Call me a cabaret

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By Isaac Hamlet

isaac-hamlet@uiowa.edu

  • Musical I Hate: Grease

Forget the fact that this is perhaps the most disposable musical ever made. Forget that the moral of the story seems to be “Men, even if you almost rape a woman in a car, remember, she’s the one who has to change for you — llmost change, but don’t commit to it.” The thing that bothers me about Grease is that one of the characters goes by Rizzo, which constantly makes me think of the Muppets. I just can’t enjoy the thing.

  • Overrated Musical: Cats

I don’t hate Cats, but considering it was the longest running Broadway musical up until 2006, when it was beaten out by The Phantom of the Opera (totally different conversation) I’ve got beef. It would be one thing if the musical had no plot, no character, and no point — I like Rent despite similar qualities — but considering the lyrics were just torn from a T.S. Eliot book of poetry, *Cats* feels like it put in no effort to boot (except in the makeup department; the makeup is fantastic. Frightening but fantastic.)

  • Underrated Musical: If/Then

There are a lot of musicals that could fit the bill for this one depending on when you ask me. (See Love’s Labors Lost, Assassins, Hadestown; the list goes on.) But If/Then opened to less than glowing reviews and was quickly shuffled off Broadway. The plot might be “meh” at best, but the songs are glorious. “You Never Know,” “You Don’t Need to Love Me,” and “I Hate You” all work fabulously with minimal context, which might be the way to keep it.

  • Musical I Love: The Last Five Years

Would this musical be pretty boring if it didn’t use an odd narrative device in which one of the two character tells the story from his point of view sequentially and the other tells her point of view in reverse chronology? Probably. Is it weird that a show about a doomed relationship keeps on popping up around Valentine’s Day? Yeah. But Jason Robert Brown has music that kicks you in the heart in the best way possible, and with the weird story structure, you can pretend that you’re watching a musical put on by a heavily censored and oddly heartfelt Quentin Tarantino.

  • Musical I Cherish: Les Misérables

Russell Crowe did nothing wrong. I like it when my favorite characters from various musicals have all the soul sucked out of them. It’s fine. They should cast Crowe in the Wicked film. Crowe playing Elphaba. I love it …

  • Musical I Sob Through: Next to Normal

Easily my favorite musical. It’s just so — I mean — The songs are — God, sorry, I’m just getting so emotional even typing this. I’m — I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s just so sad.

  • Musical That Keeps Me Laughing: Avenue Q

Here is a musical where I don’t mind being reminded of the Muppets. This is mostly because the main characters are all profane puppets who sing about important life lessons (see “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?”). I first discovered Avenue Q as a tween watching Youtube AMVs for Teen Titans, and it’s been a musical that’s kept me laughing ever since.

  • Game-Changer Musical: In the Heights

The casual musical fan might say that Hamilton is the game-changing musical of our time. The casual musical fan knows nothing and should pick up a history book. Lin Manuel Miranda did In the Heights first, and without it no one would ever be able to be in the room in which Hamilton happened, because Hamilton wouldn’t have existed.

  • Guilty Pleasure Musical: Legally Blonde: The Musical 

There are things in this world I’m not proud of. A man with slightly more shame would have put Shrek: The Musical in this spot, but not me. Walk up to me and belt off a few lines of “Omigod You Guys” or “Bend and Snap,” and I will attempt to publicly ridicule you. But in my heart, I’ll be singing along.

  • Musical I Could Listen to on Repeat: Heathers: The Musical

Have you ever been a teenager? Have you ever felt persecuted by your peers? Have you ever wanted to team up with the new kid/bad boy and kill those peers, making it look like suicide and hope to make the world a better place, but then learn a lesson at the end about the value of life and your own relative normal-ness? Then my friend, they made a musical about you, and I find it surprisingly easy to listen to on loop.

  • Musical I am Most Excited to See: Hamilton

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of the set design. But, come on. It’s Hamilton. Of course I want to see it.

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