Not Just ‘Hamilton’: Broadway Geekery

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Wolverine musical
Image By Rebecca Angel

After watching the Tony awards, and the Hamilton sweep, I found it amusing that a musical about American history was such a winner. Nerds, nerds, we are all secretly nerds. Of course, it usually isn’t about the story but how the story is told that makes a show stand out. For musical theater, there are so many elements from the score to the costumes, dancing, staging, etc. that can make or break it. What other nerdy, geeky, quirky musicals have been produced over the years? And how many were successful?

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark produced in 2011, with music by The Edge and Bono is the first that comes to mind. Taking a comic book, where an artist can make the characters do anything (gravity does not apply) and bringing it into the real world must have been a challenge. One of our GeekMoms wrote a review about the experience, and the stunts were supposed to be stunning. Although it did not turn a profit and got mixed reviews, it did stay on Broadway for a couple of years, and plans to reemerge in Las Vegas soon.

If history geeks are getting their due with Hamilton, word nerds must love the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical comedy about, well, a middle-school spelling competition. It opened on Broadway in 2005 and won two Tony’s along with box-office success and a grammy-award nominated cast recording. Pretty darn good. Although my own spelling is atrocious (Hey, got that one right on the first try!) I do love words, and this musical is on my must-see list when a production comes up in my area.

The Addams Family musical opened on Broadway in April of 2010 and closed December of 2011. This may seem like it didn’t do well, but it is still on tour nationally and internationally with rave reviews. What I think is cool about this show is that it’s not about the television show or movie, which is how most people know this macabre family, but instead is based on the original cartoons by Charles Addams that ran in The New Yorker from 1938 – 1988. The music is great. A youth theater company is staging it next week and I plan on going! Here is Crazier Than You.

Spamalot by Monty Python (2005) is an adaptation of their movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with add-ins from their other movies and original songs too. Since it is based on the Arthurian legends and part of the history of quirky humor, it gets double geek-cred. After its Broadway run, it went on tour, and my husband and I went to see it around our neck of the woods. Probably one of my favorite musical experiences because the theater was packed with Monty Python fans who were so freakin’ excited to see the show; the community joy was overflowing. It was funny and fun and nerdy as anything. It won three Tony awards, so I’d call that a success.

A musical of Dracula was on Broadway in 2004. Did you miss it? Most people did because it was panned and didn’t last very long. However, it has been heavily revised and has done well internationally since then. Who knows, maybe the singing blood-sucker will come back to the states?

Now, if you take Broadway out of the equation, that opens up things to even more nerdy musical theater. A Very Potter Musical is a 2009 parody of the young wizard book phenomenon, and it’s really well done. My kids and their friends watched the videos of the college production repeatedly, and they still quote some of the lines to this day. You can watch the whole thing online here.

Did you know there was a Lord of the Rings musical? Neither did I. Produced in London and over three hours long. Hmmm…

And nixing the stage, of course, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog is fantastic. And that one Buffy episode.

So what do you think might be produced next? Twilight the musical? Wolverine? (Hugh Jackman is already a Broadway star.) Or maybe Black Widow will finally get her own spotlight, not as a movie but in the theater!