In honor of a recent trip to New York City where I spent much of my time seeing Broadway musicals, I decided to recommend Broadway soundtracks. Here’s a list of some tried and true favorites, as well as some new ones to check out. These are in no particular order, but read the first 5 here, and stay tuned to read the other 5 next week!
Rent is an update of the opera La Boheme, and chronicles the trials and tribulations of a group of bohemians, anarchists, artists, and friends in New York’s East Village. The score is upbeat and infectious, and it never fails to entertain. I blast this one in the car in traffic jams. If you like the soundtrack, you can check out the revival, currently running Off Broadway. (And if you do go, tell me how it is, because I’m dying for tickets!)
2. Avenue Q
In Avenue Q, Muppets which look an awful lot like those on Sesame Street, teach you valuable lessons. Such as, “the Internet is for porn,” “There is life outside your apartment” and “If you were gay, it’d be OK.” Even Gary Coleman makes an appearance in puppet form. I’m not sure I can really say much more about it – just give it a listen and prepare to laugh. Avenue Q is currently running Off Broadway.
3. In the Heights
Join this group of immigrants as they tell us all about their lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Some have aspirations to leave the barrio which reach as far as California, and some would be happy just to move downtown. Some are trying fervently to save their little community, as the neighborhood cycles through different ethnicities and cultures. Composer Lin-Manuel Miranda borrows from different styles of music, such as rap and salsa, and also takes his influences from his Broadway predecessors like Jonathan Larson and Stephen Sondheim. It’s infectious, joyous and poignant. Definitely my favorite in recent Broadway history.
This soundtrack boasts instant classic Broadway tunes such as “Defying Gravity,” “I’m Not that Girl,” and “For Good.” Tony winners Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth play the lead roles, and their renditions of these songs quickly became iconic. Give this a listen if you haven’t already.
5. Anything Goes
The revival of this Cole Porter classic, which stars Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney, the evangelist turned nightclub singer, is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway right now, and for good reason. The upbeat soundtrack contains classic songs like the title track, “Blow Gabriel Blow,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Until the current revival is available on CD (release date September 20, 2011), check out this 1987 version starring Broadway legend Patti Lupone.