Mark Shenton’s top 5 new musicals in 2017

John McCrea in Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Photo: Johan Persson John McCrea in Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Photo: Johan Persson
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I’m always in search of great new musicals. Nothing quite equals the buzz and excitement of discovering a new musical that fires on all cylinders. I’ll duly search them high and low – this week I was in Cardiff to try to find one at the Wales Millennium Centre in its world premiere of Tiger Bay, but alas it wasn’t to be. Next week, I’m sitting in on a pitching panel for the next BEAM festival, co-produced by Mercury Musical Developments and Musical Theatre Network, so maybe I’ll find one there.

People are still writing them. Here are five new shows in London and New York that are stretching the form and offering inspiration and hope.

1. Hamilton

Public Theater production of Hamilton. Photos: Joan Marcus
A scene from the Public Theater production of Hamilton. Photos: Joan Marcus

We may have to wait just a little longer to finally see Hamilton – the opening night is just four days before Christmas, owing to delays to the Victoria Palace refurbishment, and as I’m already pre-booked to go away for Christmas, I’ll miss the opening myself. But I’ve seen it four times already – twice at its original Off-Broadway home the Public and twice more on Broadway – and it’s a true game-changer. No show of the modern era has galvanised excitement around musicals quite like this show.

2. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

The company in rehearsals. Photo: Grace Wordsworth

Now in previews prior to opening officially next Wednesday at the Apollo, here’s a homegrown British musical that premiered at Sheffield earlier this year that has tons of heart and is a rallying cry for inclusiveness and being your own person, as it follows a 16-year-old boy determined to go to his Sheffield high school dance in a dress. I loved it so much when I saw the first night at Sheffield’s Crucible that I immediately booked a return trip to see its last night, too.

Read our interviews with lead cast member John McCrea and Jamie Campbell, the inspiration for the story

3. Groundhog Day

Andy Karl in Groundhog Day at the Old Vic. Photo: Manuel Harlan
Andy Karl in Groundhog Day at the Old Vic. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Tim Minchin and Danny Rubin’s new musical based on the Rubin-scripted 1993 film of the same name transferred from the Old Vic to Broadway earlier this year, where it unfortunately failed to draw the town. But I consider it to be an alternately serious and hilarious masterpiece: a musical that dares to physicalise depression as few others I have ever seen. It’s profoundly moving and utterly marvellous. I’m sure there will be a further life for it — hopefully starting with London, which never got a full run.

4.  Come From Away

A scene from
Come from Away. Photo: Matthew Murphy

This tremendous new folk musical takes a real-life event – when nearly 40 US-bound planes were grounded in a remote airport in Newfoundland, Canada on 9/11 – and turns it into a bracing, heartwarming portrait of a community responding with humanity to a crisis. I hope it comes to London next. It has just been announced that it will be turned into a feature film.

5. The Band’s Visit

A scene from The Band’s Visit. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Not to be confused with The Band (the currently touring Take That musical in the UK) or The Visit (Kander and Ebb’s last Broadway musical, premiered there in 2015), David Yazbek’s new musical The Band’s Visit is a little miracle of tender feeling about an Egyptian military band getting lost in Israel and the 24 hours they spend in a strange town. It’s an absolute charmer, and utterly delightful.