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A Short Review of Every Broadway Show I’ve Ever Seen

From All Shook Up to War Horse

By RosePublished 2 years ago Updated 3 months ago 9 min read
A Short Review of Every Broadway Show I’ve Ever Seen
Photo by Sudan Ouyang on Unsplash

It’s no secret that I’m a musical theatre fanatic. As a teenager, my dream was to be a theatre critic. This was thwarted by my terrible taste (notorious flops about vampires are, to excuse the pun, my life blood). Nonetheless, I have many opinions! You’ll find below some brief thoughts on every major theatre production I’ve been lucky enough to see live.

I saw all of the shows on Broadway, unless otherwise noted.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - I went three times! This show had the perfect balance of comedy and heart. I love the Circle in the Square theatre. There aren’t any bad seats.

3 Musketiere (Berlin, Germany) - This was the first German musical I got to see, after years of obsessing over German theatre productions and dreaming of seeing one. I spent most of act one having an anxiety attack, convincing myself that I wasn’t a good enough person to deserve to get something I’d wanted so badly. I regret that. I was able to pay more attention during Act II. It was the first show I saw that I thought used computerized backgrounds effectively without compromising stagecraft. I loved Wer Kann Schon Ohne Liebe Sein.

All Shook Up - An Elvis jukebox musical! I remember liking the plot, but finding the music boring. I guess that means I’m not a fan of Elvis.

Altar Boyz (Off-Broadway) - This one was a Christian Rock parody. It was endearing. Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait was the best song.

Annie (Wuhan, China) - I got to see the first ever Mandarin Chinese translation of this show! That was a special experience. Sandy was a pug. The woman playing Miss Hannigan was insanely talented (and extremely attractive). She was by far the highlight of the show.

Avenue Q - I’m embarrassed to say I saw this show several times. A lot of the humor is in much worse taste than I realized at the time. Some songs, like “What Do You Do with a BA in English” and “Fine, Fine Line” still hold up.

Be More Chill - I got to see this once Off-Broadway and twice on Broadway. I was probably the oldest one in the theatre who wasn’t somebody’s parent (or an actor in the show, pretending to be a “teen”). Some people say the show’s most popular number, “Micheal in the Bathroom”, is overrated. They are wrong.

Bombay Dreams - There was this one scene where the protagonist made his grandma sad that made me sad.

Book of Mormon (London) - Well, all the songs were good. I liked how the nods to other musicals (Man Up being similar to One Day More, You and Me But Mostly Me being a pastiche of Defying Gravity) weren’t too anvilicious.

Brooklyn - Quirky costumes! All the set and costume pieces were recycled from trash found on the street.

Cats - Oh god. This was my first musical. I saw it in 1999 with my dad. He fell asleep. I was hooked forever. There is a lot of anti-Cats sentiment in the Broadway fandom, and I spit in the face if it.

Chicago - The music doesn’t do anything for me, but it was fun to watch once for the story.

Come From Away - I never expected a 9-11 musical in my lifetime. Come From Away’s handling of the subject matter was tasteful and poignant. I wonder if we’ll get a covid-19 musical a decade or so down the line.

Dance of the Vampires - I’m eternally grateful that I got see this short-lived dumpster fire. I enjoyed it very much. Based on the wildly popular German language Tanz der Vampire, DotV was a notorious flop. After I saw it, I obtained an bootlegged video copy on VHS and watched it until I could recite every line.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Good cast! Twist ending! Not my preferred style of comedy.

Dracula - I saw it five times. It had vampires, flying wires, and inexplicable nudity. Delightfully loud.

Edward Scissor Hands the Ballet (Brooklyn) - I tend to like stories conveyed by song rather than dance.

Frankenstein (Off-Broadway) - I desperately wish I could have seen this more than three times. It didn’t completely stick to the plot of the novel, but I feel like it got the essence of it. It made Victor Frankenstein sympathetic, which was interesting.

Fun Home - FAVORITE. Kinda traumatizing, though.

Godspell (2001 touring cast) - I love how Godspell is one of those shows that’s different every time you see it, depending on when and where it’s performed. The early 2000’s vibes of this version were intense. It opened with the Windows computer startup sound. It had a skit about the Blair Witch Project. Jesus got crucified on a cross made out of TVs. Good stuff.

Hairspray - As a former fat kid, this was such an important show to me when it came out. I loved (and still love) Tracey.

Hamilton (London) - My travel partner really wanted to see it. Getting tickets to Hamilton on West End was way easier and cheaper than getting them on Broadway would’ve been (though still not exactly cheap or easy). I tend to get annoyed when something has too much fanfare, and I’m that way with Hamilton. It’s not the show I would have picked to see, but I had a blast seeing it.

If / Then - You know, I sat through this entire musical unsure of what was happening. Lots of good gay love duets, though. Also, Jason Tam.

In My Life - Unhinged!

Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette is one of the few non-theatrical music artists I’ve ever been into, so seeing her songs reframed in a theatrical context was fascinating! I went into the show expecting a Mamma Mia-ish jukebox mess, mostly enjoyable because of its familiarity. I came out crying. Jagged Little Pill isn’t an easy show to watch, but it’s well worth watching.

Jesus Christ Superstar - This was my third (?) live musical performance. Jesus Christ Superstar is one of those shows that just never gets old. It’s the only show I saw with my dad that I think he actually liked.

Les Miserables - I’ve seen Les Mis more times than I have any other musical. There was a point, during my university years, when I was going to see it every weekend. I was also in my high school’s production, as the old lady who cut off Fantine’s hair (among other chorus roles). Although I caught Les Mis at the tail end of its original Broadway run, and also during the 2014 revival, the big production for me was the 2006 Broadway revival. One of my favorite actors, Drew Sarich, played Grantaire and understudied nearly the entire male cast. His Valjean was unique, because I swear he somehow managed to make the character evil.

Lestat - I saw it six times and I have no regrets.

A Light in the Piazza - It’s a pretty musical with pretty music.

Lightning Thief - Every song is insanely catchy. I’ve never read the Percy Jackson books, but I didn’t feel like I had any problems following along with and enjoying the show.

Little Shop of Horrors - This was the first (and so far only) show I got to see after Broadway reopened. People (myself included) were tearing up at curtain call. It was the most enthusiastic audience I’ve ever been a part of.

Little Women - Sutton Foster was a very spunky, very butch Jo March. For the most part, the show didn’t stay true to the book, but the song “Some Things are Meant To Be” was ideal for Beth’s character.

Movin’ Out - This is the only Broadway show I flat out didn’t have fun at. It was sort of like a ballet, which is something I can enjoy if I know what I’m getting into, but in this case I’d gone in blind. I just sat there, waiting for the characters to start singing, but they never did. By the time I realized that the dancing was meant to convey a plot, it was too late for me to figure out what that plot was. Then, stuck in a seat with nothing interesting to distract myself with, I started thinking about this math test that I wasn’t studying for. As I pondered whether or not I was going to flunk out of college due to poor math grades and misplaced priorities, an actor walked to the front of the stage and started spinning around, mere inches from my seat, which was in the first row. As the actor spun, the sweat flew off his body and onto mine. It was like sitting next to a garden sprinkler that sprayed warm, salty, armpit-scented water. He kept spinning. And spinning. Eventually he left, and was replaced by another sweaty, gyrating dancer. The music was boring. Eventually, the show ended, and I was able to leave, now thoroughly soaked in the bodily fluids of strangers.

Newsies - I think the 1992 movie was better than the stage version, mostly because it was messier and hadn’t managed to quite achieve that glossy, expertly manufactured, Disney quality. The plot and characterization made a little too much sense.

Once on This Island - There was a MOAT around the STAGE.

The Phantom of the Opera - I loved this show when I was in middle school! I hate it as an adult, because I just don’t have any sympathy for the phantom. He should stop with the murders and kidnappings, probably.

The Pirate Queen - This one got heavy-handed with the whole Girl Power message, but it was fun. I’d see it again if I had the chance.

Producers - I had a good time, even though neither the plot nor the music really did anything for me.

Rent - . Rent is important to me. I saw a touring cast in 2002 and also managed to catch the tail end of the original Broadway production, on Halloween nights, 2004. When I saw the show, people were already debating whether or not it should be viewed as a period piece, even as the productions were trying to appear as updated and modern as possible. It was in this weird in-between stage, where it was still trying to be the hippest and freshest Voice of the Youth, even though it had aged out of that role. It’s so fascinating seeing how more recent filmed productions have leaned into all that 90’s nostalgia.

Rock of Ages - I went to this to make my friend, whose favorite movie is Rock of Ages, jealous. I bought him a T-Shirt.

Spamalot - Spoof comedies aren’t my thing. As with most musicals, I still had a blast, but I don’t think I’d ever want to see it again.

Spring Awakening - I went into this show not knowing a single thing about it. For most of the show I thought Moritz was going to be the comic relief character. At the beginning of “I Don’t Do Sadness” I thought it was going to be a funny song. It… didn’t exactly turn out that way.

Starlight Express - I was obsessed with Starlight Express for years before finally getting to see the 2004 US tour. I skipped my senior prom so that I could see it. In lieu of a prom dress, I cosplayed Dinah the Dining Car. That’s the kind of high schooler I was. Anyway, the tour had some unique elements. It involved 3D vision glasses for the audience, the introduction of the “Hip Hoppers” and Trax, and drastically skimpified costumes for every female character (because nothing says “train” like tons of exposed human leg flesh).

Sweeney Todd - I saw the early 2000’s Broadway revival— the one where all of the actors played instruments on stage. It was a concept! I was heavily involved in a musical theatre forum in which people who liked Sondheim were considered smart, and people who liked other composers were stupid. I saw Sweeney Todd three times mostly to prove that I was smart. I genuinely like Sweeney Todd, but as an adult I’m nonetheless uncomfortably aware that I cultivated a fondness of it solely in order to impress strangers on the internet.

War Horse - My uncle bought me tickets. Thus far, it’s the only show I’ve seen on Broadway that wasn’t a musical. There was a big puppet horse.


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