Fandom Introduction: Musicals — For Geeks!

I love musicals. However, when I met my husband, the Nintendo fanboy gamer, he pretty much wanted nothing to do with them. Recently, though, musicals have become much more geek friendly. Think about people such as Joss Whedon, a God of the geek crowd, who wrote Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which has become quite the sensation. Joss also wrote an entire episode of Buffy as a musical (Once More With Feeling), so he’s been ahead of the curve. However, if you liked Dr. Horrible, and you think maybe you’d like to try a few other musicals, here are some ideas to get you started.
Non-traditional Musicals
These musicals have music and topics that are not what most people think of. They are great gateway musicals for people who aren’t ready for Rogers and Hammerstein yet.

Avenue Q
My husband calls this South Park meets Sesame Street (although we may have read that on the internet). It’s 50% puppets and 100% tongue in cheek. The songs include classics like “The Internet is for Porn” and “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love)”.

RENT
You might have heard of or seen the movie to this. It’s pretty good, but the musical is unbelievable. This show uses a mix of traditional and rock music sounds to tackle trying to find your way in a difficult world. The topics include homosexuality, AIDS, death, and love. It’s my favorite show and I’ve seen it live at least eight times. If you can’t find yourself in at least one character in this show, I’d be surprised.

For the History Geeks
If you’ve got a thing for historical fiction, there’s probably a musical from your favorite past era. These range from hilarious to exceedingly serious, making sure there’s something for everyone.

Miss Saigon
Based on the experiences of a soldier during the Vietnam War, this show is very real world and relatible. Also, there’s a helicopter. On stage. Totally worth it.

The Scarlett Pimpernel
This is a mostly comedic show set at the start of the French Revolution. It has a more traditional sound, but is all about saving people from having their head’s chopped off. “Madame Guillotine” is just one of the many interesting musical numbers.

Assassins
This is a show all about presidential assassins and assassinations. No, really. Now, it’s sort of cheating because it was only off-Broadway. However, I do have a cast recording of it starring Neil Patrick Harris. If he thought it was cool, so should you!

For the Literature Geeks
These musicals are based on some of the greatest novels and stories of all time. If you’re familiar with the stories already, that might help you relate to the musical even better.

Jekyll and Hyde
It’s not the greatest show, but it has some fabulous moments. The scene where Jekyll is arguing with Hyde is fantastic and, done well, it’s worth the whole show.

Les Miserables
This is my second favorite show (After Rent! of course) with interesting, well-developed characters and story lines. The music can be harder to follow and it’s a terribly sad story (the title does translate into “The Miserable Ones”), but the war scenes and staging are utterly spectacular.

Into the Woods
Like fairy tales? Prefer totally screwed up fairy tales? Yeah, so do I. Well, this show takes a bunch of fairy tales (think Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and various other familiar stories), throws them together in the woods, and then deviates from typical story lines. If you like Fables, the Vertigo Comic, give this a try.

Generally Geeky
Sometimes a musical is just about a geeky topic, and that’s where these fall. Whether it’s the entire story line or a main character, there is a geek topic here that you can find yourself in.

Chess
This is a show about chess, the game. No, really. It’s set during the Cold War, so there’s some interesting USA/USSR bullying. Also, it was written by the two guys from ABBA (Benny and Bjorn). There is now a stage version available on DVD, so check it out!

Guys and Dolls
This show is mostly about gambling. At least two of the major songs involve betting on the odds. The rest of it is more complicated, but still a lot of fun. It’s a good show to get your guy to watch, especially since the movie stars Marlon Brando.

Little Shop of Horrors
The star of this show is an honest to goodness geek, a science-botany geek at that. Then, he ends up with a blood-thirsty plant. How awesome is that? So awesome.

There you go, a good set of great shows with something that will interest everyone. They all interest me, but really, give one of these a try. These are also good options for getting a male significant other interested. I started my husband on Rent, and now we see a musical almost every time we go to the city. You might find that Dr. Horrible was just the first in beginning a love of telling stories through song, and dance, and maybe even a little bit of rock and roll.

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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike P
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 15:17:39

    Great post and good suggestions! One addition: I was fortunate enough to be in Dallas over the July 4th weekend, and got to see the Dallas Theater Center’s production of the revised/rebooted “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!” It’s an entertaining show for geeks and non-geeks alike (but, of course, Superman and comic book fans will get an extra level of enjoyment!). If you can get yourself to Dallas before July 25, when the show closes, you owe it to yourself to see this show!

    If you can’t get to Dallas but still want to see Superman strut his red-and-blue self on stage, here’s a clip, performed for a Dallas morning news show: http://www.supermanhomepage.com/news.php?readmore=8178&rstart=0

    Reply

  2. Eleni
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 18:58:35

    I love musicals, and these are great recommendations! Avenue Q and Into the Woods are two of my favorites (they’re clever and hilarious–who wouldn’t love them?). Guys and Dolls and Rent are also amazing. Wicked comes to mind–it has witches and magic–though I suppose it’s female centric enough that close-minded men might not like it. But they should! Great show.

    Reply

    • Rosalind
      Jul 12, 2010 @ 19:16:19

      Yeah, Wicked is another favorite of mine, but I do not consider it a gateway musical, although my husband didn’t hate it (even if he thinks Kristin Chenowith is kryptonite). Into the Woods is one of my special favs because I was the musical director for a production in college, and Rent is my #1 all time favorite.

      Rosalind

      Reply

  3. Kara
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 19:10:13

    Oh, I LOVE Rent!! And Les Mis! I’ve seen Les Mis (in traveling productions) three times! Into the Woods is a lot of fun. I remember my high school did a really great production of it. Also, Pirates of Penzance.

    I think what I’m saying is, I’m just a big musical geek. I so want to see Avenue Q. It came here as a touring production last season, but the tix were too much. 😦

    Reply

    • Rosalind
      Jul 12, 2010 @ 19:15:54

      Oh, I should have mentioned Gilbert and Sullivan briefly as they kept showing up Star Trek! Data’s favorite, you know! Definitely see Avenue Q, it is so great.

      Rosalind

      Reply

  4. Mike P
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 23:59:07

    Another “gateway” musical for geeks might be “Seussical!” It’s a fantastic
    mash-up of something like 20 different Dr. Seuss titles, although the major plot is structured from the two Horton the Elephant books, with liberal dashes of the short story “Gertrude McFuzz” and “The Butter Battle Book” thrown in for good measure. Also, obviously, it’s good not only for geeks but also for kids! I’ve taken my son to two different productions and we’ve listened to the Broadway cast album many, many times, always with thorough enjoyment.

    Reply

    • Rosalind
      Jul 13, 2010 @ 09:25:17

      I never did see Seussical, but clearly it’s going to have to go on my list. I love Horton, and most other Dr. Seuss. Good for kids also includes The Lion King, one of the best overall productions I ever went to, plus I was on the aisle and next to an elephant!

      Rosalind

      Reply

  5. Amanda
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 19:40:05

    An amateur musical boffin in my teens/20s, I haven’t done a musical in years! My fave of all time is Les Mis – did that back in 95. The music is incredibly stirring.

    I’ll be looking up Avenue Q, thanks for the suggestion.

    If I had a choice of a show that was a Must Do, it would be Rocky Horror. I would be happy just to be in the chorus 🙂

    Reply

    • Dawn
      Jul 13, 2010 @ 20:08:14

      I love Les Mis, but never got to be in it! I was in Joseph, Wizard of Oz, Oliver, and Bye Bye Birdie as a kid, though. Rocky Horror is an awesome movie, but I’ve never seen the musical.

      Dawn

      Reply

    • Rosalind
      Jul 13, 2010 @ 20:10:30

      Oh, I love Rocky Horror! I saw that in revival on Broadway with Daphne Rubin-Vega and Ana Gasteyer as Magenta and Columbia, and it was so great!

      Rosalind

      Reply

  6. Lindsay
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 21:16:42

    Avenue Q, Assassins, Little Shop and Into the Woods are all great choices.

    I like Rent, but if you’re not already musical-friendly, (or were in high school when all the theater kids decided that Rent was so awesome that they wanted to see it a million billion times and wouldn’t it be romantic to have no money and die of AIDS… not that I’m speaking from personal experience…) it might not be the best gateway for everyone.

    My musical-skeptical friends fell head over heels for Sweeney Todd, though. The dissonance in the music, the insanity, blood and violence… Also recommended: Chicago. I mean, who doesn’t love The Cellblock Tango?

    Reply

    • GirlsAreGeeks
      Jul 16, 2010 @ 21:53:21

      See, my husband who hates classic musicals loves Rent due to the rock sound and current topics, I’m a Rent-head, not gonna lie. I don’t like Sweent Todd, don’t think the music is that good, it’s a Sondheim “Into the Words” problem I have, where the music is not good enough for the words. I do like Chicago, but I won’t watch the movie due to incapable singers in the lead roles, love the stage show though!

      Rosalind

      Reply

  7. Lindsay
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 22:36:58

    Ha! 🙂 See, my husband who listens to mostly classic rock, nerdcore rap, and Astor Piazzolla, doesn’t like the music of Rent and really gets into the organ/choir/dissonant chords motif of Sweeney Todd, likes it more than I do, in fact. I’m a Sondheim nut from way back, though, so I may have been an influence there, although I used Into The Woods as the initial introduction. To each their own taste, Broadway needs all the fans it can get!

    Also geeky: Spiderman may or may not actually ever open… we’ll see…

    Reply

    • GirlsAreGeeks
      Jul 16, 2010 @ 22:41:43

      Yeah, my husband keeps saying we should see Spiderman, and I keep telling him its not on Broadway yet. This weekend we are going with a play for once, although it’s by the writer of Glengarry Glenross and starring President Palmer from 24, which I used to love.

      Rosalind

      Reply

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