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My Favorite One-Act Musicals

by | May 17, 2021 | Theatre

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It’s normal for musicals to include an intermission. Intermissions, normally 15-20 minutes long, allow the audience to return to reality, while those in the production use the time to prepare for the next act and utilize the extra time in-between scenes. Audience members may use this time to use the restroom, grab a quick drink, or talk with fellow theatre patrons about the show so far. However, some musicals forego the tradition of an intermission and go through the entire show without a break. Here are some of my favorite one-act musicals that don’t include an intermission.

First Date

First Date Musical at Circle Theatre Grand Rapids
Photo Credit: Dianne Carroll Burdick

First Date may have been on Broadway, but it’s not a show many people remember. The plot follows a blind date with Aaron and Casey, and an ensemble that helps explain their backstories and progress the plot of the blind date. “Safer” is one of my favorite songs from this musical. It might not have a name that people will recognize and flock to see the show, but it’s definitely an underrated gem that makes you forget how much (or little) time has passed by the time it’s over.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at Actors Theatre Grand Rapids
Photo Credit: Sensitography

I’ve gushed about my love for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson before. It’s a rock musical loosely based on the life of Andrew Jackson. It doesn’t sugarcoat his controversial history and views of Native Americans; he is even referred to as an “American Hitler.” If it didn’t premiere during the recession of the late 200s, I think it would have more of a legacy today. However, some of the content in this musical does need to be rewritten, as it hasn’t aged well. 

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee at Aquinas College
Photo Credit: Aquinas College

I’m a big fan of musicals that incorporate improv, and adults that play kids. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells the story of the 25th spelling bee in the fictional Putnam County. There are six quirky kids [played by adults] that compete in the bee, and four audience participants that have to spell words on the spot live onstage. One of my favorite aspects is the pronouncer of the words, who provides ridiculous examples of words (think of this spelling bee sketch from SNL with James Franco). It’s mostly a comedy, but there are some touching scenes that I wasn’t expecting, like “The I Love You Song.”

One criticism I have of this show is of the character Marcy Park, traditionally made to be portrayed by an Asian actress. Theatres that can’t cast an Asian actress opt to cast the role with a Caucasian actress, even though “Park” is normally an Asian last name. If they do cast the role with a Caucasian actress, I wish they would change the last name to “Parker” and save the “Park” surname for an Asian actress that portrays the role.

Come From Away

Come From Away Musical
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

If you get the chance to see Come From Away in person, I highly recommend it. Come From Away tells the story of the town of Gander, NewFoundland, during the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. Their town doubled in population as airplanes were redirected to Gander from landing in the United States [since the airspace was closed], and it tells the story of numerous passengers and town residents with a small ensemble cast. I’m a big fan of minimalism/found-item sets during musicals; the actors switch between characters either by switching clothes or changing their dialect, and you forget that it’s the same person. 

American Idiot

Green Day's American Idiot Musical at Actors' Theatre Grand Rapids
Photo Credit: Sensitography

American Idiot by Green Day was my first explicit album I purchased growing up. The musical, American Idiot, crafts the plot of the show off of the 2004 album and sprinkles in other famous Green Day songs like “21 Guns” and “Good Riddance [Time of your Life].” The musical tells the story of three men who are sick of living in the suburbs: Will needs to stay in the suburbs to help his pregnant girlfriend, Johnny discovers drugs and a new girlfriend in the city, and Tunny gets shipped off to war and injured in combat. The album was seen as a critique of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration, and the musical doesn’t shy away from those topics either. If millennials are looking for a musical to get introduced to musical theatre, I would recommend American Idiot. 

Did I miss any of your favorite one-act musicals? Let me know in the comments!

Favorite One-Act Musicals Pinterest Pin

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Lifestyle blogger and digital marketer based in Wisconsin. Michigander at heart. I'm here to provide my take on life through my blog. Fueled by chardonnay, cast recordings and chocolate.