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Theater has been portrayed on TV shows like Smash and Glee, introducing a whole new generation to Journey's “Don't Stop Believing.” But there are bad things about it, too. For one thing, it pales in comparison to the front-row live experience. But for those of you who wouldn't know Broadway if it passed through your living room, here are the best musicals for beginners.


10) Little Shop of Horrors 
by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

Menken penned every perfect Disney song known to man (Mermaid, Beast, Pocahontas, Aladdin). He is a legend and Little Shop is a cult phenomenon. Motown tones and kitsch galore make this a quintessential must ingest treat. Feed me!

9) Hedwig and the Angry Inch
by John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask (1998)

One to blast loudly on sheer principle when a naysayer of musical theater is in the room. Hedwig was developed in nightclubs by John Cameron Mitchell and premiered off-Broadway to much acclaim. Featuring glam rock, touch of punk and sexual identity, it's a wild card for someone needing a little more emotional noise than Gilbert and Sullivan.

8) Phantom of the Opera
by Andrew Lloyd Webber (1986)

With skilled musicians and pyrotechnics, Phantom is a boundless combination of art and technology. Unsurprisingly, this grandiose production has become the longest running show on Broadway. The universal score has spanned 27 countries and grossed over $5 billion.



7) Guys and Dolls

by Frank Loesser (1950)

Hailing standards such as “Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat” and “Luck be a Lady” — this widely-covered, iconic Broadway gem has gifted our society with quite a bit. It won five Tony Awards and employed Marlon Brando. Guys and Dolls is probably being rehearsed in a high school gymnasium right now.

6) Porgy and Bess

by George & Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward (1935)

This historic opera contains some of the most recognizable tunes in the Gershwin songbook. Artfully mastered by Miles and Nina and Ella and Billie, re-imagined by Janis and her band (above). They say George spent his days hammering around the South before writing this, and this is what emerged from his travel notes.

5) Chess 
by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Tim Rice (1986)

ABBA wrote a really great piece of theater besides Mamma Mia! Chess touches on loyalty, worldly politics and a whole slew of sensitive circumstance. (Also, sweeping and soaring baritone. Also, One Night in Bangkok.)



4) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

by Stephen Sondheim (1979)

This entire piece could be composed of Sondheim's lyrical and compositional genius. (Sunday in the Park and West Side Story are weeping at the unwarranted exclusion from the list.) A masterpiece due to its dark and disturbing subject matter, it's coupled with the right amount of comedy and an uber-melodramatic score. Tim Burton agrees. (The above clip describes using cannibalism for capitalism, an epiphany.)

3) Cabaret
by John Kander and Fred Ebb (1966)

Cabaret offers a very bold and significant storytelling of life in Germany leading up to the Holocaust. Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) directed the London and Broadway revivals, whose reincarnations fostered many well-known talents — most notably the late and illustrious Natasha Richardson. The melodies continue to haunt, echo and entertain after 56 years.

Les Misérables
by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil (1985)

This massive and epic performance piece resonates with so. many. people. It's simply a classic. Please try to see a live version (YouTube sorta counts) before the feature film saturates your screen. It's enormous and beautiful and everything a show should be. (Bonus link!)



1) Rent
by Jonathan Larson (1996)

Whether you like it or not, you've probably heard the “525,600 Minutes” ditty. Rent encompasses vitality and spirit. Community and acceptance, to face your adversaries with love. As cheesy and cliche as it may sound, this musical defined a generation and cemented groundwork for many musicals to follow. Watch Jesse L. Martin tear this song to bits. Be grateful for your health. Tell people how much you care. Inspire your friends. Create your art. Sing loud, dance around. Leave your cocoon. Go see a Broadway musical for fuck's sake!

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