My Top Ten Favorite Musicals

Theater is one of my favorite things in the world. And though I have the talent of a rock, and would never participate in any musicals ever, I love watching them and over the past couple years my obsession with Broadway has grown stronger. So, I decided to compose a list of my favorite Broadway shows and movie musicals and why.

10. Dear Evan Hansen: I haven’t seen this musical yet, but I am obsessed with the soundtrack, and I really hope I get to see it one day.

9. The Lion King: There’s no reason why this musical is low on my list, because I loved it with all my heart. I was in awe during the whole production with the costume design, music, and set, and would recommend it to anyone, but it’s not a show I would go see a second time unless I went with a friend who would really want to go.

8. The Greatest Showman: This is only a musical, but there are rumors that a Broadway production of it is in the making. This was my favorite movie during all of 2017. I loved everything about this musical movie. The music, the actors, the story, all of it. So much so that I saw it three times in the theater within three weeks, and several times after that on the plane.

7. Wicked: This one should definitely be higher on my list, but I have too many musicals to mention, so this had to be right here. I’ve seen Wicked at least three times because every time it goes to my city my family has tickets. It was the first musical I’ve ever watched and it’s been one of my favorites since.

Photo Credit: playbillstore.com

6. Kinky Boots: To describe this musical in one word, I’d say iconic. A Broadway show about drag queens? With a powerful, positive, feel-good story and catchy as heck tunes? I stan it. Plus, Brendon Urie was a part of it over the summer, which started my obsession with the musical, but isn’t the only reason I love the production. The show’s amazing with or without him and I saw it with David Cook and he was amazing in it. I’m gonna miss this show when it closes in April. #Revival

5. Mamma Mia: Anyone who knows me knows this musical is bound to be on my list whether they decide to read this or not. This is my favorite movie. I’ve never seen the live production of it, but I’ve watched the movie at least 100 times and if I could revive any Broadway show it’d be this one (or Newsies).

4. Hamilton: Do I need to explain why Hamilton’s so high up? I’ll probably have to say why it’s not my favorite, but this musical is amazing. There’s a reason why it’s so freaking popular. It’s a rap musical and all the dialogue is done rapping, there’s no simply talking except for maybe two times in the whole production. I was lucky to see this show with my aunt last year in Los Angeles with tenth row seats and it was the most magical three hours of my life. Additionally, history is one of my favorite subjects and this musical was a modern production on a story from almost three hundred years ago with a diverse cast and an incredible soundtrack.

3. The Book of Mormon: I dedicated a whole blog post to this show last year, but it didn’t do it 100% justice for how amazing it was. This show was hilarious and I went into it skeptical that I was gonna like it, but I loved every part of it. The second it comes to California again I’m buying tickets and I’m anticipating the moment I get to go watch it again.

2. Phantom of the Opera: I get to finally see this musical during summer time and I’ve been wanting to see it more than anything since I watched the movie on Netflix last summer. As of now, it’s still the longest running Broadway musical and I still haven’t seen it, but that will change… hopefully. But, it’s still reserved this spot on my list because I am obsessed with the story, despite how high-key toxic the relationship between the Phantom and Christine is. But, that’s what makes the story so interesting and addicting to watch.

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

1. Aladdin: This show is the most underrated popular show in Broadway right now. Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, but watching the Broadway version was the most magical three hours of my life. I remember at one point I had to close my eyes because the costume and set design were so insane with bright lights and glitter that it was blinding. I never saw so many dancers in sync and so many perfect voices in harmony together in one song. I remember when the show ended, and my aunt, sister, and I were all leaving the theatre and I was in a daze for the rest of the night. Then the next day, I wanted to return.

This was a really long list, but if you’ve made it to the end, I 100% recommend you go to any of these shows and you’ll have the best experience ever.

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The Book Of Mormon

Over spring break, I had the opportunity to see The Book of Mormon live in New York City. To put it simply, the whole musical was pure genius. The whole show was hilarious, the choreography incredible, and the singing even more so.

However, despite how much I loved the show, I’m surprised that it’s even still on Broadway. I could easily say it’s one of the most controversial shows to exist, yet somehow, it’s not that controversial. In fact, according to some people I’ve talked to, Kinky Boots is more controversial simply because of the cross dressing, completely ignoring the fact that the Book of Mormon was offensive to just about every race, religion, and sexuality.

I could tell that the whole musical is basically satirical to the Mormon Religion, but in the progressive society we live in, I’m still trying to ponder how the Book of Mormon has not been shut down by Twitter and Instagram activists alike. Either people don’t watch Broadway shows enough, or it isn’t seen as a problem, even though one Tweet intended to be a joke could be interpreted wrong and ruin someone’s life.

Now, I’m going to dive into an overly, probably unnecessary, analysis of the whole musical and the music included.

For those who haven’t seen the musical yet, it follows the story of two young Mormons who travel to Uganda to convert the people there to the Mormon religion. The musical basically mocks the Mormon religion, but also uses offensive stereotypes of other races and sexualities to get their point across.

This whole analysis isn’t me criticizing the musical. In fact, it was probably one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen besides Hamilton or Aladdin, but I’m just genuinely trying to figure out how this musical hasn’t caused more controversy.

But then I realized the answer, and it’s because the entirety of the show is mocking the extremities of the Mormon faith and being entirely satirical of it. Maybe everyone who’s seen it and every critic who’s analyzed it has realized that that is the whole purpose of the show, and everyone who buys a ticket is ready to either be offended or be entertained on a whole new level.

First, let’s talk about the song “Hasa Diga Eebowa,” a song the citizens of Uganda sing when the two Mormons travel to the town for the first time.

To translate just the song title, it’s saying “F**K You God,” and that alone should’ve caused uproar to some of the people watching it, however it ended up just causing the whole audience to burst into laughter.

But the reason is that there were these people in Uganda suffering from hunger, a corrupt government, and many other issues (not to forget all the stereotypes of third world countries in Africa they mentioned), and there were these two guys trying to sugarcoat their troubles and convert them to their religion. That was saying that all their problems would go away if they followed the word of the book. Maybe that’s a flaw of all religions alike, that problems won’t just go away with a little bit of optimism. The song was criticizing that idea, but in a way that made it capturing and hilarious.

Photo Credit: popejoypresents.com

 

Next song, is “Turn It Off” which was basically a song about a little trick they had to turn off their emotions or “bad” thoughts, one of these, including homosexuality. Now that’s homophobic isn’t it? Was that the intention of the writers, or was it, yet again, being satirical about the faith? Were they criticizing the fact that the religion that preached to be good, was being bad to people who didn’t fit their standards? They weren’t necessarily being homophobic, but they were using examples of homophobia to shine light on the issues that came with the faith.

Next, was “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” which was my favorite song in the whole show. Basically, Elder Price broke rule seventy-two and was now having a nightmare where he was sent into Hell for eternity. There’s the fact that he was in Hell with Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Jeffrey Dahmer, but he thought he was the most evil of them all. Now, that’s being critical of the ridiculous expectations of Mormons and rules they have to follow. The fact that one little bad act was sinful, and left them believing that they were sinful at the same level as some of the most evil people in history, that’s ridiculous. Now, this example in the show is definitely hyperbole, but it’s still a real problem addressed even if it’s to a much lesser extreme.

Those are just a few examples, but how is this show that’s so insulting still so widely accepted as only comical?

Maybe it’s because it’s so hilarious that people don’t really care, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s a musical meant to be mocking and not actually real life, but isn’t the point of the show to mock the actualities of the religion’s extremities?

I don’t know the definite answer, I’m still trying to figure it out, but for now I’ll keep listening to the songs and continue to analyze this show one too many times.

 

NYC Memories

Contrasting the small, quaint towns where I’ve grown up in California, New York City was a breath of fresh, exciting air with life awaiting at the end of every corner walked.

My first night in New York was magical. I arrived around 10 at night, and looking out the window I was in awe of all the city lights illuminated in the distance. I couldn’t see all of them yet, but I knew they’d be tall and magical.

The cab ride was no different. With the hood of the roof of the taxi cab rolled back, I felt small as I saw the bright city lights tower over me, skyscraper after skyscraper appeared for the whole hour of driving until we arrived at our Airbnb in Greenwich Village.

At 12:30 we finally headed outside for dinner, and every restaurant was open. At TWELVE THIRTY at night, every restaurant was open, while in Santa Barbara anywhere but a bar is usually closed by 10 pm at the latest. You’re lucky if anything is open in LA.

But New York City is just filled with amazing life and even more amazing food. Every single restaurant I went to had artichokes, and I love artichokes. It’d be a miracle if I found them at a restaurant excluding Sea Fresh and Cheesecake Factory in California.

But that’s just one food item. We ate at a different restaurant every single night. From small vintage American diners playing 2000’s throwbacks to luxurious, high-end Italian restaurants or steakhouses, every place was delicious.

But one place that sticks out in my mind is BlackTap. The small, bar-seated burger place only fit thirteen people. The place had an hour long line, but when we refused to wait and came back a calmer day, we finally understood why the place was so popular. The food was phenomenal, but the true wow factor of the place was their milkshakes.

Photo Credit: thebrunchboys.com

The milkshakes were insane. From cookies supreme to the birthday shake, these shakes towered over the cups they were put in with overdoses of sugar and sweetness. I had a cookies & cream shake which left me in a sugar coma for the rest of the day.

Though most of my memories of NYC occurred in a restaurant, there are so many more that they’d be difficult to count on my fingers and toes, but I’ll name a few.

The Saturday after we arrived, I eagerly ran over to Washington Square Park from the place I was staying to participate in a massive pillow fight on National Pillow Fight Day. Hundreds of people piled into the park with pillows in their hands and grins on their faces in a fight to the “death” in a friendly, but intense, pillow fight. It was one of the purest experiences I ever had the privilege to take part in. Feathers exploded into the air, laughter silenced the playful screams, and pillows were thrown.

I did many more things in New York City. I walked around the city so much that my feet had blisters that hurt to the point that I’m still limping now (it was worth it), I visited three universities and absolutely fell in love with NYU, and I explored every inch of Times Square. However, by far my favorite were the three broadway shows I went to.

First I went to the Book of Mormon. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t listen to the soundtrack prior to going, but the performance exceeded my expectations. First, it was the most hilarious show I had ever been to. It was completely satirical about the Mormon faith, but it was executed perfectly with amazing acting, and catchy songs that are still stuck in my head. However, the musical is highly offensive so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone highly religious or offended easily by extreme stereotypes, but it’s definitely worth paying the money to go see.

The day after I went to go see Kinky Boots. The night before I had a midlife crisis because my NYU tour and Kinky Boots show were planned at the same time. I shouldn’t be melodramatic, but when my aunt told me that they’d just go see Kinky Boots without me, I almost died. I had been excited about that show for months, and I had been dying to go see it since Brendon Urie starred in it. Thankfully, we were able to exchange our tickets for the night performance and I was able to experience the magic of Kinky Boots. I had heard nothing but positive reviews, and when I went to the show I left happier than ever. It was original, unique, and just saying, those men walk better in six inch heels than I ever will.

Photo Credit: thegreenspace.org

Completely last minute, my Aunt and I headed into Times Square and snatched last minute seats to The Lion King. Somehow ending up in the seventh row of the center orchestra, I was ready for three hours to experience one of the most iconic shows on Broadway. I was shocked how much effort was put into the show. The costume design was crazy. I didn’t know where to look during the opening number when people dressed head to toe in animal costumes walked down the aisles singing the Circle of Life while walking onto the stage. Everything about all these shows was amazing.

I could go on about my trip in New York for hours, but this is just a glimpse of it, and I am dying to be back there soon.

My Annoyance With Ticket Scalping

As someone who loves to go to concerts and broadway musicals, I absolutely hate when people take advantage of people’s love for these to get extra money.

This pisses me off to an extreme. As someone who comes from a family with enough money, I shouldn’t be complaining about not having the money to go to these shows, and that’s not what I’m angry about. What I’m angry about is that originally the tickets to these shows are easily affordable, but not when greedy people buy these tickets and drastically increase the price to collect a few extra bucks from people.

Over the summer, Lana Del Rey announced a small concert in Anaheim, just twenty minutes from where I lived. I was ecstatic. I wanted to see her for the longest time, and my uncle had allowed me to attend the concert. The tickets were only fifty dollars, a reasonable price considering the majority of her fans are probably teenagers without jobs. I preordered the album, and at 9:59 I was ready to buy the tickets that went on sale at ten o’clock. Not even twenty seconds later, the tickets were sold out. It was upsetting, but when I checked every single resale site I could it only made me more furious. The tickets were being sold for ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. From fifty dollars to one thousand dollars. When I went on twitter in hopes to find someone nice enough to sell the tickets for a more reasonable price, they were all over 400 dollars.

I figured out that I wasn’t alone with my absolute annoyance over the dramatic resale of these tickets. It’s amazing how the people who were selling these tickets for unreasonable prices are probably the same people who complained about this same problem when they weren’t able to afford to go see their favorite musician.

For a more recent example, over the weekend my aunt was planning on buying tickets for Hamilton. Originally, the tickets are around $200, which is a reasonable price for the most popular show on Broadway. However, at resale pricing, tickets in the back row are sometimes at least $500.

Photo Credit: NYdailynews.com

It’s absolutely selfish, because these scalpers know how much people want to go to these shows, and how much people are willing to pay. People shouldn’t have to pay so much money to go to a show, especially when, in the end, the extra money is going to the seller and not even the show being played. It’s more bothersome that people actually end up paying these high costs for the shows, and only fuel these people’s beliefs that they can actually cheat people out of valuable money by manipulating their want to go enjoy these shows.

So, to everyone reselling these tickets at high prices to make a couple extra bucks: stop. Because as a sixteen year old girl who just wants to go rap concerts, historical musicals, or wear flower crowns at small Indie concerts, it’s upsetting when I can’t add some happiness into my life, because these tickets cost twenty times more than the amount in my checking account.

End Scene.

Sing loud.
Keep your back straight.
Don’t look at your feet.
You move stage right, not stage left.
It’s step-ball-change not ball-change-step.
You’re que is before the beat, not on it.
Cheat out and never look upstage.
Memorize all of Act Two by Friday, no exceptions.

Instruction after instruction and command after command is what it takes to put on a production. Whether it be a production of Shakespeare or the newest and hottest musical out there, without the proper director, any show is doomed.

I’ve been doing theatre since I was in second grade, starting off with Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” playing Puck. Then I moved onto Annie, Grease (twice), The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, The Wiz (twice), Damn Yankees, Beauty and the Beast, Pandora’s Jar, Tommy, Come Together, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Every time I meet new challenges that must be conquered, and every time it is a struggle. But there is no feeling that is even remotely comparable to opening night, when the curtains first fly open and the opening song starts. The feeling of being someone else for an hour or two. It’s irreplaceable.

Performing on stage is a hobby I’ve come to love, and it is a joy every time I open a new script to start highlighting my lines for later memorization. Each performance is a journey, and one that always ends too soon.

All You Need

Bright lights blind my eyes and the makeup feels like it is about to melt off of my face. My smile is large and over exaggerated, making my cheeks hurt. I am frozen, my right arm is extended horizontally, my elbow slightly bent with my fingers pointed up to the ceiling and my palm facing the wall. My left arm is lifted, draping over my head with my wrist and hand both limp. My silky hot pink shirt is tailored tight, restricting my breath, but I am still able to open my mouth and belt out my songs.

The band waits for the audience to stop applauding before they start playing; it is my cue to move again. I twirl through rows of people, all dressed in black with red sashes around their waists and paper boy hats on top of their heads. Their characters do not see me, though my character, the fictional Ringa Starr, attempts to get their attention. They suddenly swirl around me, picking me up high above their heads, and spin me in a circle. Their eyes are forward, away from me. They pretend not to see me; they only feel my presence. They set me down, and with a deep breath I open my mouth to sing with as much feeling as I have inside of me:

All you need is love!
All you need is love!
All you need is love, love;
love is all you need!

Ringa Starr

Ringa Starr

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