The Best Musicals for and About Social Distancing and Where to Watch
And how to watch them!
You’re shut in at home, doing your social distancing duty, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the best thing in the world: musicals! Not only are there lots of musicals available to stream on sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, or rent on-demand, but BroadwayHD, the online music streaming platform, is now offering free trials. (Be patient with the BroadwayHD site; it’s running slow due to sudden high demand).
But which musicals should you watch? Well, there are a few we think would be good, or at least pertinent, in these trying times of upheaval, class unrest, boredom, and social isolation. We’ve tried to vary the list and not repeat composers, and also keep it to titles that are easy to access at home (which is why, sadly, we don’t have newer shows like Hadestown on the list, but we recommend listening to the recording).
Little Shop of Horrors
This one is available right now on Hulu, and has any movie made a better case for why it’s a good idea to never leave your house, even if you’re just going to the garden store? Danger lurks everywhere, and leaving the house is not to be done because before you know, it you’ve let a blood-sucking, dentist-eating singing plant from outer space into your store!
For a fun experience, either look at the digital release’s special features, or go on YouTube to watch the original, incredibly dark ending of the movie, where the plants take over and destroy the world. It’s a grim reminder of the consequences of not listening to smarter folks in times like these!
Bonus Content: If you’re still in the mood for gardening, social isolation, and someone getting some fresh air while they’re sick, check out The Secret Garden. It’s harder to find online, but both the musical and many non-musical versions of the story are pretty relevant right now.
The Phantom of the Opera
Listen, you think you’re taking social distancing seriously, come back and talk to me after you’ve spent years hiding across a lake under an opera house pretending to be a ghost and extorting money and free theater out of some fat cats. The Phantom is truly a self-quarantine icon, though his protective mask may leave something to be desired. And he didn’t worry about getting lonely—he took charge and kidnapped a nice soprano when he needed to.
Here’s Andrew Lloyd Webber himself giving you a song from isolation, just a few days shy of his 90th birthday.
I didn’t think I’d ever get such a response to this little tryout! Here I am in my own self-isolation. The song that came out on top was ‘All I Ask Of You’ – ALW pic.twitter.com/NCSujNwBPd
— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) March 19, 2020
There are a lot of versions of Phantom out there, but we are always going to tell you to take the 25th-anniversary concert version over the 2004 movie. You can watch both the concert version of the fantastic original musical and the less fantastic sequel, Love Never Dies, over on BroadwayHD.
Bonus Content: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Pop on over to Disney+ for another outcast social-distancer, and this time you can yell at Quasimodo for what a bad idea it is to go “out there!”
Now, Benjamin Barker, a.k.a. Sweeney Todd, a.k.a. The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is one guy that maybe should have stayed socially distant, but after a few years falsely imprisoned, he felt the need to get out. Good ol’ Sweeney is a dark vision of where we might be in a few years (or, let’s be honest, weeks): resentful of the authorities that failed and imprisoned him and just trying to get a small business back on track after a time away.
Things were hard for Sweeney and his old pal Mrs. Lovett, so they decided to do what we all may have to do to right the world if things keep going bad: eat the rich! Not a bad plan.
Like Phantom, there are various versions of Sweeney Todd out there for you to enjoy, including the original Broadway version, also on BroadwayHD.
Bonus Content: Les Miserables. While this show actually has a higher body count than Sweeney, there is less cannibalism, so I guess that means it counts as a happier version of class warfare? The insurgents lose, but the message is more hopeful for sure.
The Sound of Music
You may not have the luxury of enjoying your quarantine time in blessed silence. Instead, you might be stuck at home with a child—or worse, children—and need to entertain them while their other parent is off trying to marry a countess or something. You need to get creative, just like Maria: Tell the kids things that make them less afraid, do some arts and crafts, enjoy the outdoors, and maybe teach them to sing so well they become musical sensations. Just watch out for all the f*cking Nazis around!
There’s a reason The Sound of Music is a classic. It’s great and romantic and fun, but it’s also about coping in a time of crisis, which is what we’re all trying to do right now. You just have to muddle through, like all of us. And good news! It’s a fox property, which means you can stream it on Disney+.
Bonus Content: Fiddler on the Roof. Another classic about a community in upheaval and the trials and triumphs of keeping a family together in the face of prejudice, this is another great choice. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
What musicals would you recommend for quarantine time, Suevians?
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