Welcome back to Musical Monday! To the best of my ability, I’m going to try to theme these more. When I first started writing about musicals I did it totally randomly. I’d pick five random shows with nothing in common and slap them onto a post together. Last time I did a Musical Monday I wrote about three shows that were loosely based on historical events, and I like the idea of having them sorted.
This time, the theme is even tighter. These three musicals–none of which I’ve actually seen–are all about unpopular high-schoolers making their way up the social ladder in, let’s say, less than ideal ways. Furthermore, none of them are original musicals: two were based on movies, and one on a YA novel.
Which cast recordings have I heard, and which is my favorite? I think there’s only one… the OBC recording.
Are there any good YouTube-available clips? Actually, yeah! Mean Girls is pretty good about putting clips on YouTube. There are actual performances of “Sexy” and “Stop” as well as music videos for “World Burn” and “I’d Rather Be Me.” “Apex Predator” has a music video in addition to a live performance on the Today Show. Plus, the cast performed “Where Do You Belong/Meet the Plastics” at the Tony Awards.
What’s it about? It follows the same plot as Tina Fey’s 2004 classic movie. Basically, a new girl who has been homeschooled her whole life goes to a public high school and falls in with the popular clique, realizes how terrible they are, and then brings them down from the inside with the help of a few outsider pals.
What’s so good about it? It’s cute and silly, just like the movie. Mean Girls is not the kind of musical that’s going to change lives or be remembered as a classic, but it’s still fun. The songs are catchy and expand the characters from the original movie, so it’s unsurprising that it is popular with young adults, especially those of us who grew up with the movie.
My favorite songs: “World Burn,” “’Till Someone Gets Hurt,” and “Meet the Plastics”
Be More Chill
Which cast recordings have I heard, and which is my favorite? There are two main ones, and they are honestly only subtly different because most of the cast stayed with the show as it moved from Off-Broadway to Broadway. I heard the Off-Broadway version first and—possibly because I saw it first—prefer it. That said, I’m not a huge fan of the direction for the Broadway version. The Squip, in the original novel, sounds like Keanu Reeves and the Broadway version leans into that to the detriment of the songs; Michael is also played a little different (read: more stoned), and I prefer the original characterization. Still, if you’re a Dear Evan Hansen fan you’d probably be interested to hear the Broadway cast, because the insanely cool Jared Kleinman (aka Will Roland) plays Jeremy.
Are there any good YouTube-available clips? A few. That is, there are some good ones but if you know this musical at all you have to cringe a little at a few of the censored lines. It’s not, like, Spring Awakening at the Tonys censorship, but it’s still enough to warrant a shaking of the head. Still, we’ve got “Pitiful Children,” “Two-Player Game,” “More than Survive,” and “Michael in the Bathroom.”
What’s it about? Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, Be More Chill is about a tragically unpopular high schooler who downloads a supercomputer called a Squip into his brain. The Squip is intended to help him navigate the world in a cooler, chiller way… but it goes about as well as you’d expect.
What’s so good about it? It’s silly fun. This is the rare adaptation that improves its source material 100%. I didn’t care for the book—there’s some sexist, racist, and homophobic stuff in it, which the musical thankfully eliminates and/or outright criticizes—but the musical improves on it drastically, making the characters more sympathetic and the social commentary stronger. The songs are very catchy, and have a kind of electronic sound you don’t often hear in musicals. Seriously, like half of them are major earworms. Be More Chill only made it to Broadway because it went viral with teens and young adults, which actually makes a lot of sense. This is a musical for people for whom technology plays a large role, which means that it probably has a pretty steep generational divide (I have a hard time picturing my grandparents enjoying it, even though they love theatre) that I happen to be on the right side of.
My favorite songs: “Michael in the Bathroom,” “Pitiful Children,” and “Two-Player Game”
Which cast recordings have I heard, and which is my favorite? I think there’s just the one with Barrett Wilbert Weed. I mean, there’s also the soundtrack from that Riverdale episode, but, like, lol.
Are there any good YouTube-available clips? Not very many. I found two montages, plus a studio recording of “Candy Store” and a low-key performance of “Seventeen” at Barnes & Noble.
What’s it about? Mean Girls but with more murder. A girl falls in with a group of popular mean girls, which is bad enough, but then her unpopular boyfriend turns out to be a murderous psychopath.
What’s so good about it? This is the weird show that I like but also I don’t. It has some very good songs, but I don’t think I’d actually want to ever see it because it’s dark. Like, really dark. There are a couple of shows that have compelling music but are too graphically violent for me to enjoy actually watching (Sweeney Todd and Little Shop of Horrors are also in this very specific category) and Heathers is one of them. So, yeah. Great songs. I loved to listen to this one and then I read the Wikipedia synopsis (I have not seen the movie it’s based on) and went yikes. Still like the music, though.
My favorite songs: “Candy Store,” “Freeze Your Brain,” and “Dead Girl Walking”
gif credits here, here, and here