Some of us are lucky enough that we don’t have to make the trek to New York City to catch a Broadway musical. I highly recommend seeing one on the Great White Way at some point -- but until you can make that happen, there’s a huge variety of touring musicals that will come from Broadway to your own backyard.
But for people who aren’t regular theater-goers, choosing which show to see can be a daunting task, made even more difficult because musicals are fairly personal to the viewer. Beyond telling you what’s popular, recommendations by family, friends and theater reviews can only go so far.
When I’m selecting my next show to see, I investigate the music first -- which is, of course, an integral part. Many of these shows are built around their songs, and the songs give a great outline of the show’s story. If you’re interested in a particular musical, try finding the Broadway cast recording on Spotify. Most are available, with the rare exception. Or, if you don’t have a particular show in mind but want to be ready if the choice presents itself, create a Broadway station on Pandora, which will give you a shuffle of songs from various musicals.
And, though reviews can’t make your decision for you, it’s great to Google the show and check out a review or two. Beyond giving you a sense of the plot, this will alert you to any viewing details about the show that might be important. For example, some viewers might prefer not to attend a show with aggressive lighting design, where others might avoid profanity or mature themes.
Finally, many musicals are based on stories you already know or music you’ve already heard. By picking something you are familiar with, this can help guide your decision if you treat musicals as a separate entity from their corresponding books, films or hit songs. They are singularly wonderful, even if they don’t have the exact same soundtrack you remember from the movie or the same actor playing your favorite character. I hope Frankie Valli isn’t reading this, but the “Jersey Boys” version of “Sherry” is on my iPod instead of the original. Expect a completely new experience, and then be pleasantly surprised if the lead actress in “Flashdance” emerges in her legwarmers for “What a Feeling.”