Do you miss going to the theatre with all your heart? Yeah, me too.
That said, I’m trying to use this free time to discover new shows and to learn more about the history of the industry. There’s loads out there to enjoy so I have created this handy list to hopefully give you some inspiration!
There’s a bunch of very generous companies who are streaming their productions for free online. There are some regulars over on YouTube which has become part of my weekly routine, but there’s also a bunch of new streams popping up all the time so I’d recommend giving WhatsOnStage and Playbill a follow on social media to keep track of what’s going on.
- National Theatre Live has been serving the goods every Thursday for weeks and has many more brilliant productions to come – I’ve particularly enjoyed The Barber Shop Chronicles, Twelfth Night, Frankenstein and A Streetcar Named Desire and can’t wait to see what comes next!
- For the first few weeks The Shows Must Go On were streaming Andrew Lloyd Webber shows (and I appreciated seeing the bizarre Love Never Dies for the first time) but now Universal are going to be streaming their other musicals too every Friday.
- Lincoln Center has been sharing loads of dance productions on their YouTube channel and from June onwards they’re starting Broadway Fridays with Carousel featuring Kelli O’Hara.
- The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is happening now and is hosting multiple digital events, sessions, discussions and streaming some great shows, I’d very much recommend checking out Wildcard Theatre’s Electrolyte which is an hour of brilliant gig theatre exploring a psychotic break, grief and friendship with great music, online until 24 May.
It’s a hard time to be an arts organisation right now and these wonderful companies are being incredibly generous by sharing their shows/product/main source of income to us all for free. I urge you to please donate (if you can!) to the companies that are providing this content free of charge and the charities they are choosing to support.
Next up is the stagey content on streaming services – I’ve picked my recommendations on platforms you’re most likely to already have access to and a few extras!
If you still want more then you might need to splash a little cash, but helpfully, WhatsOnStage put together this list of musicals and plays you can rent/buy for less than £5.
Finally, I’d recommend you treat yourself and buy the box set of SMASH – a two-season TV series about the creation of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, great storyline, amazing cameos from stagey stars and some incredible original music in every episode.
I’ve taken the time to listen through musical theatre soundtracks that are new to me and I’ve been having a great time discovering the stories and talents that are only a Spotify search away! Also who’s to say you can’t turn your album listening into a full out musical theatre sing along? In lockdown no-one can hear you scream/belt (probably).
My recent lockdown listens have been Starry (a musical about Vincent Van Gogh), Next to Normal (about a family navigating grief and mental health) and The Wild Party (the Andrew Lippa version about a 1920s good time). Next on my list are A Strange Loop (a musical about a black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical, which recently became the 10th musical to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama) and Tarrytown (based on The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow).
There’s loads of musical theatre out there just waiting to be listened to so you just have to find your new fave! If you haven’t gotten to them yet I strongly recommend you listen to Hadestown, Beetlejuice and Come From Away.
I love a podcast and so should you because right now we’re all a little socially starved and this gives you new friends to listen to!
Stagey podcasts that I love include Putting it Together which always makes me feel connected to the Scottish Theatre community and Head, Shoulders, Knees & Pod is a podcast that discusses contemporary dance with creators all over the UK and Europe. The iconic drag queen Nina West has recently released a series of episodes with Broadway legends such as Glenn Close, Kristin Chenoweth and Michael J Scott to name a few over on Dragcast.
For my readers who are looking for industry related discussions and advice I’d recommend checking out UK based Wildcard Theatre’s Wildcast, and America-based arts marketing pod CI to Eye from Capacity Interactive. Both are great on a variety of topics but have also hosted discussions about how arts organisations might respond to the current pandemic.
Books of shows
If you want to combine your love of theatre with your love of reading then you’re in luck because there’s loads out there to be read! Many musicals are adapted from novels for the stage and sometimes novels are created based on a stage show! I’ve given a selection below that might spark your fancy, in particular I’d love to highlight Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet which tells the story of a girl who falls in love with a male impersonator in 1890s England amongst the glamour of that music hall cabaret time in theatre.
Another favourite of mine which is a little different because it’s non-fiction is The Road to Wicked by Drummond, Aronstein and Rittenburg. I actually came across it as an academic text when working on my dissertation but I ended up loving it separately and it honestly doesn’t feel like reading academic work. It basically discusses the cultural sustainability of The Wizard of Oz story, i.e. why we still care about it over 100 years after it first came about. I just found it so fascinating. (P.s. I know the book is quite pricey because it’s a recent academic text but if you fancy this one give me a shout and I can lend you my copy!)
To continue the theme of non-fiction, there’s also loads of biographies and memoirs of stage people whose life stories and creative processes you can read about! I’m currently reading the Rogers and Hammerstein book and it’s been really cool to learn about how things worked back in the 1940/50s on Broadway. More suggestions below!
Aaaaand if after all that you’re still bored and looking for something creative to do, you should check out the Where Are You Dundee project by Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre, where each week they set 3 creative tasks that encourage you to do something and also connect with others – and you don’t have to be in/from Dundee to do it!
What have you been enjoying? I’d love your recommendations in the comments!