This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK, which is gobbling up the news in a different timezone.
The incredibly (and deservedly) successful Hamilton: An American Musical has finally arrived on Disney Plus. The live stage show was filmed back in 2016 with its original cast (yep, that means Lin-Manuel Miranda himself in the title role) and was due to be released in spring 2021, but thanks to covid, we got it early. Thanks, terrible virus!
Hamilton’s streaming début has reignited a long-running argument about why more stage shows can’t be filmed in high quality and made available for watching at home.
Obviously, that’s a bigger issue right now with all the theatres closed, but it’s a valid question anyway — yes, having a filmed version available would stop some people buying show tickets, but 1) people would still go, because the live experience is something you can’t replicate, 2) a lot of people can’t justify $70+ for a ticket, don’t live in an area the shows come to or can’t physically go to the theatre, 3) there’s no reason it couldn’t work like cinemas, with a theatre release for a set time then a general release to streaming sites, and 4) you could (and should) make it pay-per-view so the theatre company continues to make money from streams.
Hopefully, what is pretty much guaranteed to be a stonking success for Disney Plus — which has the film exclusively — will inspire more stage shows to follow suit.
But which ones? Here’s Gizmodo’s list of the live musicals we’d most like to see filmed.
1. The Book of Mormon
Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame did an unbelievable job of their comedic take on the Mormon church. Described on the website as ‘God’s favourite musical,’ it’s more of a lampoon than a skewering of all the strangest things about Mormonism.
Sample lyrics include “I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people” and “Joseph Smith! Magical AIDS frog! Frog on his clit-face!” — we’re not making these up.
So, really not one to take your religious aunty Karen to, but if you like South Park’s brand of humour and you’re not overly defensive about the stranger beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri”), this will likely be one of the funniest things you’ve ever seen.
Ideally, of course, we’d have liked the original cast, with Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen, among many other roles) as Elder Cunningham and Andrew Rannells (from Girls) as Elder Price. But they’ve long since stopped starring in the show, and getting them back somehow seems even less likely than someone filming the show and letting us watch it at home.
At least we have this:
2. Avenue Q
Humour-wise, this is in much the same vein as The Book of Mormon, but it’s all done with muppet-style puppets live on stage. Sadly, as the show is a bit older, the videos we do have are often fairly poor quality. But there are some that give you an idea of what you’re missing — an evergreen song called Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and sweary tunes about private browsing sessions, for instance:
Avenue Q has toured lots of times but has mostly finished now, including its stint off-Broadway and its most recent UK tour. But it’s an absolute classic and deserves to be a household name, which it might if it were on streaming sites now that there are no tickets to be had anyway.
3. The Lion King
Yes, we know, there are already movies of the Lion King! Why would we need another one? Well, watch this and you’ll see pretty much immediately.
It’s nothing like the animated nor the live-action movies. Despite being about animals, it’s actually an inspiring and moving display of what human beings are capable of. Watching on screen will never replicate the experience of seeing it in the flesh of course, but we reckon more than a few people would be dying to see it for real after watching a good quality stream. And the rest would understand why this particular show has run for so long.
This is definitely one for musical fans, but if you’re into amazing vocal performances and fairytale storylines, you can’t do better than Wicked.
The ideal would, as usual, be the original cast. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel made for a double-sided dream team that’s pretty much impossible to beat, and we’d love to see them take the stage again… ideally in 4K.
OK, big caveat here: you have to be able to stand the s t a g e s c h o o l style of acting and singing from kids. A lot of people find it completely unbearable, but if you’re not sure, watch this and see how you feel:
Personally, we wouldn’t be able to sit through a whole show, but might manage a Pay-Per-View at home over two sittings or if sufficient wee/tea breaks were included. It’s by all accounts an amazing show, but not everyone can do Matilda like Mara Wilson did — ie without even slightly getting on your wick.
6. School of Rock
I know you’re about to shout “BUT THERE’S ALREADY AN AMAZING FILM” at the screen, and you’re absolutely right. Jack Black’s version of the story predates the show, and is still a really fun watch. However, it’s from 2003, which means the film at 17 is older than most of its stars. In the intervening years, the guitar kid, now pushing 30, has got himself in a lot of legal trouble (often involving guitars) and FancyPants is a gay country music icon, among other things.
Anyway, to praise the School of Rock stage musical is in no way to denigrate the film. They’re both amazing, and luckily the musical mostly escapes the stage school problem of the aforementioned Matilda. Plus there are tonnes of songs that aren’t in the film, and they rock. Hard.
The stage show of Waitress is based on the brilliant 2007 film starring Keri Russell. The movie was the last thing actor, director and screenwriter Adrienne Shelly made and starred in before she was murdered in her own home, and sadly she lived neither to see its release nor the musical based on her work.
The show, like the film, is equal parts emotional, relatable, and comical. It will make you feel All The Things, and not just because of how much you wish Shelly had lived to write more.
I challenge you not to have goosebumps by the end of this stellar performance by Lucie Jones, who you might remember from series 6 of The X Factor in ’09:
The music is written by Sara Bareilles, and it shows.
Waitress is the story of a woman trying to escape from an abusive relationship, told through a series of pies. It so deserves to be filmed and made available to everyone, but failing that, do watch the film.
8. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
This sort-of ‘gay Billy Elliot’ won’t suit everyone, but if you’re a fan of Dragula and other such campy fun, you might just love it like we do.
The show was inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary called Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The music is written by Dan Gillespie-Sells, who you might remember as the frontman of a band called The Feeling, who had a UK hit with Fill My Little World.
It’s a classic coming-out and coming-of-age story as aspiring drag star Jamie takes on the bullies, disapproving family members and cynical society we sadly hear about in every tearful finalist’s speech on RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s not overly cerebral but it is extremely enjoyable and uplifting as hell.
Oh, and for a change it’s set in Sheffield — there’s not enough art based in the North, if you ask us.
We probably should have put this sixth, but it’s too late now. Still, this list isn’t in any kind of order so don’t take that to mean Six is any less watchable than School of Rock, or indeed anything else on this list.
The ingenious concept casts the six wives of Henry VIII as members of a girl band battling for top dog, and it starts pretty much exactly how you’d hope: with a musical version of that primary school refrain, ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.’
Somehow this historical pop concert manages to evoke the Spice Girls better than the actual Spice Girls musical Viva Forever did, and it’d be perfect at-home viewing for a girls’ night in.
Another Disney number that already has not one, but two films — like the Lion King, one animated and one live-action. Yet somehow the stage musical adds its own magic that neither of the films can match, possibly due to Disney’s incredibly deep pockets and mind-bogglingly huge IP catalogue by the time it came out in 2011.
Seriously, watch the Genie show off all the songs Disney has the rights to, for no particular reason other than he can:
The stage show is so bright, colourful, spangly and spectacular that my eyeballs were tired for a week after I saw it. Also, I don’t know how they do the magic carpet scene but it. is. amazing.
If you can’t see it on the stage, it’d be great to add a third film to the Aladdin roster — one with some new songs, including some that were cut from the original movie.
11. Dear Evan Hansen
This highly-awarded musical about a teenager with social anxiety trying to work his way through therapy and high school is one of the best things to come out of Broadway for years. This is one of the shows we’d particularly love to see with the original cast: Ben Platt, who you might remember as the strange magician kid from Pitch Perfect and the main guy in Netflix’s The Politician, plays Evan.
It’ll have you cringing in affectionate recognition at awkward teenage you, and smiling all the way through.
Bonus section: things you can watch now
We’re not just here to give you musical blue balls with all the awesome shows you can’t stream. Here’s a whole list of amazing performances that are out and available to watch in your pants on the sofa tonight.
- Grease Live
- Hairspray Live
- Mary Poppins (starring Lin-Manuel Miranda himself!)
- Mamma Mia
- Cats (best with wine, probably)
- Jersey Boys
- Rock Of Ages
- Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Sister Act
- Billy Elliot
- The Producers
- Kinky Boots
- The Greatest Showman
Oh, and when you’ve finished watching Hamilton for the fiftieth time, remember that another Miranda musical, In The Heights, gets its film release next year. Trailer here.