Like This? Try That: Broadway Edition

8:31 AM Amanda Prahl 0 Comments

The end of the 2014-2015 Broadway season is upon us, and it's been one roller coaster of a year. Where else could a musical about musicals compete against a modern coming-of-age tale, a Hollywood producer fall flat, and a musical not even on Broadway yet become the breakout story of the year? It can be tricky to sift through all the offerings and find a show or a cast recording that fits your taste. So here's a handy guide for recommendations: just find a show you know you already love, and see what it's been matched with!

Something Rotten!
In the Renaissance, a pair of brothers grow tired of being in the shadow of rock-star playwright Shakespeare, and set out to make their own mark by inventing the musical.

John Cariani and Brian D'Arcy James as Nigel and Nick Bottom
Try if you like: the delicious, fast and furious wordplay of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder or the self-referential humor of Spamalot and Peter and the Starcatcher. You'll particularly enjoy the delightful "A Musical" and the English-lit-nerd humor of "God I Hate Shakespeare."
You may want to skip it if: you're looking for more serious and/or earnest content or find repeated puns frustrating- the constant torrent of inside jokes, the occasional repetitive innuendo (how many times can a joke be made about characters with the last name "Bottom"?), and the outright frenetic giddiness may not work for you.

Fun Home
The coming-of-age and self-discovery of Alison Bechdel, lesbian feminist cartoonist, as she comes to term with her identity, sexuality, and, most of all, her complex relationship with her damaged father.

Beth Malone, Emily Skeggs, and Sydney Lucas play Alison Bechdel at various ages
Try if you like: the struggling, layered heroines of Beautiful and Next to Normal or the modern music and complex narrative structure of If/Then. Songs like "Ring of Keys" and "Edges of the World" are poignant and contemporary.
You may want to skip it if: you're looking for a show for children or prefer a more old-fashioned musical and narrative style. This is not your typical jazz-hands show with a traditional happily-ever-after, but more intellectual (though highly entertaining) fare.

The King and I
You already know the story. A strong-willed British widow comes to Siam to tutor the many children of the curious but arrogant King. Culture and personality clashes ensue in a glorious Rodgers and Hammerstein score.

Kelli O'Hara as Anna Leonowens and Ken Watanabe as King Mongkut of Siam
Try if you like: any other R&H shows, particularly the recent South Pacific revival, or any of the classics from the Golden Age of Broadway. Iconic songs such as "Shall We Dance" and "Hello, Young Lovers" are safe in the hands of Broadway's most reliable leading lady, Kelli O'Hara.
You may want to skip it if: you prefer shorter shows or aren't a fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein's very specific style. The show is definitely one of the most time-consuming on Broadway, and most folks who dislike one R&H show turn away from them all.

An American in Paris
Adaptation of the MGM movie musical about an American GI-turned-artist who falls for a beautiful French ballerina after staying behind in a post-WWII Paris, set to classic Gershwin tunes and told largely in breathtaking dance numbers.

Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan and Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin perform the titular ballet sequence
Try if you like: Dance-heavy shows like West Side Story or the bright, jazzy style of classic MGM films such as Singin' in the Rain and Funny Face. Songs like "'S Wonderful" and "I Got Rhythm" are just as dazzling and catchy as ever.
You may want to skip it if: you aren't a fan of the "traditional" musical with several songs not necessarily written for a specific plot, or get bored during significant dialogue-free dance sequences.
*Bonus recommendation: If you have a soft spot for Golden Age musicals with light, giddy romances, bright music, and excellent dancing, you may also want to check out the revival of On the Town, another Gene Kelly classic taking Broadway by storm this season.

Finding Neverland
A behind-the-scenes story, based on the 2004 film, of how playwright JM Barrie created the Boy Who Never Grew Up after developing a close friendship with a fragile though strong-willed widow and her four sons.

Matthew Morrison as JM Barrie and Laura Michelle Kelly as Sylvia Llewyn Davies
Try if you like: the family-friendly British sensibilities of Mary Poppins or the pop-Broadway blend of Shrek the Musical. The story is slightly more sophisticated than Peter Pan itself, though the show goes out of its way to evoke its famous cousin.
You may want to skip it if: you're looking for nuance in story or music or something with a little edge. Aside from some lovely ballads such as "Neverland" and "What You Mean To Me", the music and lyrics veer to the generic though not unpleasant.

You can find previews of these shows and their scores on the shows' official YouTube channels, and many have their cast recordings available, either digitally or on CD. If you're in New York and have the time and means, take a few hours to enjoy the magic of live theater!