With the novel coronavirus keeping many Americans homebound, it's the perfect time for a binge-watching session, and what's more fun to binge than a musical? From TV shows bringing the spectacle of musicals to the small screen with their own original song-and-dance numbers to jukebox musicals featuring the work of some of pop's biggest hitmakers, there's plenty to stream right now for musical lovers.
The plot of musical show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is summed up wonderfully in the first season's opening theme--when lawyer Rebecca Bunch has a coincidental run-in with her high-school boyfriend, Josh, she impulsively decides to give up her career as a lawyer in New York City and movies to West Covina, California, to pursue a relationship with him. Over its four seasons, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" tackled love, relationships and above all, mental illness with a great mix of humor, seriousness, and music, featuring over 150 original songs. Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, who recently died due to coronavirus complications, served as the show's executive music producer and co-wrote those songs, one of which, "Anti-Depressants Are so Not a Big Deal," earned an Emmy.
Hit award-winning musical series Glee ran for six seasons, following the ups and downs of a high-school glee club in their quest to make nationals and dealing with relationships, sexuality, and more. Much of the show's musical numbers centered around the club's rehearsals and performances, featuring a combination of both iconic show tunes and popular hits--including the occasional themed episode--and numbers running the gamut from simple to big, show-stopping numbers.
Musical fairy-tale comedy "Galavant" only ran for two seasons and drew very few viewers, but it still developed a devoted following and critical acclaim. After hero Galavant loses the love of his life to King Richard, he becomes determined to win her back, no matter what he has to do. And the series has quite a team behind it--it was created by Dan Fogleman, also known for animated musical "Tangled "and hit TV drama This Is Us, with music and lyrics co-written by Alan Menken, who also worked on "Tangled" but is also known for contributing award-winning music to Disney classics such as "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "Pocahontas."
With a concept from Steven Spielberg, Musical drama "Smash" follows the ups and downs of a successful songwriting duo working to put together a new musical based on the life of icon Marilyn Monroe--including plenty of personal drama offstage. The star-studded ensemble cast includes Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, Katharine McPhee, and Anjelica Huston, plus plenty of huge guest stars such as Uma Thurman, Nick Jonas, and Bernadette Peters, Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes, Jesse L. Martin, Harvey Fierstein, and Nikki Blonsky. And with only two seasons, it makes for a quick, easy binge-watch.
While most musicals feature numbers with the cast singing, "Soundtrack" takes a different approach. We all have songs we would consider the soundtracks to our lives, and this Netflix original explores that by letting its interconnected characters express themselves through lip-syncing to the original versions of popular songs, from timeless classics to modern-day hits. "Soundtrack" was created by Joshua Safran, executive producer for "Smash" and creator of drama "Quantico," and has a cast that includes Jenna Dewan. It only got one season, but the good news is that makes it easier to watch.
"Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist"
The new musical show on the block is "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" from NBC, which follows its main character, Zoe, and her ability to hear people's thoughts set to popular songs. The cast includes Skylar Astin, who also appeared in the final season of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Nine of its 11 episodes have already aired, with the final two scheduled to wrap up by the end of the month.
"The Sound of Music"
Sometimes, the best musical to binge is a classic one. "The Sound of Music" has been delighting people since its release in 1965 with its real-life story of the Von Trapp Family Singers and their new governess, played by Julie Andrews, in Austria leading up to World War II. And you can live vicariously through its beautiful shots of the outdoors, especially that iconic scene of Andrews singing on a mountaintop as the film opens.
"Across the Universe"
The Beatles' influence across pop culture is undeniable, and their music has inspired plenty of other creative works, from the performances of the Cirque du Soleil "Love" show to more than one movie--including the musical "Across the Universe." The jukebox musical tells the story of couple Lucy and Jude in the midst of the Vietnam War through the use of more than 30 of the Fab Four's songs, including some with new musical arrangements and different interpretations of the lyrics. It was directed by Julie Taymor, best known for directing "The Lion King" on Broadway, and stars Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess, with guest appearances from Bono, Eddie Izzard, Joe Cocker, and Salma Hayek.
Swedish pop group ABBA has a discography so extensive and so catchy that it lends itself perfectly to not one but two musicals--the first telling the story of Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, and her scheme to secretly invite three men from her mother's past to her wedding in an attempt to determine which is her biological father, while the second delves into Sophie's mother's past and her relationships with the three men. Both feature some of ABBA's biggest hits in fun song-and-dance numbers and keep an eye out for cameos from band members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson in both movies.
Similar to "Mamma Mia," "Jersey Boys" is structured around the music of iconic group The Four Seasons and singer Frankie Valli except, in this case, the musical tells the story of the band's career. For the film adaptation, Clint Eastwood directed, Christopher Walken appears as mobster Gyp DeCarlo, and two of the four original members, songwriter Bob Gaudio and Valli himself, served as executive producers.
"Beauty & the Beast"
It's a tale as old as time--an arrogant, cruel prince is cursed to live as a hideous beast and his household staff turned to items like dishes, clocks, and candelabras until he finds true love, and he just might get his chance he imprisons local eccentric Maurice and his daughter, Belle, volunteers to take his place. While a beloved Disney musical, it was remade as a live-action movie in 2017 starring Emma Watson, known for playing Hermione in the "Harry Potter" series.
Most biopics aren't structured like an actual musical, but "Rocketman," depicting the life and career of icon Elton John, took that risk. Rather than song snippets being lip-synced by the star, "Rocketman" sets some of John's biggest hits to full musical numbers. Taron Egerton wonderfully takes on the role of John, while Jamie Bells plays his longtime songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin. John and his husband, David Furnish, both served as executive producers, although John maintained a hands-off role while Furnish was on set regularly, ensuring that John's story was told honestly rather than being toned down. The movie also includes a new Oscar-winning song written by John and Taupin, "I'm Gonna Love Me Again."