5 Famous Broadway Musicals and What We Can Take From Them

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  1. “Hamilton: An American Musical”

“Hamilton”, the most recent of the examples in which musicals land with a huge boom, tells the story of Caribbean-born, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, his rise to power and his ultimate downfall, as well as the lives of those around him and their role in the Independence from Britain and in his life. Its music and lyrics are work of Puerto Rican rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the soundtrack relies heavily on rap, blues, hip-hop and other tunes. Listen to it on Spotify or YouTube.

What to take from it: As shown in the musical, Hamilton’s origins weren’t as wealthy as you think. He was an immigrant from the Caribbean, who still struggled to be heard despite his inventiveness, resilience and intelligence. One of the most quoted lines from the musical is “Immigrants; we get the job done.” In a world where diversity is sometimes seen as a weakness, Hamilton is perfect material when we want to see how strong we can be and how far our reach can go if we work alongside each other. It also does a great job at showing that, no matter what your origins are, hard work and persistence pay off well. While society’s stereotypes and classification may limit you at times, your background does not decide your fate for you.

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  1. “Dear Evan Hansen”

Another highly acclaimed musical, contemporary “Dear Evan Hansen” guides attendees through the life of Evan Hansen, a high school student with social anxiety. After one of Evan’s classmates, Connor Murphy, commits suicide, Evan finds himself rising through high school’s social rank thanks to a series of emails he forged. Grand part of the cast, including the actors behind Evan, Connor and Zoe (sister to Connor) — Ben Platt, Mike Faist and Laura Dreyfuss, respectively — received Tony Nominations and, in the end, Platt did end up taking the award home. The music and lyrics are by Benj Pasek and John Paul and you can listen to it via Spotify, or Youtube.

What to take from it: firstly, it’s a crude awakening at the hierarchy that seems to exist in the high school world. It also depicts mental issues among teenagers, and how, despite the time and researched developed recently, we still struggle to understand it and thus give it an inappropriate response. It also links this issue with chemical dependency and drug abuse, and the consequence this can have on others.

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  1. “Dogfight”

Perhaps one of the lesser known titles of this list, “Dogfight” is set during and after World War 2, where a trio of army soldiers engage in a game they refer to as ‘dogfight’. For the game, the man who brings the ugliest date along wins $150. This is where the lives of Rose Fenny, who works as a waitress, and Eddie Birdlace, one of three friends, intertwine, and they will find themselves tangled in a life-changing journey. Like in “DEH”’s case, the lyrics are Pasek & Paul’s. Listen to it on Spotify or YouTube.

What to take from it: Dogfight clearly shows how the macho ideal affects all genders, alienating men who don’t obey to it and encouraging the rest to behave a certain way (e.g not feminine, strong, brave, dominant). Along with this, of course, comes the effect on women, who fall victims to humiliating rituals. However, it also shines a light on the empowerment of women during and after 1960s, as seen through the development of Rose’s character.

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  1. “Waitress”

Initially starring Tony winner Jessie Mueller, “Waitress” follows Jenna, a woman in an abusive relationship who works as a waitress at a diner called ‘Joe’s Diner’ and the conflicts that ensue after she ends up getting pregnant. Sara Bareilles, chart-topping singer and songwriter, wrote the lyrics and music. Its cast recording is available for you to listen on Spotify and YouTube.  

What to take from it: Waitress again speaks of empowerment of women. It brings awareness to the topic of abuse and toxic relationships, and how in a lot of cases, women in situations like these are seen as ‘deserving’ of this toxicity, or spoken about as if they were ‘asking for it’ and ‘allowed it to go on’. Because of this, it leaves you thinking about the way there’s still to go until they are truly released from such backlash, as well as the gap between genders there still exists.

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  1. “Avenue Q”

This Tony winning musical inspired by “Sesame Streets” shows the story of Princeton, a college grad who’s arrived to New York and whose big aspirations for the future may not be like he thought they would. As mentioned, the musical incorporates puppetry, but do not be fooled, for it still deals with heavy topics such as racism and intolerance. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx wrote the lyrics and music. Play it via Spotify or YouTube.

What to take from it: It deals with homophobia and racism as well, making satirical lyrics out of the unequal treatment towards minority groups that prompt us to become a bit better and kinder to others. Moreover, Avenue Q’s story is something that hits close to home for us – students. It resonates as it speaks about that feeling of “what’s next? What do I do?” that gets to some after they’re done with college, that sensation of being wandering aimlessly and being stuck at the same time. It lets you know that you’re not the only one, that everyone may stop at some point, that college may not necessarily prepare you for life after it and that it’s perfectly fine to find your feet at your own time and pace.