18 Musicals to Play All Summer Long
I really cannot believe it is already June! Some of us are knee deep in summer stock shows, while others are working on their craft in summer intensives, and even more of us are trying to figure out a way to take a break from our jobs and enjoy the summer sun. Living in Southern California, I am among some of the best weather, beaches, and summer festivals in the United States- yes, I know I am super spoiled. While living in places like Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, etc., I found solace in listening to musicals that inspired thoughts of different aspects of summer. I thought I would share some of my favorites to get you in the mood for the upcoming season.
Shows about Heat
Being a native Texan, I know all about summer heat. One of my favorite shows happens to be 1776 – a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Sherman Edwards (music/lyrics) and Peter Stone (book) highlight how much our Founding Fathers sweated (figuratively and literally) over this important piece in American History.
Check out “Sit Down, John” about the sweltering heat and “Cool, Cool Considerate Men” about the chill of complacency.
110 in the Shade, by Harvey Schmidt (music), Tom Jones (lyrics) and N. Richard Nash (book), takes on the characteristics of the Southwest, including the heat. It gets its authenticity from the fact that both the composer and lyricist are from Texas! This is a show that revolves around a heat wave and the renewal and life that only rain can bring.
Check out the opposing songs “Another Hot Day” and “The Rain Song” (if you can’t take any more heat!).
Shows about Water/the Beach
Some of my favorite musicals take place near water. While I won’t go into detail, I wanted to give you a short list of ones to check out in your spare time:
Once on This Island – AMAZING recording to listen to on a road trip
The Little Mermaid – can’t get enough of “Under the Sea”
Anything Goes – a show on a boat, count me in!
Dames at Sea – making fun of musicals like Anything Goes, even better!
Pirates of Penzance/HMS Pinafore – no summer is complete without pirates and ships.
Big Fish – my absolute favorite Norbert Leo Butz performance EVER
This list could go on and on and on, but these are a great start!
Shows about Camp
Let’s first highlight an older show that you may not know: Wish You Were Here (premiered in 1952) is a musical with music and lyrics by Harold Rome that was an adaptation of the 1937 play Having a Wonderful Time. This show revolves around the goings on at an adult summer camp (think the camp in Dirty Dancing). It is a cute story focusing on two sets of couples, but the really impressive part is that the original production had an actual full sized swimming pool onstage!
Girls, check out “Shopping Around” for a cute, flirty song. Boys, check out “Don Jose (of Far Rockaway)” for a song that shows machismo.
Now let’s highlight a newer show you might not know, B.R.A.T.T. Camp by Bobby Cronin. The big success from this show has been the heart ripping song “Dear Daddy,” but it is so much more than just one song. This show is about five troubled teens that are sent to a wilderness boot camp and was actually inspired by a bad reality TV show (90s kids, think Bug Juice from the Disney Channel!).
Here is a collection that has been compiled of different videos of the songs from B.R.A.T.T. Camp. Check these out to get your camp fix!
Shows about Summer Love
We can’t talk about summer love without mentioning “Summer Nights” from Grease. Be the Sandy to his Danny and flirt up a storm while belting out “tell me more!” Also, try to get your hands on a script or even see this musical as you get older. It is much more shocking than you probably remember- covering all the innuendo with fun rock and roll music!
Spring Awakening has situations surrounding love that might be the exact opposite of Grease. The musical, as a whole, is much more serious and examines love and sexual exploration with more importance and with trepidation. While it might not take place in the summer, the season is used as a metaphor for freedom, escape, and rebirth.
Check out the inspired use of metaphor in “The Song of Purple Summer.”
Shows about Baseball
Diamonds is a fantastic revue put together by great musical theatre composers and lyricists that highlight everything baseball. Some of these include Howard Ashman, Alan Meken, Kander and Ebb, Betty Comden, John Weidman, etc. What is more American and summery than singing about baseball?
My favorite song has to be Craig Carnelia’s “What You’d Call A Dream” – great cabaret piece for guys!
Also, get excited! A League of Their Own is getting the Jason Robert Brown treatment. I’m sure we’ll hear more soon. If you like the All American Girls Professional Baseball, though, check out The Belles of Baseball. I was able to be a part of this amazing show when it was being workshopped in Dallas, TX and it has its eyes set on Broadway. Check it out here and listen to a few of the songs. My favorite is “The All American Way.”
Other Shows About Summer Fun
Here are some great summer shows and the fun parts of summer that they emphasize:
Carousel – “June is Busting Out All Over” is THE summer anthem of musical theatre nerds! Plus how can you have a summer without a “real nice clambake”?
The Music Man – parades, dances in the town square, spending time at the library – or is that just my summer? Check out the Barbershop Quartet singing “Ice Cream” to get you in the mood for a summer treat.
Porgy and Bess– “Summertime” has to be one of the most beloved songs about summer, though it’s not the fun, upbeat Annette-Funicello-type number associated with summer. Take a listen to Audra McDonald inspiring us to spread our wings and take the sky.
Honorable Mentions: Summer of 42, High School Musical 2 and Teen Beach Movie, As Thousands Cheer, Mamma Mia, Rags, Kiss Me Kate
What are your favorite summer musicals?