Our 17 Most Favorite Musical Cast Recordings Of All Time

It takes a special kind of idealistic geek to really love musical theater, which means that we have lots of in-house musical theater fans. When we did The Top 10 Greatest Movie Soundtracks Ever In The Whole Entire World, some of you asked us if we could whip up a similar feature about our favorite musical theater soundtracks. Here’s 17 of our favorites, please feel free to share yours in the comments!

Crystal, Music Editor

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Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – London Palladium Cast Recording

I haven’t listened to this soundtrack in nearly 20 years and yet the songs get stuck in my head on a weekly basis, that’s just how damn catchy they are. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph was my first ever musical experience; after seeing it I insisted on spinning the soundtrack daily for a number of years, until one day it not-so-mysteriously disappeared. I downloaded it today to make sure that my 27 year-old self agrees with my 8 year-old self’s previous assessment and I do, songs like “Jacob & Sons” and “Poor, Poor Joseph” are still my jam. I love every track except for “The Joseph Megamix”, I don’t know what’s up with that.

The Phantom of the Opera – London Cast Recording (1988)
For me, the Phantom soundtrack is one of those albums that needs to be blasted real loud. Every time the Overture kicks in, Major Tom, my cockatiel, starts freaking the f*ck out, which is the exact same reaction I had when my father took me to see the musical as a child. Phantom‘s music is so dark and sinister, for a long time it scared the life out of me. Now as an adult I adore it.

American Idiot – The Original Broadway Cast Recording (2010)
Did you know that an album by Green Day was turned into a relatively successful Broadway musical? Weird, right? Last year I dragged some of Team Autostraddle to see the production in New York City and that inspired me to write 1,000+ words about how much I loved the musical and its music. The soundtrack’s since won a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. Fyi.

Brittani, Writer

Spring Awakening (2006)

Despite 90210’s continued attempt to ruin “Mama Who Bore Me,” Spring Awakening remains my favorite cast album of all time. A lot of times I find there are a few songs from productions that are seated dance party worthy but the rest of them can be boring or really hold no meaning for me outside of the show itself. Not the case with Spring Awakening. I love every single song. So much that I can’t pick a favorite and if I did, it would change in about five minutes. At this very moment it’s “And then there were None.” How could I stick to just one when I’m suddenly bombarded with “The Dark I Know Well“, which is the saddest shit in the world, BUT gently massages my ear drums until all I can think is “Lilli Cooper let me love you.”

Spring Awakening is the single most important reason I decided to watch Glee…the whole Lea Michele factor and what not. It’s also worth noting that if it were up to me, it would be mandatory to have a Spring Awakening sing-along any and all car rides that last more than an hour. No one would be allowed to exit the car in the middle of a song. No one would be allowed to do anything other than sing along to every single word. If there came a moment when you chose to nail your assigned part in “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” rather than swerve to avoid hitting a piece of debris and we get a flat tire because of it, I wouldn’t even be mad. I might even salute you. I guess I should mention this alternative rock pop folk fusion won 8 Tony Awards but really what’s important is I’m a black person encouraging you to listen to this cast album. As far as I’m concerned that is the most legit vouching there is when it comes to musicals.

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In the Heights (2008)

Let’s begin with the fact that Lin Manuel’s rapping voice might be my favorite voice of all time. Then lets follow that with In the Heights taking everything you thought about show tunes and throwing it out the window. And let’s finish with this musical making it possible for me to appear I know way more Spanish than I actually do. The hip hop and salsa-infused score produced such gems as “96,000” which is one of those all consuming songs that you have to drop whatever you’re doing to fully enjoy its dopeness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been loading the dishwasher only to realize I no longer am in possession of a single dish and apparently I really “want the brass ring like Frodo.”

In the Heights shows it’s possible to have a show about minorities or ethnic communities that’s not rife with stereotypes or screaming, “look at me as I make this socially conscious point.” It’s a musical. It’s a story. And often people forget the luxury of being able to tell a story on stage just for the sake of telling it. The characters may feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders but listeners doesn’t. You don’t feel weighted or obligated when you finish. You feel happy and free and alive.

The songs are about community and what ifs (“Carnaval del Barrio”, “When You’re Home”). They’re about responsibility and love (“Breathe”, “Sunrise”). But most importantly, they’re about jamming the fuck out. The music of In the Heights is about finding a place to call home when no matter what you do or where you go, there’s an uneasy whispering that you don’t quite belong. All of us have probably felt that at one time or another; I’ve felt it my whole life. This cast album makes me feel a little better about the search. Maybe one day while listening I’ll look around and realize I’ve found it.

Julia, Miss February 2011

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Hairspray (2002)

This is the happiest music you will ever hear about civil rights. Tracy Turnblad, her friends, and the mean popular kids sing and dance through issues about race, weight, age, love and any other issue one might encounter in a Baltimore high school in the 1960’s. Tracy is a big girl who dreams of dancing on the “Corny Collins Show”. Her optimism and talent take her beyond her dreams and pave the way for social justice and equality for everyone in her community.

Hairspray won 8 Tony Awards in 2002, including best original score. The lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman are clever and humorous. The music by Marc Shaiman utilizes the sounds of the ‘60s and ranges from bouncy to soulful. Really, it is the perfect music for dancing around the house in your underpants and singing at the top of your lungs.

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Gypsy (1960)

This show is based on the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and focuses primarily on the relationship she had with her mother. The mother is the ultimate stage mother, so this role has provided a nice place for some of Broadway’s biggest divas. Ethel Merman starred in the original production in 1959, Bernadette Peters in the 2003 revival, and Patti Lupone in the 2008 revival. I recommend the 2008 version as I think Ms. Lupone was born to play this role and I’m a little bit in love with Laura Benanti as Louise.

This show is a true work of art, with music by Jule Styne and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It is beautiful classical musical theater, but also has Sondheim’s lyrical genius. After listening to this show, you will start to recognize the music used and the show referenced in T.V. shows, movies, and commercials.

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Ragtime (1998)

This musical tells the stories of three different groups of people in New York in the early 20th century: wealthy white folks, African-Americans in Harlem and Eastern European immigrants. Every group has its own internal problems, as well as problems with one another. Historical figures like Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit and Emma Goldman make appearances throughout the musical, so you can learn all about history while listening to music! AREN’T YOU EXCITED!!!!!!!!

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty create beautiful songs that speak of history and humanity. There are various styles of music from the early 20th century that Flaherty invokes in his songs. Ragtime won best original score at the 1998 Tony Awards. Also I recommend the original cast recording because the singers are phenomenal. You will agree after listening to Audra McDonald sing “Your Daddy’s Son”. I swear.

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Sweeney Todd (1979)

This festive musical tells the story of Sweeney Todd, a barber, who decides to turn his clients into meat pies! Mr. Todd feels he has been betrayed which develops into his utter lack of faith in humanity and his need for revenge. So he slices up people’s necks and gives them to his neighbor to cook into nice pies. The subject matter is dark and the music follows suit.

Sondheim’s arrangements are eerie, delicate, and savage all at the same time. The lyrics are written as the character speaks and are not overly poetic. The music takes the character’s words and gives them that extra flourish and poetry. Sondheim’s writing makes this already dark show absolutely terrifying and captivating.


Jess, Senior Entertainment Editor

HAIR (1969) is essentially about connection, being part of a society, coming together as a people and standing up for what you believe in. Its relevancy is eerie at times, with themes of war, race, political activism and sexual freedom at the forefront, and could easily debut in 2011 as a new show as opposed to as a revival of the 1967 classic. Comparing HAIR and RENT is inevitable (Jonathan Larson was largely inspired by the original) and the new show will likely usher in the next wave of NYU students camping out for lotto tickets. It is fantastic that a new generation will have something so meaningful to call their own and, like RENT, has the potential to change a life.

The soundtrack is simply timeless, with “Good Morning Starshine” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine” as part of the American lexicon, the latter played regularly on classic rock stations and featured in the final dance montage of “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” The music in HAIR is so fabulous in fact that its songs have been covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to Diana Ross to The Lemonheads.

Evita (1978)

To fully appreciate the music of Evita (originally on Broadway in 1978 with a London stage revival in 2006) you must download the 1996 film soundtrack starring Madonna and Antonio Bandaras. Like RENT, Evita is a rock opera with virtually zero dialogue. The music is hauntingly gorgeous, with melodies that you hear once and fall in love with. This disc is also notable because Madonna actually took voice lessons to stretch and smooth out her vocal tone before recording the music… and this is the version of her voice you hear today on her post-Evita albums: Ray of Light, Music and Hard Candy. Just listen to any of her albums pre-Evita and you will notice the difference immediately.

Heads up: Evita is set for a 2012 Broadway revival starring Ricky Martin!

Intern Grace, Intern

Into the Woods (1988)

In my circle of friends, Into the Woods is like the Mean Girls of musical theater: People quote it liberally, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who absolutely hates it, and Bernadette Peters is just as hot as Lindsay Lohan. It doesn’t hurt that everything about the original Broadway cast album is absolutely brilliant. Stephen Sondheim‘s lyrics are about as spectacular as they come, filled with wordplay and ridiculous rhymes, like the classic “I sort of hate to ask it/ but do you have a basket?” and “we’ve no time to sit and dither while her withers wither with her.” Like, seriously. Who thinks of shit like that? Just you, Stephen. Just you. (See also: A Little Night Music)

There was a revival in 2002, but I don’t think it holds up very well in comparison to the original. I like Molly Ephraim as Red and LAURA EFFING BENANTI as Cinderella, and there are moments that I prefer in the revival cast (“it JUST-ifies the beans,” being a big one), but overall, you can’t beat the original. Listen to them both anyway, though.

What makes Into the Woods really stand out, in addition to the talent behind it, is that the themes of the show ring so genuinely. At its core, the show is a fairy tale for people who have outgrown fairy tales. It discusses the relationship between parents and children, accepting responsibility for your actions and what it means to get what you wanted. It’s just so good, you guys.

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Next to Normal (2009)

Do you love Alice Ripley? I do. She’s fierce.

Sometimes in musical theater, it’s difficult to keep your show grounded in reality, mostly because most people don’t pepper their days with original songs and dances. The best writers are those who can make the story feel organic and identifiable while still keeping their show full of engaging music. This is why Next to Normal is so successful: The music and the story unite in such a way that it’s almost impossible not to identify at least a little with the characters. You might not know someone exactly like Diana or Natalie or Henry, but you might recognize their fear or uncertainty or earnestness in yourself, and that’s good writing.

Overall, the show is about a family and their attempt to deal with the mother’s mental illness. There is a great twist partway through Act I, and I don’t want to ruin it for you, but when I got to that part of the recording, I literally gasped. The writing is very tight, and the cast is strong the whole way through. The cast recording is about as flawless as they get, from the orchestrations and mixing to the songs that are perfect for singing as loudly as possible when you’re feeling angst-y (“I Am the One,” “Superboy and the Invisible Girl,” and “Wish I Were Here” are all good ones for that).

Also, Aaron Tveit made me confused about my sexuality at a very pivotal time in my life. Although we all know how that ended.

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[title of show] (2006)

If you enjoyed this post, you would enjoy this cast recording. It’s almost exclusively musical theater in-jokes.

Self-described as “a musical about writing a musical about writing a musical,” [title of show] is almost certainly the most clever musical to premiere in the last ten years. The four actors play themselves, and a lot of the dialogue is taken directly from their conversations with each other. There isn’t a single song I don’t like, and they’re all so packed with witty lines and smart pop culture references, it’s hard not to laugh the whole way through. They even made a helpful “What is Title of Show?” video, just for you! I want to be their friend so much.

One of the most notable lines from the show sums it up really well (and kind of became my life philosophy): “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing that a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” The show was never a runaway success, although it played more than 100 performances on Broadway. If you bring up this show in any musical theater circle, you will probably get an audible reaction from people, but if you talk about it to anyone else, you’re a dirty hipster. But I mean, the show includes the line “Wonder Woman for president,” and it’s hard to argue with that.

Riese, Editor-in Chief

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RENT (1996)

I speak at excessive length about my RENT-related feelings in this post right here, so I’ll be brief and completely personal and therefore slightly, perhaps, off-topic here. But this is about the soundtrack, right? And at any given moment of any given car ride I would be happiest singing along to RENT. Take Me Or Leave Me, obviously, although I didn’t really identify with Maureen or Joanne, I just liked the energy of the song. I felt like Mark, the guy who hid from life behind his camera with big lofty dreams.

My Mom gifted me the RENT soundtrack in early high school, maybe sophomore year — two of my best friends had seen it on Broadway in New York and wouldn’t shut up about it, so I tried really hard to hate it in order to not be too jealous but it grew on me and then invaded. At Interlochen Arts Academy, where I started my junior year of high school, RENT was just about everywhere. We all had the soundtrack, we were all singing it, we all wanted to see it live. We all related to “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.” We filmed ourselves singing it all the time and when I hear Today For You, it’s my gay best friend I think of, not Angel.

I saw the touring company in Detroit in ’98, it kinda sucked, but I saw it in NYC in ’01 and in ’06 and was blown away. I often wile away the twilight hours watching RENT videos on YouTube. Seriously.

It’ll always be go-to for long road trips — it was so back and forth from Interlochen and it was so last summer driving from LA to Vegas, when me and two other relatively grown-up persons belted the fuck out of that shit. TWICE. I WILL COVER YOUUUUUUUUUUUU.

My favorite songs are Take Me Or Leave Me, I’ll Cover You, One Song Glory and Another Day.

Cabaret (1967)

This show is so layered and complicated and dark and heartbreaking and sexy and queer. It’s heavy. It’s not like an ordinary musical. Like there’s this cabaret — The Kit Kat Club. This American Novelist visiting Berlin. Then Nazis. I don’t think they ever say the word “Nazi” though. Nor do they directly address the sexual economy of The Kit Kat Club. The Nazis come in slowly and suddenly your friends are Nazis and the girls in fishnets are being told to wear new clothes and sing differently and it stays really small and local while telling a giant story. Every song they do is on the surface about one thing but it’s really actually about another thing!

I actually only really got introduced to it ’cause it was The Musical my senior year at arts boarding school and I was dating an actor who played a lead and there was a lot of drama around the casting.

But I liked it so much I saw it twice (stoned the second time) (don’t tell mama) and then I saw it on Broadway during a NYC visit in 2002. The guy I was with didn’t like it so I decided that I didn’t like him anymore.

My favorite song is hands down totes Maybe This Time — it’s a ballad, I think Lea Michele sang it on Glee first season, for all ye Megawatt Nerds out there. I love Tomorrow Belongs to Me –how in the reprise, it becomes 3,000 times more ominous. I find Perfectly Marvelous quite fun.

I’m just writing this paragraph because I want someone to comment that they also like Cabaret so we can chit-chat. I don’t even know how to begin to talk about it but I think it’s one of the ones that even if you’re not into musicals, you’d like it.

Laneia, Executive Editor

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Annie (1977)

It’s entirely possible that my love for Annie is only the result of a mind-numbing advertising campaign for the movie in the early 80s. Maybe if I’d been introduced to the story by way of a different medium or at a different age, I would’ve been so uncomfortable with the idea of Daddy Warbucks (so uncomfortable) that I wouldn’t have been able to pull up the 8 year-old part of me who just wasn’t ready to believe that the whole world couldn’t be fixed with a positive attitude and a song about the future sung at the top of my lungs.

I mean, I don’t know if this is actually a well-written musical or if the songs or themes were groundbreaking — they probably weren’t. But damn do I love “Maybe” and “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” and oh! and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” — love that one. One year my tap/jazz class did a really amazing interperative dance, with props, to “Hard Knock Life” for a recital and when I was given the part of Molly — I lived in a town the size of your thumb and we didn’t have theater, so I knew this was as big as it was gonna get, you know? — I was SO AMPED. Proudest moment.

I don’t care how weird the Daddy Warbucks element is, my Annie album never fails to make washing dishes 100% more fun.
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Others we thought about writing about but then didn’t:

+ Chicago – The Musical (1996)
+ The Who’s Tommy: Original Cast Recording (1992)
+ Dreamgirls (1982)
+ Wicked (2003)
+ The Wild Party (LaChiusa) (2000)
+ Company (1970)

+ West Side Story (1957)

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94 Comments

  1. This one time, I accidentally got stage tickets to Spring Awakening because someone didn’t show up, and they needed 2 random people from the audience dressed in mostly black to be on stage. Spring Awakening is awesome!

  2. I highly recommend the Nine revival soundtrack from a few years ago. It’s got Jane Krakowski, Laura Benanti, Mary Stuart Masterson, Deidre Goodwin and Chita Rivera singing their asses off. Antonio Banderas is pretty good too.

  3. My favourite musical is Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and I’m always listening to the soundtrack. Although all of the songs were originally written and performed by other artists, they’re just so fun and well-performed for the musical. If you haven’t seen Priscilla, SEE IT NOW. I saw it when it came to Toronto last year, and I’m dying to see it in NY.

  4. As a stage manager who works primarily in musical theater, this is a post after my own heart! And y’all included almost all my favorites. The two I will add:

    Reefer Madness
    This was the most fun I ever had working on a show, and the music is so campy and ridiculous that you can’t help but want to have dance & sing-alongs every time you listen. Plus, the recording is from the Showtime movie version, which has Kristen Bell (at one point all dolled and dommed up in latex and leather!) and Alan Cumming. It’s brilliant!

    Passing Strange
    This is my single favorite piece of theater, straight or musical. Stew is an amazing musician and an incredible story-teller. I saw the show 3 times when it was at Berkeley Rep, and listen to the soundtrack ALL THE EFFING TIME. Because it never gets old. It’s beautiful and moving and hilarious and bad-ass. GO LISTEN. Or, even better, go watch the filmed production, because Spike Lee filmed it and it’s one of the rare times that filming a stage production actually works. Here, watch the trailer! (Also, Rebecca Naomi Jones is the hottest thing since ever, good god.)

    p.s. Intern Grace, that comparison between Into The Woods and Mean Girls is so apt in my group of friends as well that it’s blowing my mind a little.

  5. I FREAKING LOVE IN THE HEIGHTS!!!!! (pardon me while i fangirl) and Next to Normal, I love it, but ican’t listen to the soundtrack often becasue it resonates a little TOO much sometimes.

    In The Heights is coming to Columbia this spring and I can’t freakin wait!!

  6. A Chorus Line! Especially beloved by dancers, but if you’ve ever worked in any sort of performing business at all, you can relate to the “omg I need this I need this I need this” aspect of the audition that is basically what A Chorus Line is about. Plus, a lot of the monologues are awesome–especially Paul’s (the gay guy’s). If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

    • i am still sore that they cut hello twelve from the movie. the broadway soundtrack is blasted at least once a week, and each time montage: mother comes on, i miss my mom so hard. it never fails. probably because she gave me the soundtrack for my birthday one year, and i haven’t been the same since!

  7. SPRING AWAKENING SPRING AWAKENING ugh so good. also Funny Girl, West Side Story, Caba-FUCKING-ret! I seriously love musicals though, they’re my ideal living situation. Also, “Once More, With Feeling”–awwww yeah.

  8. it’s like this entire post came directly from my soul. i agree with ALL of these choices.

    after point of no return, when christine screams, that scared the shit out of me so bad as a child that i refused to listen to the soundtrack until well into high school. it’s been in my top5 favorites ever since.

  9. Spring Awakening and Rent were the only two musicals I ever really got SUPER into, despite the fact that all of my friends in high school were musical theater geeks and that was all most of them listened to. But I agree entirely with the mandatory Spring Awakening sing-along for long car rides.

    I also enjoy the Jersey Boys soundtrack, but that’s because I dig Franki Valli and the Four Seasons

  10. yes yes yes to Evita, Chicago and Rent. Also, when I was a little kid my cousin and I were absolutely obsessed with the soundtrack to Showboat. I can still sing ‘fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly’ and ‘old man river’ from memory. Also, Cats.

  11. the three musicals I’ve had on repeat recently are Follies, American Idiot, and Dr. Horrible, but I’ve had phases of just about every one of these. God I love musical theater.

    Does anyone else have trouble listening to the Hairspray OBC because Link Larkin is Mr. Schuester? I realize this means that by default I am choosing Zac Efron, but I really hate Mr. Schue.

  12. Other than a bit of Radio Disney, the Annie soundtrack was literally the ONLY THING I wanted to listen to, and I wanted to listen to it ALL OF THE TIMES. I still listen to it sometimes, just not nearly as often/intensely.

  13. I’m actually having trouble reading this because I love Musical Theatre so much that I sometimes have mild seizures just thinking about it…

    …oversharing?

  14. Riese, we can talk about Cabaret! I was so obsessed with that show from around 1999-2002. I didn’t get to see Alan Cumming or Natasha Richardson but I loved Susan Egan as Sally Bowles (basically I love Susan Egan in general). I also saw it a stupid amount of times because Roundabout Theater does this awesome thing where you can volunteer usher and then you get to watch the show for free. So whenever I went to NYC I’d do that. I can’t even describe the feeling of sitting on the steps at the side of the mezzanine (because the volunteers couldn’t get a seat if the show was sold out) and pressing my face between the bars of the railing, watching Susan Egan belt out “Cabaret” at the end of the show. I walked away literally shaking every time.

    I also once saw John Stamos as the Emcee, which was… interesting and a little bit traumatizing.

    • As much as I love Susan Egan, which is a lot because she is ah-mazing, (Seth Rudetsky? Anybody? Obsessed.), I have an enormous crush on Andrea McArdle, especially as Sally Bowles. There used to be a really intense video of her singing “Cabaret” floating around, but it looks like it was taken down. She played it as dark as possible, and it was absolutely terrifying/heartbreaking.

      Also, after John Stamos, Neil Patrick Harris‘s emcee is my favorite awkward casting decision.

    • okay wow a lot of ground to cover here. grace, i have fun stories about fun times w/andrea mcardle to share with you at your convenience, one of them involves her bed. i hadn’t heard of seth until i met him on the rosie cruises, he’s really nice and funny. my mom is obsessed with him.

      i was already obsessed after interlochen did it but wanted to see it on broadway. i would die to see allan cumming in it. i saw molly ringwald except that i didn’t, she was out that night, but i couldn’t tell from where i was sitting so i thought it was her. nevertheless i found it thrilling but also had that feeling you have when the person you’ve brought with you clearly doesn’t want to be there.

      when we got back to michigan, i was telling another server (the gay one who would know what i was talking about) at the restaurant we worked at about our trip to nyc, and i said we’d seen cabaret. the server asked my boyfriend what he though tof it and my bf was like, “it was fine, yeah, it just had like, no ending, it just ended.” and the server was like, “the ending is world war II” and i was like “jesus christ my life”

      i wish they had more videos from b’way performances online. i want to see all the ones, i am jealous of those who’ve had multiple viewings!

  15. so i read this article thinking “there aren’t really any musicals that i love the soundtrack to, maybe i’ll get educated.” but i don’t know what i was thinking, because “into the woods” is my favorite thing of all time ever. grew up watching a vhs of it that my parents recorded off of pbs, and i could probably sing along to all of the songs and reference it in conversation….unfortunately, i’ve never met anyone who shares my affinity for it, so my references go unnoticed. it’s very sad.

    but it makes me happy it was mentioned here!

  16. Riese, I rapid fire scrolled through the whole article just to make sure someone mentioned Cabaret before reading the whole thing because that musical is so (disproportionally?) important to me, so thanks.

    Usually when I have too much wine, I go into an extended monologue to anyone nearby about Cabaret. Now, I’ve never seen it live, break my heart, but I literally wore out my VHS tape of the Bob Fosse/Liza Minnelli film in my youth, it has since been replaced with a DVD.

    You’re right that there is something in the way it is one big story with these subtle sub-stories working all the time. Everything resonates with everything. There’s Sally Bowles the woman, trying her damnedest to make everything in her hard, lonely life glamourous and sexy and independant, keeping up the illusion. Which is also what the Kit Kat Club does for Germany at large. Throwing glitter in the eyes of the people while a man is being murdered by Nazis outside. But you can’t cover those things up, right? Because once the charm of a really flamboyant act wears off, the sadness, the darkness is only amplified. The scene where Sally comes home from trying to meet her father, after making herself “presentable” for him, and he is not there—oh god, that scene does me in on so many levels. Also, I hope all of you Cabaret fans and future-fans have tried screaming your bloody guts out under some train tracks because nothing is better. I could talk about it forever. Can we?

    • I’ve never seen the sage Cabaret, either, but I don’t think that’s anything you have to apologize about: the movie Cabaret is an amazing thing in its own right. I mean, Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey and Bob Fosse!
      Also, I think what Riese said about Cabaret applies to the movie, too–that it looks like a small story, but it’s actually a big one. You think you’re getting a glamorous story about hedonism and performance, but at the end you realize it’s actually about how evil can creep up on you when you’re busy trying to have fun.
      Ah, I just love Cabaret! Definitely my favorite movie musical.
      Anyone want to tell me and Jessie what we’re missing out on in the stage version?

  17. Okay sorry I am multi-commenting this article like a boss.

    Grace, I’m so happy you included [title of show]! I saw it on a whim after it got to Broadway and fell in love. I then became involved in all the dorky fan stuff. I am in this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtdgvmYUuuA
    The cast has created a new show (Now. Here. This.) which is playing off-Broadway next season and I really want to go.

    I also could talk about RENT forever. I first heard the cast recording in high school after a friend of mine saw the show on Broadway and brought the CD in to school. I just remember all of us hanging out at someone’s house playing La Vie Boheme over and over until we’d learned all the lyrics. The first time I saw the show live I was 18 and with my first girlfriend. So much of my late teens/early 20s is tied up with that show, I made so many friends and had so many wonderful experiences because of it. I even met my wife because of it, albeit indirectly.

    If I were going to add to this list, I’d add Miss Saigon (original London cast) and Les Miserables (10th Anniversary concert recording). Those two shows were my first big musical loves, and I still think they’re two of the greatest shows ever written.

    • 1) I heard Now. Here. This. isn’t as good as [tos], and I’m worried, but I think I’m going to road trip to go see it anyway. I love them.

      2) The [tos] webseries was the greatest thing of my life. GET OUTTA HERE, CHEYENNE JACKSON, amirite?

      3)The 10th anniversary of Les Mis is magical. I especially like when the balloon pops in “Castle on a Cloud” and the actress jumps out of her skin.

  18. jesus christ superstar???? my goal in life is to perform judas in a genderqueer production of jesus christ superstar. also i was hoping maybe there would be a lil more love for cats but maybe I am the only one in the world who loves cats this much

    • Not exactly the same, of course, but true story, I just stage managed a production of JCS this summer where we had a queer female Judas. (And actually, this was their second time doing JCS with a female Judas.) It was really baller, I think Judas is really well suited to a whole variety of genders and voices and actors (the music totally works with a female voice, I actually like it better that way). One of the reasons I really love JCS is that it would be so easy to play SO MUCH with the gender and sexuality components, because it’s such a malleable story, ultimately. My friend and I (he’s a director) are hoping to do a really queered production at some point.

      Also, have you heard the Indigo Girls concert version of JCS? It’s so fantastic. (Amy Ray plays Jesus.)

  19. Why no Hedwig? 🙁 TRUMPS ALL THINGS. WOULD SQUASH THEM WITH A TRUMPET.

    By and large, the musicals I really love are the older ones which might not work so well as shows, but were jam-packed with fucking amazing songs, like Anything Goes. Hedwig’s the only recent musical I can really get into more than one or two songs from. Mind you, part of that problem may be that I haven’t seen a great many performed, thanks to growing up in a tiiiny town, where they just kept repeating Pirates of Penzance.

    I do like Pirates of Penzance.

  20. Omigod this post is so amazing, I’m putting this all on my Christmas list!!

    p.s. I saw Wicked’s touring company a few days before I moved. Oh My Fucking God best $100 I’ve ever and will ever spend in my entire life. The main two easily equalled Idina and Kristen which I did not believe was possible but it sooooo is.

  21. I went through a fairly brief, but major Rent phase when I was in high school. I listened to the CD multiple times a day, I had the book, I frequented fan websites, I doodled all the characters on the pages of my notebooks at school. I was a big fan. Then I kind of grew out of it and stopped listening to the CD. But it’s amazing how, 7 years later, when I put it on, I still know ALL the words.
    “December 24th, 9 p.m., Eastern Standard Time/ From here on in I shoot without a script…”

  22. Guys, I’m not joking when I say that I almost started crying when I saw this article. Guys, I’m serious.

    Anywho, one of my all-time fave musicals, and I rarely find people who also enjoy this musical (not because it sucks, but because it’s too awesome for normal people) is Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza.” It’s so beautiful it makes me want to puke. Download that shit NOW.

    “Spring Awakening” is actually my favorite thing of all time AND also the reason I started watching “Glee(a Michele).” I think I almost wore a hole in my copy of the cast recording because I played it for hours on end in my car on trips back and forth from school.

    Other faves: “[tos]” (I would actually murder someone to play Susan in a production of it), “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (SUTTON FOSTER!), “In the Heights,” “Funny Girl” (my love for Barbra is immeasurable), “The Book of Mormon,” “Hair” (I really like the most recent cast album).

    As for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” I didn’t know anyone actually LIKED that musical, I just thought they tolerated it, and all I have to say about that is, “Andrew Lloyd Weber hates altos and I know this because I was in a production of that show and my voice hated me and also my costume looked like couch upholstery.”

  23. You guys are outdoing yourselves lately, first the vintage NSFW pictures and now this. I have many feelings about Cabaret. I have loved the Liza version for years but I only saw a stage version last year. I found it much more chilling live. I don’t know how to explain it but even though I knew what was going to happen I still left the theatre reeling because it seems to get so dark so fast but then you look back and the darkness was there all along simmering under the surface.

  24. After years of lurking, this is finally the article that made me sign up. BECAUSE MUSICALS!

    I’m a Sondheim nut. Sunday in the Park with George is in my opinion the most beautiful and ambitious musical I’ve ever heard. I could listen to nothing but “Finishing the Hat” for the rest of my life and be totally okay with that.

    And then of course Company (the 2006 revival is like every theatre nerd’s dream come true, AND it’s on youtube), A Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along (which is super underrated- the staging and libretto sucked but the music is just amazing).

    My current favourite though is Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party . It’s fun and serious and breathtaking and just generally enthralling. Drugs! Prostitution! Clowns! Murder! And people think that musicals are light-hearted.(The fact that Idina Menzel did some of her best work on this recording may have something to do with my enthusiasm). Give “Let Me Drown”, “The Life of the Party” and “Make Me Happy” a listen. Also the whole recording.

    And I suppose this is technically an operetta but Bernstein’s Candide is absolutely awesome and there’s a recording of the most recent revival with Patti Lupone (!!!) and Kristin Chenoweth that is perfection. (Glitter and Be Gay is maybe her best performance and I have maybe watched it over 100 times: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVsLMxam21I)

    I would talk about Wicked but that was my first musical love and I have many feelings about it that can’t really be articulated without my descent into raging fangirl, so I’ll just say that I like that one too. Kristin Chenoweth forever.

    I hate to say something negative but… Andrew Lloyd Webber? Really, Papi?

  25. i love just about anything sondheim does because he finds a way to put just the right amount of emotion in his work that there’s no way not to just feel for the characters. and the cast he picks seems to always do a good job.i was a big fan of “a chorus line”. i watched hair on my way to iraq and ended up sobbing because i started out feeling like claude and by theend i felt like berger. i don’t know, i’ve always felt my emotions were always reflected better in music and why i kind of latched on to musical theater.

  26. Does Les Mis count? Cause I’ve loved Les Mis ever since I was a wee little thing who wasn’t allowed to listen to it cause there were naughty words (I, of course, would eavesdrop and listen anyway)

  27. SO MANY FEELINGS.

    Spring Awakening: YES. Anyone who has ever had a sexual experience ever of any kind ever WILL love this, or they are deranged.

    RENT: Thank you, Maureen and Joanne, for teaching me the word ‘lesbian’.

    Next to Normal: I cry every time I listen to it. For reals. It’s sort of the story of my mother’s life, but also kind of mine…very weird. Plus, I want to have babies with Jennifer Damiano’s voice. Lovely, melodic babies.

    Phantom of the Opera: Tears. Many, many, many tears.

    Wicked I can’t even talk about coherently, so I won’t try.

    Also: the Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast, Once More with Feeling, Avenue Q, The Last Five Years, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (and Commentary! of course), and those are just the ones that give me lots and lots of feelings.

    THANK YOU for this post.

  28. In my town, the clock tower in the main square plays music 3 times a day (noon, 2:30, 4:30). Everyday at 2:30 the first song it plays is Cabaret and I can’t help but sing along. True story.

    Also, the Last 5 Years is probs one of my favorites, it’s really good car music.

  29. Thank you for mentioning In The Heights! I can’t believe it didn’t tour in Canada. I went to Broadway to watch it, and Next to Normal. Worth it!

    Les Miserables, a fave and epic, so I suppose it’s a given?

    We Will Rock You, Toronto cast, was so much fun and turned me onto musicals and onto women. Scaramouche was cute, hehe.

    I highly recommend watching Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods the stage performances, available on DVD I believe. They’re excellent examples of musicals in terms of story-telling, acting, singing, sets, ensemble, etc.

    Musicals I will never take off iTunes/my ipod: Across the Universe, American Idiot, In The Heights, Jersey Boys, My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, Next to Normal, Rent Final, Rent Movie, Rent OBC, Spring Awakening, Wicked, We Will Rock You.

    Viva la vie boheme! To RentHeads, did you know you can listen to workshop and demo versions of the Rent songs? I can’t remember which version Jonathan Larson sings in. It’s youtube.com/BwayDemosWorkshops ^_^

  30. West Side Story is just amazing. The music is ABSOLUTELY CLASSIC. I appreciate it for musical importance as well as amazing choreography, but as far as overall favoritism I’d go with Phantom or RENT.

    /notahardcoremusicalfan

  31. Favourite musical of all time – Les Miserables. It gets me everytime. The version I listen to the most is the 20th anniversary recording in London. Gives me chills every time, that’s the sign of an epic musical – hundreds of listens don’t make it seem stale.

    I’m a big musicals fan though, so my other ones would be (in no particular order):
    1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    2. The Sound of Music (and other Julie Andrews films)
    3. The Wizard of Oz (and basically anything with Judy Garland in it – especially A Star is Born)
    4. Sunset Boulevard
    5. My Fair Lady (though not the film recording)
    6. Fame
    7. Avenue Q (laughed the entire way through this, what a show!)
    8. Cabaret (is it technically a musical?)
    9. Chicago
    10. Hairspray

    There are so many more I love, but then the list would be so long.

    I must say, and I know most people will have the complete opposite opinion, but I cannot stand ‘Rent’. It physically pains me to listen to it. This goes for ‘Moulin Rouge’ too. Gah.
    /shudders.

  32. LOVE LOVE LOVE

    Ragtime is definitely one of the most beautiful scores ever, and I love Joseph.

    You know what’s missing from this list? Caroline, or Change. Such beautiful music. And Passing Strange, it’s a very blues and rock feel, but so much sadness and greatness.

  33. I just went to the BC/EFA flea market and bought among other things the dvd of this year’s Broadway Backwards which is a bunch of famous people singing songs written for the opposite gender and generally being gay. It is excellent.

    I would also recommend “My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies”. In high school I used to rent it every month from my library.

    ALSO, I would like to say that my ipod was erased the day after finishing this post, so ya’ll are lucky because I don’t have any of this music anymore and I’m dying.

  34. If you love the lyrics, I highly recommend anything by Jason Robert Brown. The Last Five Years, was mentioned, also Parade, and Songs for a New World.

    My other favorites include….Tick, Tick….BOOM!, Aida, The Light in the Piazza, Ragtime, Once on This Island, Sunset Boulevard, Wicked, and thats all I can think of at this moment 🙂

  35. Things I like about this post: everything.
    Things I really like about this post (in the order in which they appear): American Idiot, Gypsy with Patti and Laura, Cabaret, Annie
    Things I really really really like about this post: [title of show], Hair and Rent.
    Other things that should be on a list like this: Miss Saigon (holy wow beautiful), Parade, Billy Elliot, and probably other things.

    Rent changed my life (Wow, I bet no one ever said that before). But for realz, it was the first time I ever actively thought about being gay. And at the time it wasn’t even in relation to myself, it was more like, wow, it would be hard to be gay. And we all know how that turned out…
    Rent is all I listened to in 7th and 8th grade. Actually, Rent and Little Shop of Horrors. Weird mix?

  36. Ugh as a musical theatre major, I deeply appreciated this post!! However, I am surprised, I hate quite a few on there! Maybe it is because I am not a fan of Webber. At all. Except for Cats. However there were a lot that I totally loved. *cough* Hair, Spring Awakening, Title of Show, In the Heights, Next to Normal, etc… I would also love love love to add bare: A Pop Opera, High Fidelity (even though it was a flop, I love it), and The Last Five Years, and tick tick BOOM. Ugh god *sorry, I am totally fangirling right now*

  37. I’m seeing Les Mis at the Kennedy Center (in DC) tonight!! I don’t care that I sound like a fangirl, I’m SO EXCITED. I’m honestly a little surprised/disappointed that it wasn’t on anyone’s list. One Day More HELLO!

    • In my very humble opinion Les Mis is the best musical of all time. It has absolutely everything in it, and the quality of the music is just unbelievable. I saw the London West End stage version and those guys have it absolutely nailed, every single second of it was perfectly executed.

  38. If I could do one thing forever it would be musical theater.
    I just got back into Spring Awakening and I can’t stop.

    I do not like Andrew Lloyd Webber now but I have to give him credit because when I was 3 I only sang Memory from Cats and in 8th grade I wore out my tape (like, audio) of Phantom of the Opera on a road trip to Yellowstone

  39. I’m coming late to this thread, but I just discovered autostraddle. I’ve been hosting a weekly radio show called “Better Living Through Show Tunes” on WORT-FM in Madison, WI for 7 or 8 years. I get a lot of teasing about being a gay man trapped in a lesbian’s body. Love seeing this thread on a dyke website.

    By the way, the show’s on the air every Sunday from 2-3 pm central time. You can listen on-line at wort-fm.org.

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