ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a big musical theater fan and if I had enough money, I’d hop a plane to New York basically every weekend to catch shows. As I do not have those types of funds however, I’ve had to settle for listening to shows’ soundtracks thanks to the magic of YouTube (in fact, I’m actually listening to a musical soundtrack as I’m writing this). In the spirit of that journey I’ve taken, I thought it would be nice to share what I consider my favorite soundtracks from shows. Like always, these are just my personal favorites and I’m not slighting any shows.
I got introduced to this show (which follows the same plot as the original 1980s film about the students at Westerburg High School) by some comments on a video of another cast recording I was listening to. At that time I hadn’t heard anything about it and went in basically blind and I ended up absolutely loving it. The songs are fun and catchy (once you listen to “Candy Store” one time, you’ll have it stuck in your head for life, and “Dead Girl Walking” is just awesome) and the cast on the soundtrack (which features Barrett Wilbert Weed as leading lady Veronica Sawyer) is ridiculously talented. I feel like this show is somewhat underrated and if it was given the chance on an actual Broadway stage, it would be a powerhouse. The songs are modern but have just enough of an 80s vibe to appeal to that demographic and in its own subtle way tackles some serious issues throughout the show such as bullying, abuse and school violence.
This show is an adaptation of the Tim Burton movie of the same name from 1988 about the recently deceased couple the Maitlands, who try to scare the new inhabitants out of their former home and end up asking for help from a devious ghost named Betelgeuse (pronounced "Beetlejuice"). I wasn’t really that impressed with the movie, so I wasn’t entirely excited when I heard about the musical that had been made. But one day the soundtrack came up in my suggestions and thought “May as well see what it’s like” and I was completely blown away. Alex Brightman (who was robbed of the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for this year) gives it his all as the titular character and the rest of the cast on the recording is also super talented. The songs are also great (I catch myself humming “The Whole Being Dead Thing” and “That Beautiful Sound” all the time). And while the show is mostly a comedy, it actually tackles death in an understandable and helpful way, and you can hear that throughout the more serious songs. If you’re a fan of the movie and enjoy a more rock-oriented score, you’ll enjoy this soundtrack.
This show, which follows the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton (and other historical figures) had been on my radar for a little while before I officially got the chance to listen to the soundtrack on YouTube a few years ago and after I finished it, I was almost crying because of how good it was. I’d heard a lot about it and I’d seen the show’s performance of one of the songs from the Tonys that year, but I didn’t expect to be completely blown away by what I’d just heard. This was a long-time project for composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and you can feel every ounce of effort he put into all the songs. While “Hamilton” isn’t the first musical to use hip-hop, but it’s the first to use it in a way that appeals to musical theater fans of all ages. The songs are all great (my personal favorites are “My Shot” and “One Last Time”) and since the musical is completely sung/rapped through, you basically hear the entire show as you’re listening to the soundtrack, which is great. I actually get to see the show in Oklahoma City this weekend and I can’t wait to report back here on how the full show (i.e. with the acting and choreography and everything) actually is. Also, like the other musicals I’ve mentioned so far, the cast on the album is ridiculously talented and the show deserved every award it ended up with.
“Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”
This show follows the original fairy tale and my personal favorite recording of this show is from when ABC did the movie way back in 1997, when I was about 6 years old. There’s so much talent in the show (Bernadette Peters, Whitney Houston, Brandy – need I go on?) that makes it so much fun and I love it, and also, the colorblind casting for basically every role makes it even better. The show’s songs are also very sweet, almost calming, and listening to the show really gives you that 1940s-1950s Golden Age of Broadway vibe, which I love. I’ve only been able to find the recording from the ABC movie on YouTube and hopefully in the future, if I’m able to find the soundtrack, I’ll definitely buy it.