Odds are, musicals aren’t really your thing. Maybe you’ve heard of Andrew Lloyd Weber because you dated Malicia the Kinky Theatre Girl in ninth grade, but short of absentmindedly clapping after your sister’s choir solo, you probably aren’t in the business of enjoying showtunes on a regular basis. While you weren’t watching, however, the gods of Broadway deigned to create some awesomely non-traditional musicales that make use of everything from hip hop to puppet sex. Coincidentally, these new shows are pretty damn entertaining, even for the least-theatrical among us. Here are five that, should you feel compelled to culture yourself, you can be sure to enjoy without risking your manhood.
In the Heights
Penned by resident Cool Dude Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights is the new millennium’s answer to Rent with a side of hot Latin flava. Half the actors rap their lyrics while the other half sing to beats that are almost guaranteed to make you bop along (no matter how subtly) in your seat, which makes for a 90-minute party in which hot people lament how hot it is (the play takes place during a July power outage on NYC’s upper-upper-upper West Side) while you smile to yourself about how much you’re secretly – gulp – enjoying a musical. You might not leave with a renewed commitment to studying the works of Ira Gershwin, but you’ll probably leave humming a song to yourself in Spanglish and hoping someone in your family will demand that you go see the show again with them.
Avenue Q is like Sesame Street for adults – well, actually more like for twenty-somethings, since the plot revolves around a recent liberal arts graduate with no money and no life plan – complete with educational videos (about one-night stands) and catchy songs (about porn). Check out “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” for a taste of what you’ll get when you buy a ticket to this family-unfriendly romp; not pictured is the part a little bit later in the show where two puppets go at it on stage. Apparently it’s still totally kosher to show off puppet genitalia, so you’d best go see it before the censors have a chance to get their grubby hands all over it.
For future reference, if you must see a musical, then you can play it safe by opting for one about boys from Jersey (and with any luck, your options in this genre will soon include “A Night With the Jersey Devil: the Music of Bruce Springsteen”), as such subject matter almost certainly features a fair amount of bravado and a large sum of hyper-masculinity. In addition, Jersey Boys, based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, also boasts excellent tunes and an opportunity to show off your singing voice whilst accompanying the elderly woman in seat C14 during “Big Girls Don’t Cry”.
Way back in the ‘60s, a musical called Hair rocked everyone’s casbah and proved that dirty hippies are all about remaining unwashed and eschewing clothing. Fast-forward 40-some years to 2009, where the long-awaited revival of this seminal musical continues to rock people’s casbahs, albeit in a less-horrified-by-naked-people-on-stage way. That’s right: if you didn’t already know, Hair features naked people singing and dancing around the stage for a good four minutes straight, which means that even if you’re not the kind of guy who enjoys whiney songs about how much war sucks, you’ll probably find something you can get behind within the friendly confines of the show’s attractive, nubile cast. For bonus points, find someone to impress by asserting that Hair changed Broadway forever, and with any luck it’ll do the same this time around; of course, you’ll really be advocating “more nakedness, less plot,” but whoever you’re talking to will probably assume you’re making an esoteric reference that needs no explanation.
Rock of Ages
What would get you excited about a Broadway show (besides nakedness)? Great music? A hip setting? The 80’s??? Well, hold onto your party pants, because there just so happens to be a musical that incorporates all three of these things (as well as a bunch of scantily-clad groupies and a plethora of leather pants), and it just so happens to currently be on Broadway, and it is called Rock of Ages. A stroll through the show’s (uncomfortably purple, but don’t let that discourage you) website will inform you that RoA features music from the likes of Journey, Styxx, Night Ranger, Pat Benatar, Poison, and Whitesenake (among others), in addition to large hair and a whole bunch of ‘80s pop-culture references. It looks like Broadway finally figured out what people really want: glorified cover concerts masquerading as musicals where people can pretend they’re cultured while basking in the glow of ‘80s hair metal. Not fruity at all. Score.