I love theatre and wish I could spend most, if not all, of my time watching talented artists practice their craft in front of me. However, I, unfortunately, have very important plants I need to water and quite a severe lack of funds. For this reason, I’m a big fan of media that can give me similar feelings to being in a theatre that don’t require me to travel or spend anywhere near as much money. Below is a list of some of my favourite movies, podcasts, TV shows and books that fit this bill.
- ‘Giving Voice’ (Netflix)
This documentary uses the 2018 August Wilson Monologue competition as a lens through which to view the work and legacy of Wilson, an acclaimed playwright. It provides insight into the experiences of Black artists in theatre, the complexities of interpreting a text and the importance of representation of marginalised groups on stage. This would be a particularly good watch for actors, as well as anyone with a healthy interest in plays, or theatre more generally.
2. ‘The Goes Wrong Show’ (BBC iPlayer, Amazon)
One of the most popular theatre companies to arise in recent years is Mischief Theatre, best known for their series of ‘Goes Wrong’ plays (‘The Play That Goes Wrong’, ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’ etc.) ‘The Goes Wrong Show’ marks their transition to working on screen. The premise of the show is simple – the ever-optimistic Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is staging a play a week for a series on the BBC and, as would be expected, everything goes wrong, from set pieces falling apart to actors being generally incompetent. A nice light watch if you’re in need of a laugh.
Pitched as a podcast for both musical-lovers and musical-haters, ‘MusicalSplaining’ breaks down a different musical every episode, discussing its plot and its various good and bad features. This is a great way to both revisit shows you’re already familiar with or to discover new shows to look into. As an added bonus, if you want a good laugh, co-host Kaveh Taherian’s response to the news of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ closing on Broadway is one of my favourite things to ever happen on Twitter.
4. ‘Schmigadoon!’ (Apple TV+)
Another light watch, ‘Schmigadoon!’ is simultaneously a love letter and a complete send-up of musicals from the 1940s and 50s, such as the almost-titular ‘Brigadoon’. There’s a lot to enjoy in this show, even if you, like me, don’t think particularly highly of classic musicals. It boasts an all-singing, all-dancing cast, including Broadway stars such as Aaron Tveit, Kristen Chenoweth, and Ariana DeBose (Of ‘Did the thing’ fame). Plus, the songs are great, and it’s really funny. Overall, an excellent, cheap substitute for seeing a musical on stage.
5. ‘Breaking into Song: Why You Shouldn’t Hate Musicals’ by Adam Lenson
Adam Lenson is one of my favourite theatre people that I follow on Twitter, and the depth and insight provided by his thoughts translate really well into this book. The text looks at why it is that so many more people hate musicals than other art forms and what can be done to remedy this problem. Is it just bad PR or do most musicals actually just suck? A particularly interesting read for anyone looking to go into musical theatre creation who wants their material to reach a wider audience.
Image Credit: “Television” by Medhi is licensed under CC BY 2.0.