Some of my favorite Broadway musicals are those that not only showcase amazing song and dance numbers, but also make a powerful statement about life. From the chilling Jekyll & Hyde to the family-friendly Wicked, these performances are guaranteed to both entertain and make you think. Read on for a quick look at just a few of the thought-provoking Broadway musicals I especially love.
1. Les Miserables
By far one of the most iconic Broadway musicals of our time, Les Miserables tackles tough issues like poverty, revolution and the fine line that exists between right and wrong, all while showcasing such well-known songs as “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own.” And if you’re thinking about skipping a trip to the theater just because you’ve already seen the movie, please don’t! Seeing this musical performed live on stage is nothing short of an amazing experience, whether or not you also took in the recent big-screen production.
2. Miss Saigon
Dark and moving, Miss Saigon chronicles the ending and aftermath of the Vietnam War through the eyes of an orphaned Vietnamese girl and an American soldier who fall in love. Songs like “Fall of Saigon” and “Bui Doi” illustrate the war's enduring effects, as does the musical’s tragically disturbing ending. Leave the kids at home for this one, and don’t forget to bring along a couple packs of tissues.
Set in Berlin on the verge of Nazi Germany, Cabaret reveals a rapidly changing society that is about to enter into one of the darkest periods in human history. The musical’s storyline focuses on the romance between showgirl Sally and writer Cliff, while the goings-on at the seedy cabaret symbolize the complex changes taking place within the outside world. In addition to the title song “Cabaret,” other famous songs from this musical include “Willkommen” and “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”
4. Jekyll & Hyde
We all have good and evil tendencies inside of us, but what if we had the power to separate the two? The gothic rock thriller Jekyll & Hyde explores this question by chronicling the tale of Doctor Henry Jekyll, whose well-intentioned scientific experiment ends up creating a murderous monster. This chilling production, which features the popular songs “This Is the Moment” and “Someone Like You,” is sure to leave you pondering everything from the origins of evil to the ability of humans to “play God.”
With powerful messages about everything from human sexuality to HIV/AIDS and corporate greed, Rent provides an at times uplifting and at other times heartbreaking look at the lives of young artists in New York City during the 1990s. Even if you haven’t yet seen this play, you’ve surely heard the musical’s best-known song, “Seasons of Love,” countless times. In fact, because this production has so many memorable numbers, including “Out Tonight” and “Take Me or Leave Me,” there’s a good chance you’ll still be singing along even after the curtain falls.
What does it mean to be wicked, and are there times when it’s ever actually right to do something wrong? Pair these themes with the musical’s beautifully composed songs and lyrics, and it’s easy to see why Wicked has become one of the most beloved shows to hit Broadway in recent years. Plus, unlike some of the others on the list, this play about the unlikely friendship between “wicked witch” Elphaba and “good witch” Glinda is incredibly family-friendly.
7. The Lion King
Last but certainly not least, Disney’s The Lion King is quite possibly one of the all-time best kid-friendly musicals. In addition to everyone’s favorite songs from the animated film, the play also includes new ones like “Endless Night” and “They Live in You,” which delve even deeper into the story’s themes about family ties and what it means to lose someone you love. And as if that’s not already enough of a reason to adore The Lion King, you’re sure to also fall completely in love with the amazing costumes, scenery and choreography.
Are you a fan of Broadway musicals? What are some of the most thought-provoking performances you’ve seen?