to wait and see if it can make good on that buzz, don't be surprised if word of mouth turns this into a hot ticket.

Anastasia

Adapted from the 1997 animated film, the musical tells the story of the missing daughter of Tsar Nicholas II in 1920's Paris teaming up with two con men as she tries to uncover the secrets of her past. Coming from the Tony-winning writing team of Ragtime and the Tony-winning director of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, the musical certainly has the talent at its disposal to tell its grand story. Hopefully it will be able to live up to the caliber of its creative team and give fans that grew up with the movie and new first timers alike something to sweep them off their feet.

Come From Away

While not boasting the advance hype or familiarity of other shows on this list, Come From Away has earned rave reviews and seems in position to claim the title of Broadway's feel good hit of the year. Inspired by true events of a small town in Newfoundland, Canada that opened itself up to thousands of strangers whose flights were thrown into chaos after 9/11 and the unexpected community that formed. While far from conventional Broadway musical premise, this sweet, touching, and often funny musical about kindness may be the exact type of show the country needs right now.

Amélie

Based on the Oscar Nominated French film comes a new adaptation starring Phillipa Soo, the Tony nominated female lead of Hamilton. Just as the film did, the musical tells the quirky romantic story of a kind young woman seeking to help the world who ends up finding unexpected love along the way. Given both the film's acclaim and the attention Soo will have in her first role since Hamilton, the musical will have some lofty expectations, but if it can pull it off Amélie could end up being the perfect date night musical.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What happens when a kindhearted young boy finds a golden ticket to visit an eccentric candy tycoon's chocolate factory? Well if you read Roald Dahl's book or one of it's film adaptations you may already know the answer, but starting this spring audiences will get the chance to see a whole new look at the story. Featuring new music by the song writing team responsible for Hairspray and starring two-time Tony winner Christian Borle as Wonka, the musical is poised to be the family friendly spectacle of the spring for those seeking a little pure imagination in the big city.

Neilson Barnard- Getty Images

Whether or not you consider yourself a romantic person, Valentine's Day can bring out a lot of emotions. And if there's one thing musical theater knows how to do it's speak to the ecstasy (and occasional agony) of love. Because of this we've compiled a list of some of the greatest and most underrated songs about love to help score whatever emotional state you find yourself in this February 14th.

For new loves blooming

"Shiksa Goddess", The Last Five Years

When you get that first inkling that you may have found the one, the shock to your system can be almost overwhelming in the best possible way. Jamie Wellerstein, the neebish, aspiring author feels that early in The Last Five Years, frantically trying to suppress the excitement inside him. Hopefully listening to this will help contain yourself.

For those pining

"Losing My Mind", Follies

Valentines Day has a tendency to bring up the ghosts of relationships past, and few capture the pain of recalling unrequited feelings than Stephen Sondheim's haunting anthem. Listen, let out a tear for what's passed, and ready yourself for whatever comes next.

For the artistic collaborators

"Falling Slowly", Once

Sometimes finding the right person can unlock the perfect partner to express yourself artistically. Look no further than Once, a small story about the beauty that can come when two artists find each other by chance and find the sort of connection so many search for. As beautiful as it is bittersweet, the song shows the power of finding that perfect person to harmonize with

For the long-term partners

"Sleepy Man", The Robber Bridegroom

This sweet love song from the recently revived folk musical is a relatively simple message, that after all the pain of everyday exploits, having a partner means they'll be there for you to calm you down and help put you at ease. It's a simple notion, and not a particularly sexy one, but on a day centered on love, it's something that should be celebrated

For the "morning after"

"Changing My Major to Joan", Fun Home

Because waking up next to someone opens the door to so much joy and panic, and Fun Home's depiction of a college aged Alison Bechdel speaks to every single one of these complicated feelings in 3-minute span. Since it's already so hard to put these emotions into words, just be glad this show already did it for us.

For those who want to remember

"They Can't Take That Away From Me", Crazy for You

Technically speaking, the Gershwin tune didn't premiere on the Broadway stage, but rather the 1937 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Shall We Dance. But the song, which was featured in the 1992 Tony Winner Crazy For You, celebrates the beauty of romance, even the ones that have since ended. Even if your love didn't end in happily ever after, there's still reason to look back and smile today at the past loves.

For those who want to forget

"Back to Before", Ragtime

Loving someone is not always good for you, and breaking free of these relationships can be the most positive thing you can do for your general happiness. The character "Mother" in the musical Ragtime is breaking free from a marriage that saw her just as the dutiful and subservient wife. In her climatic ballad, she celebrates wanting more in her life than simply following in her partner's footsteps.

For those over "love"

"Love's a Gun", Love's Labours Lost


Not everyone believes the notion that monogamous love is necessary or even healthy for a person. With so much societal and cultural pressure, it's important to also acknowledge that not everyone sees romance the same way. This song from the 2013 adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy paints romance as something that while the notion of love may be nice, it has a destructive side too.

For parental love

"Dear Theodosia", Hamilton

Yeah, you didn't really think Hamilton wouldn't show up on this list? Despite the several ballads in the show, one of the most powerful love songs on Broadway currently is one two fathers sing to their children. Because romantic love doesn't have a monopoly on the day, it's important to take a moment and recognize the people who helped raise you and have been there since day one.

For those ready for the next step

"Being Alive", Company

Commitment is scary and not everyone is capable of rushing into it head first. But in another one of Sondheim's ballads, the central character of Company, Bobby is finally taking stock of his life as a single man and resolves to let love into his life. Even if it's not all happening today, sometimes deciding what you want is worth celebrating.

For those taking care of themselves

"So Much Better", Legally Blonde The Musical

As great as it is to be in a healthy fulfilling relationship, it's more important to love yourself and pursue ways of making yourself happy rather than thinking someone else will do that for you. Elle Woods knows a thing or two about that and here she celebrates the fact that on her own she has found a far greater fulfillment than just being trophy fiancé.

For those who've found their partner:

"Perfect for You", Next to Normal

So often people buy into the cultural images of what love is supposed to look like without recognizing that no two romantic relationships are the same. That's why this short song from the 2011 Pulitzer winning musical recognizes the importance of finding somebody who is compatible with who you are to ensure you both can. You may never find the "perfect partner" but you can find someone perfect for you.