The impact “Hamilton” has had on today’s musical theater landscape has been matched by few, if any, productions. It reinvented what makes up a Broadway score, reached pop culture superstardom with only a cast recording and served as a launching pad for many BIPOC performers. With the filmed version now available on Disney+, the show is delighting fans new and old in stunning HD.
If you enjoyed “Hamilton” on Disney+, here are three other musicals to check out from the comfort of your couch.
“Newsies” is a fictionalized account of the 1899 newsboys’ strike in New York City. Newsie Jack Kelley and his fellow paper sellers, Davey, Crutchie, Les, Race and others, are blindsided when Joseph Pulitzer’s “The World” starts charging them higher prices for the papers, forcing them to sell more in order to make the same amount as before.
They decide to go on strike and band together against the mogul. Followed by a reporter — Bryan Denton in the film, Katherine Plumber in the musical — they try to change the world. Or, well, “The World.”
Originally, the show was a Disney movie musical that was released in 1992, starred Christian Bale and was directed by Kenny Ortega in his directorial debut. Though it bombed at the box office, it gained a cult following.
Disney Theatrical decided to adapt the film in 2010, originally planning to do a world-premiere production at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, and then license it to regional and amateur theater companies.
The production opened to critical acclaim and transferred to Broadway the next year. It recouped its investment faster than any other Disney Theatrical production and received two extensions before eventually closing in 2014.
The stage version was filmed in 2016 and released to theaters the following year. Broadway alums Jeremy Jordan, Kara Lindsay, Ben Fankhauser and Andrew Keenan-Bolger reprised their respective roles of Jack, Katherine, Davey and Crutchie. Much of the remaining cast was pulled from the then-current tour.
Why will “Hamilton” fans like it? Like the megahit, “Newsies” also follows a historical revolution, though on a much smaller scale. Like Angelica and Eliza, Katherine is a strong female character who speaks her mind — and sings rather fast. The dancing, however, is where “Newsies” shines, as evidenced by its Tony win for best choreography. The filmed stage version actually includes more stunts than the original Broadway production. Plus, the score was composed by Alan Menken, who Lin-Manuel Miranda highlights as an inspiration. Menken’s EGOT Award-winning scores are almost impossible not to love.
Where to Watch: Disney+ (both the original film and the filmed-live, onstage production)
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Jack Feldman
Inspired by Larson’s life as a struggling artist in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, Rent is a rock adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème” opera, but it relocates the story to Alphabet City, Manhattan, in the mid-1990s.
Mark, a filmmaker, lives with his friend and roommate Roger, an HIV-positive musician. On Christmas Eve, their ex-friend-turned-landlord, Benny, backs out on their deal of free rent and tries to get them to stop Mark’s ex, Maureen, from staging a protest.
Over the course of a year, Mark, Roger, Maureen and their friends Collins, Angel, Joanne and Mimi struggle with love, addiction, HIV/AIDS, death and, of course, paying rent.
The show is a meditation on life and art, made all the more poignant by Larson’s unexpected death the night of the first off-Broadway preview.
A film adaptation was released in 2005, directed by Chris Columbus and starred most of the original principal cast. (Rosario Dawson replaced Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi due to Rubin-Vega’s pregnancy, while Tracie Thoms replaced Fredi Walker as Joanne, who felt too old for the role.) Much of the story remains unchanged, though some songs are cut out or shortened.
If you can track it down (I was unable to), one of the final performances of “Rent” was filmed in 2008 and released as “Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway.” Renée Elise Goldsberry, who you know as Angelica Schuyler, played Mimi, and Thoms reprised her film role of Joanne.
Why will “Hamilton” fans like it? “Rent” was one of the first shows with a rock-inspired score, paving the way for musicals that feature music outside the traditional Broadway style, like “Spring Awakening” and Green Day’s “American Idiot,”. In fact, Miranda cites Larson and “Rent” as another major source of inspiration.
“Rent” is also one of the 10 musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, alongside company such as “Hamilton,” “A Chorus Line” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” Ever since the Pulitzer was first awarded to a musical back in 1932, approximately just one musical every decade has won it since then.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of “Rent,” however, is accessibility. The story centered around LGBTQ+ and BIPOC characters; it also did its best to make sure the people the story was about could afford to see it.
The Broadway lottery system, which offers significantly discounted rush tickets to shows, began with “Rent.” Seats in the first two rows would be reserved for the lottery and sold for $20 two hours prior to curtain. Other shows have since continued the trend, including “Hamilton,” which, during Miranda’s and later Rory O’Malley’s runs in the show, would hold fun cast performances before the drawings.
Where to Watch: Hulu
Music and Lyrics: Jonathan Larson
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Donny Novitski is attempting to readjust to civilian life in his Cleveland hometown as a struggling musician. When he hears of a song contest to honor returned veterans, he decides to form a veterans-only swing band to participate.
He and his bandmates, Jimmy, Johnny, Davey, Wayne and Nick, all fought in various theaters and regiments, but they are all united in their need for what music provides. Joined by Julia, whose husband died while serving alongside Donny in the Pacific, the group attempts to win the contest and to get life “just like it was before.”
The show was filmed prior to its closing in 2017, then released to select movie theaters in 2018. It features Corey Cott and Laura Osnes as Donny and Julia, respectively. Beth Leavel, James Nathan Hopkins, Brandon J. Ellis, Alex Bender, Geoff Packard and Joe Carroll also star.
While you’ve probably heard of “Rent” and maybe “Newsies,” it’s doubtful you’ve heard of “Bandstand.” I firmly believe if “Bandstand” had not opened in a season against 18 other new musicals, when the number is normally 10 to 15, it would have earned more award nominations and likely gained some more name recognition. Just watch this rehearsal footage and tell me Corey Cott wasn’t robbed of a Tony nomination.
Why will “Hamilton” fans like it? Storywise, “Bandstand” also chronicles an ambitious man who loves to write with the odds stacked against him. Where the similarities really start to show, though, are not in the story, but in the production quality. If the choreography of “Hamilton” blew your mind, then you’ve come to the right place; Andy Blankenbuehler won back-to-back Tonys for best choreography for “Hamilton” and “Bandstand.”
The score is not traditional Broadway fare, either. Instead, it is heavily inspired by the swing, bebop and jitterbug of the World War II era. All members of the Donny Nova Band play their instruments live on stage too, which Packard and Carroll sang the difficulties of at a reunion concert.
Where to Watch: Broadway On Demand
Music: Richard Oberacker
Lyrics: Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor
Even if these musicals don’t appeal to you, there is sure to be one out there for you. Disney+ and Netflix have their own catalog, but also check out the libraries of Broadway On Demand, BroadwayHD, The Shows Must Go On! and Playbill’s streaming schedule. Your local theaters might also be streaming previous performances or holding play readings, so you can support them too.