The best of 21st-century Broadway
February 21, 2009 1:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for showtunes from recent Broadway and off-Broadway musicals.

This is not for any project. It's just to expand my horizons when it comes to recent musicals.

The last musicals I've seen are Wicked and Monty Python's Spamalot, both of which I enjoyed. But anything in the last ten years would be appreciated.

I'm asking for individual song recommendations rather than an entire album. If I like the one or two songs you suggest, I'll take a look at the whole show.

I prefer more rockin' musicals like Chess and Rent, but I don't mind old-school sounds in the style of, say, Guys and Dolls. Please feel free to include little-known or "failed" shows; after all, the book for Chess is pretty clumsy but "One Night in Bangkok" will live forever.

Thanks for your help. Until musicals become part of the algorithms for iTunes' Genius feature or Pandora, I'll have to rely Mefites for Broadway recommendations. Just like the "old" days...
posted by Flying Saucer to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I've plugged Broadway songs into Pandora and had it play other Broadway songs back to me.

Anyway, you're going to love Spring Awakening. The Broadway production has closed, but it's touring right now. If it comes near you, I highly recommend. Because you love RENT. Maybe try Totally Fucked for an example of one of their more rocking, funny songs, and Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind for a more emotional example. But if RENT and Chess are favorites, it's hard to imagine you won't love the whole thing.

I didn't see Passing Strange on Broadway but I downloaded the soundtrack and I quite like We Just Had Sex and The Black One. But you might try Amsterdam because it's more like a full song.

Avenue Q is another favorite of the past decade. First time I saw it, I busted a gut the whole time. Everyone's a Little Bit Racist for the funny and There's a Fine, Fine Line for the emotional.

A slightly more obscure musical I loved a few years ago was Caroline or Change. Try Lot's Wife or 1943.

An older and more traditional one I liked, from about ten years ago, was the Scarlet Pimpernell. I liked the Terrence Mann songs--Where's the Girl and Falcon in the Dive.
posted by lampoil at 2:00 PM on February 21, 2009

Also most of these will be cheaper on Amazon mp3 than iTunes. I got Passing Strange because it was on one of their $5 sales.

And if you haven't already, check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog on hulu.
posted by lampoil at 2:04 PM on February 21, 2009

There are so many great new shows, but based on Wicked and Spamalot, it's hard to know what specific songs to recommend. Man from The Full Monty, certainly; you can't go wrong with David Yazbek. You might well like stuff from Spring Awakening or In the Heights, but I didn't, so don't know any of the songs. Maybe Pandemonium from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, or You Can't Stop The Beat from Hairspray or Brand New You from 13. Or you could just listen to the Broadway channel of Accuradio or Maximum Broadway on Live365 and pick out what you like.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:04 PM on February 21, 2009

For specific song recommendations, I'd say "Raise the Roof" and "Life of the Party" from Lippa's The Wild Party (you can't go wrong with Julia Murney & Idina Menzel), and "Totally Fucked" from Spring Awakening. "Once Upon A Time" from Brooklyn was pretty damn good, although it's not exactly rock, and "Please Don't Touch Me" from Young Frankenstein made me laugh, a lot. Oh, and "Role of a Lifetime" from Bare: a Pop Opera.
posted by spockette at 2:08 PM on February 21, 2009

Not to hijack the thread, but are any of these good for nonbelter med-to high female voice? I I want to expand my audition repertoire into the modern age and I am stuck in R&H land.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:28 PM on February 21, 2009

Spring Awakening
tick...tick... boom (by the creator of RENT)
Passing Strange
In the Heights
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:38 PM on February 21, 2009

... oops missed your song request. You can sample any of these on Youtube.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:38 PM on February 21, 2009

"Another Winter in a Summer Town" and "Around the World" from Grey Gardens: The Musical.
posted by Morrigan at 2:53 PM on February 21, 2009

Try "The Origin Of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
posted by nicwolff at 2:58 PM on February 21, 2009

For what it's worth, I'm a huge RENT-head, and I really didn't care for Spring Awakening. I'm not sure I would put them in the same category, except that they both have lots of swearing. :)

I also vote for Hedwig. Origin of Love, and also Sugar Daddy are two good songs from that to get a good representation.
posted by dithmer at 3:40 PM on February 21, 2009

Oh, and also Little Shop of Horrors! Listen to "Dentist," "Skid Row," and "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space."

Plus, it's a movie! So double fun!
posted by dithmer at 3:44 PM on February 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, dithmer. I'll look into Hedwig.

But I already know all about Little Shop.
posted by Flying Saucer at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2009

Jason Robert Brown has written some amazing musicals. Specifically:

Next Ten Minutes, Still Hurtingand Goodbye Until Tomorrow from Last Five Years
All the Wasted Time from Parade
I'd Give It All For You and Stars and the Moon from Songs for a New World

My list is biased towards love songs (my favorite for singing along) but all of JRB's stuff is great.
posted by bluestocking at 4:21 PM on February 21, 2009

Just thought of some more! Not all are from the last 10 years, but nothing earlier than the 80's or so.

Unexpected Song from Song and Dance
Shakalaka Baby from Bombay Dreams
Wig in a Box from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (don't think this one has been mentioned yet)
Another Hundred People and Being Alive from Company

I also highly recommend Jane Eyre the Musical, but it's more of an operetta a la "Les Miz" and has a different sound than what you may want.
posted by bluestocking at 4:33 PM on February 21, 2009

I just started listening to In the Heights and have really enjoyed it. It has a fun hip hop vibe to it, but still lots of strong melodic songs. Try "When You're Home" or "Won't Be Long."

Brooklyn is a recent musical with some strong songs. "Once Upon a Time," "Streetsinger," and "Heart Behind These Hands" are highlights.

A little older, but still contemporary - William Finn's shows. I like Falsettoland and A New Brain. "What Would I Do" and "What More Can I Say" from the former, and "Heart and Music," "I'd Rather Be Sailing," and "I Feel So Much Spring" from the latter.

And, of course, there's Avenue Q. Not quite as many belters as some shows, but good songs.

You could also try some of the more recent theater composers/songwriters like Jeff Blumenkrantz and Scott Alan. "I Won't Mind," "How Can I Keep From Singing," and "Hold My Hand" from the former and "I'm a Star," "Home," and "Magic" from the latter.

Anyway - those are just a few off the top of my head. Have fun!
posted by Mirandala at 4:41 PM on February 21, 2009

I'm not sure I would put them in the same category, except that they both have lots of swearing. :)

They also both use rock music, which is one of the things the OP said he liked. And they both had young casts and were geared toward a young audience. Minimal sets. Band instead of an orchestra. Etc.
posted by lampoil at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2009

"As We Stumble Along" and "I Am Adolpho" from The Drowsy Chaperone are great songs from that show. Since you liked Spamalot, Drowsy, a funny, meta-musical, might appeal to you too. I'm not sure those songs will be as funny taken out of the context of the show, but they're funny parodies of older musical standards.

I nth the recommendations for songs from Spring Awakening and Hedwig, especially "Origin of Love" from Hedwig.
posted by gladly at 5:16 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

So many great suggestions in this thread. You know what you'd probably like? Standing Room Only, a weekly radio show out of the college station at Emerson in Boston, that plays several hours of show tunes. They're doing weekly what people are doing in this thread- picking the greatest songs out of shows for your enjoyment; they even take requests! I used to listen every Saturday when I was up in Boston and I learned about so many great shows- and now it's available online!

I apologize for the lack of quotation marks and italics below, I just don't have the energy to do it.

Die, Vampire, Die! from [title of show]
Something About You from Altar Boyz
Whore's Lament from Amour
Three Bedroom House from Bat Bay
Great Big Stuff from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Joe Papp from Elegies: A Song Cycle (another William Finn show, he's my favorite composer!)
The Riddle Song from Floyd Collins (a song Stephen Sondheim has said he wishes he wrote)
Nine Percent Chance from High Fidelity
The Proposal from Jane Eyre (that score is so beautiful overall, as mentioned above- this song makes me cry)
Rita's Confession from Lucky Stiff (actually, Fancy Meeting You here is the really great song, but you have to know what's going on on stage to get why it's so funny)
Spring from Songs from an Unmade Bed (beautiful song cycle about love and sex)
The Sales Pitch from Striking 12
Hell No! from The Color Purple
Big-Ass Rock from The Full Monty (I agree that you can't go wrong with David Yazbek!)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:59 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hedwig premired off-Broadway in 1998, so it doesn't quite fit your criteria.
posted by brujita at 9:06 PM on February 21, 2009

Jekyll and Hyde is such an underrated play. The storyline itself is a little bit stiff in the execution, but the music and the pacing are both superb. Songs that I would recommend:

Bring On the Men
Murder, Murder

In that order.
posted by Phire at 7:08 AM on February 22, 2009

I'll second Last 5 Years, but will suggest different numbers - I do like the love songs bluestocking recommended, but I think they lose a lot of their resonance separate from the show. For a standalone song from that show, I'd start with Shiksa Goddess, I think.

I really like to steer people to Sondheim - you may hate him, but if you do like him you'll probably absolutely love him. I haven't loved his new stuff in the timeframe you're suggesting, but there've been some nice revivals, if you want to check out the cast albums for the recent revivals of Company or Sweeney Todd.
posted by Stacey at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2009

Purpose from Avenue Q
One from bare: a pop opera
Whispering from Spring Awakening
The Origin of Love from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Solidarity from Billy Elliot
Something Just Broke from Assassins
Into the Woods (Prologue) from Into the Woods
A Little Priest from Sweeney Todd
Shiksa Goddess from Last Five Years
Surabaya-Santa from Songs for a New World
Out of My Sight from John & Jen
What It Means to Be a Friend from 13
Pandemonium from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray
Urinetown from Urinetown
...but I don't want to talk about her from I Love You, Because...
posted by crossoverman at 9:02 PM on February 22, 2009

I was skeptical about Urinetown but loved it so much I saw it twice. I'll recommend "What Is Urinetown?" (opening number from Act II) and "Run, Freedom, Run."
posted by kristi at 10:15 PM on February 22, 2009


Die Vampire, Die! from [title of show] really needs to get a listen. It makes me want to laugh and cry and dance sparkly dances all at once. Secondary Characters is hilarious in a way that few things are hilarious these days.

bare is also good for the kind of music you seem to like - more "One Night in Bankok" less "I Know Him So Well" - but I'm not sure about the recordings that are available. I've not heard the recently produced album (which is more complete than what was previously available). That said, the subject matter is kinda emo. It's gay Romeo-and-Juliet.

Urinetown has very good, very quirky orchestration, with lots of good music. Look at the Sky is probably my favorite aside from the ones that have already been mentioned.

And adding:

She Loves to Hear the Music and Don't Wish Too Hard from "The Boy From Oz" are kind of strange in that "funhouse mirror kind of way" with people playing Liza and Judy Garland, but the songs themselves are pretty effing awesome and the impressions, while odd, are reasonably good. (And if you like them, there is plenty more awesome on the album.)
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your help.

I've loaded the first chunk of these (up through bluestocking's post) into the iPod and I'm very excited to hear what happens.

It was especially nice to get specific song suggestions instead of just "Listen to this musical! You'll love it!" I've found that often leads to two hours of my time not loving something.

I'll be back to get the next group soon. Feel free to keep making suggestions. By the way, has anyone taken a look at Chess based on my suggestion?
posted by Flying Saucer at 10:17 PM on February 24, 2009

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