In the theatre world this decade, we’ve had classics like Hamilton, Matilda and Waitress, big movie musicals like Les Mis and whatever the hell the Cats movie was. There’s been adaptation after adaptation after adaptation but, but some of them have actually turned out really great! And to top it all off, social media has changed the way that theatre is promoted and consumed for better or worse.
As the 2010s come to an end, I’ve picked out a show or two from each year, as a way of looking back and talking about some of my personal favourite shows from the last 10 years…
The Addams Family Musical
Let’s start off our look back at this decade by talking about one of the ultimate (and for a long time only) spooky Halloween musical. The show expresses the beloved Addams Family characters perfectly, with a grown-up Wednesday Addams in a meet the parents style plot. It also has some fantastic music and is really funny too. It’s played across the world since it’s 2010 debut and played in the UK for the first time in 2017, which is when I first saw it on tour (and promptly decided to sing Pulled in what turned out to be the worst audition of all time, but that’s another story).
Yes, I’m putting this across 2 years, because it premiered in Stratford Upon Avon in December 2010 and then hit the West End in 2011 and it’s my blog so I can do what I want. Also by the time I realised it’s technically a 2010 show I had this whole list planned out and I can’t think of any other 2011 shows to include, so this is what you’re getting.
I was lucky enough to see the show in its aforementioned earliest incarnation – by the end, we all knew we’d seen something special. And we were proven right, when it went on not only to conquer the West End but also Broadway over the next few years, picking up a bunch of awards and just generally becoming iconic.
Even outside of the spectacular effects and the witty lyrics and catchy tunes of Tim Minchin, there’s just something about the original Roald Dahl book on which it’s based which invokes such a sense of creativity and fun. If you haven’t seen it before, what the heck are you doing with your life?
Based on the true story of a struggling Northampton shoe factory that turned it all around when they started making shoes for drag queens, this joyous show has been providing feel good fun, as well as big emotional heart, to both Broadway and the West End since 2012. After hearing this show get hyped up for years, I was finally able to see it on tour earlier this year and it didn’t disappoint.
Heathers the Musical
For the most part, this musical based on the 1988 Winona Ryder fronted movie of the same name got its time to shine in the years following its LA premiere. But it all started in 2013.
Described by many as “like Mean Girls but with murder”, this dark comedy has grown from a small fairly short lived off-Broadway show that was kind of a cult thing, into a legitimate phenomenon with a highly successful West End run under its belt (and a Riverdale episode, but we don’t talk about that).
You can probably tell from the fact that I dedicated an entire week to this show when it closed in the West End, but I love this musical. So much. Something about the dark comedy and angsty rock tunes that this show provided just got me when I first listened to it in 2015 and I’ve never looked back.
This is another one that means a lot to me, primarily because back in 2013/2014 it was the show that eventually got me into the rest of the Starkid canon (more on that later), but also because it’s so damn good!
As someone who knows a lot about Disney movies, I find the parody of the classic Disney films in this show both clever and hilarious – and the emotional parts are surprisingly poignant too.
This show brought the magic of the classic Disney film to the stage in a spectacular fashion! This is far from my favourite show on the list, as it does sometimes come across like a fancy Pantomime, but it’s such a fun fancy Pantomime that it’s still highly enjoyable. And that’s without even mentioning the number Friend Like Me in particular, which is still one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen on stage. I’m not gonna lie, that song in particular is a huge part of the reason this show makes the list.
You know I had to talk about this one. Telling the story of America’s first Treasury Secretary through hip hop and various other genres, Hamilton is almost definitely the biggest musical of the decade – it’s the Frozen of the theatre world (and I say that as someone who loves both those things), and for good reason. Lin Manuel Miranda’s intricate lyrics, and infectious tunes combining musical theatre with various other genres are like nothing the theatre world had heard before, the choreography is incredible and the storytelling is great too!
I first listened to Hamilton in Youtube uploads during breaks at Uni in I think 2016, having seen several Youtube clips of Ham 4 Hams and simply wanting to know what everybody was talking about. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since! When I finally got to see the show live in January 2018, I already knew every word of the show by heart and it 100% lived up to my expectations.
I can safely say that this is my favourite musical of the decade.
This sweet little show is another one of my personal favourites on this list! Based on the 2007 film of the same name and with some great music by Sara Barielles, this story of a waitress who hopes to escape her abusive marriage by winning a baking competition, is a serious tearjerker that also manages to provide a good amount of feel good fluff!
The diner will close its doors both on Broadway and in the West End next year, but Waitress has certainly made it’s mark in the time it’s been open (in spite of it coming out when all anyone could talk about was Hamilton, as mentioned above).
Come From Away
This show is as extraordinary as the true story that inspired it. It’s set in a town in Newfoundland called Gander, when in the wake of 9/11 planes packed with 7,000 people were all diverted to the nearby airport, as the US airspace was closed for the first time in history. Whilst this story is obviously highly emotional, it also manages to become incredibly sweet and heart-warming, focusing on how the people of Gander and other nearby communities came together to take care of so many people and how many people were brought together by what transpired. The music also incorporates the folk sounds of the place where it’s set, creating a powerful backdrop for a powerful story.
Hadestown has had its moment to shine in the last year or so with the highly successful revival currently taking Broadway by storm, but the show actually premiered in 2016 and was based on a concept album from 2010. Anaïs Mitchell cleverly and carefully retells the classic story of Orpheus and Euridice, by setting it in a post-apocalyptic, 30s inspired and jazz infused world. In doing so, she’s able to take the best of the original story to explore new themes of poverty, exploitation and politics, in a very effective manner.
Spongebob Squarepants: the Broadway Musical
It’s a bit of a jump to go from deep themes of poverty and exploitation to Spongebob Squarepants of all things. And in fact, anyone who cares enough about theatre to read this blog probably remembers the collective groans as well as bafflement that spread across our corners of the internet when this was announced. But I think most of you will also agree that this show surpassed everybody’s expectations in its creativity, its costumes, it’s humour and with just how darn pure and sweet it was. In spite of its positive reception, multiple Tony nominations and growing fandom, this show didn’t last long primarily due to planned renovations on its theatre. I think we can all agree that Spongebob definitely deserved better.
Speaking of shows that deserved better, I’m going for a more obscure one for 2018. Using modern styles of music to tell the story of Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, on the 100th Anniversary of the representation of the people act which gave some women the right to vote for the first time, Sylvia only had a short run at the Old Vic in September 2018 and was plagued by bad luck, with cast illnesses resulting in pushed back previews and even a cancelled press night.
As a result of this chaos I only saw a rough version of the first act, as it was a very early preview – but the music was fantastic, and the storytelling powerful – with a bit more polishing, it could’ve been phenomenal. But unfortunately, it’s been a year and there’s been no news on Sylvia coming back so far. Here’s hoping it will be on my best of the 2020s list in a decades time, with a full production.
The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals
This sci fi horror musical about an all singing all dancing alien apocalypse is the second Starkid show to make my list. It’s safe to say that this show has been a pretty big obsession for me in 2019 (it actually took up almost every single spot in my Apple Rewind this year!). I just find the concept so clever, the way that it actually manages to be scary with such a ridiculous concept is also great and I love the music too. And like many other Starkid shows, it has some really funny parts too.
Starkid returned to the tiny town of Hatchetfield earlier this year with their next show, Black Friday and I’m so excited to see it when it’s released on Youtube next February.
I’m ending this list the way it began: with a really well done spooky stage version of a beloved character. This is genuinely one of the best screen to stage adaptations out there, primarily due to the way it retools the story to be more emotional, whilst maintaining the humour and sense of fun that made the original film so great. Plus, there are some surprisingly good songs. Overall, this show doesn’t feel like a cash grab, as so many musicals nowadays seem to be. It feels like it comes from a genuine place of love for the original film and as a result, it has a lot of heart.
What are some of your favourite musicals of this decade? Let me know in the comments and Happy New Year!