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Monday November 29th

Column: Awesome! Wow! The top new musicals of the 2010s

<p>Jessica Hardison is a senior majoring in political science and public relations. She is the 2019-2020 Arts &amp; Culture editor. Photo courtesy of Brandon Standley.&nbsp;</p>
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Jessica Hardison is a senior majoring in political science and public relations. She is the 2019-2020 Arts & Culture editor. Photo courtesy of Brandon Standley. 

The 2010s are what I like to consider the breakthrough decade for new work in the musical world. With shows like "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Wicked" boasting impressive decades-long runs, it's harder than ever to break through these Broadway and West End phenomenons to gain public attention. 

No shade to any long-running musical, because all of these shows have seen such successful runs for a reason. But just like dried-up, stale movie sequels that this decade also seemed to crank out every six months, the same plots with the same scores and cast can get old quickly.

This top five musicals of the 2010s list encompasses the musicals I think most successfully cut through the noise and added new music, new voices and new plots to the theater scene. 

Is this a comprehensive list of every musical I think deserves recognition from this decade? Absolutely not. Feel free to weigh in via my Twitter DMs, or comment how angry you are about my picks. My assistants and writers are already outraged. Just be sure to check when your favorite musical first started running, because chances are it wasn't after 2010. 

**Dates are based on Broadway premiere**

5. "Waitress" (2016)

Sometimes, all it takes is sugar, butter and flour. An original score by Sara Bareilles definitely adds to the perfect recipe for this small-town diner drama. I commend "Waitress" for being unafraid to embrace the Southern accent, complete with a trailer trash husband and topped with domestic violence. It's a sticky situation for sure, but an upbeat and moving score helps the audience come out feeling peachy. I saw this gem at the Adelphi Theatre in London, and Jack McBrayer's performance as Ogie was the cherry on top of this fantastic show.

4. "Dear Evan Hansen" (2016)

I stand by Ben Platt and all of his acting ventures, so it's no surprise that I have to give him recognition for his stellar performance in this new musical that gave us an insight into social anxiety on stage. Also, who doesn't love watching a white lie turn into a huge mess over the course of two and a half hours?

3. "Come From Away" (2017)

No main character? No problem. The Newfoundland accent is difficult to master, but fascinating to listen to throughout this musical's retelling of how the small town of Gander suddenly doubled in population. How you might ask? After 38 planes made an emergency grounding because of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. It's has a much simpler set than most musicals, and costuming is also minimal, but that's what makes it work. 

This musical gives me hope because it's about everyday people helping everyday strangers who were just stranded indefinitely on an island with no access to their luggage. There are language barriers, culture barriers and all of the elements of disaster in play for both the passengers and the locals — who don't have enough resources for thousands of unexpected guests. But it's a heartwarming tale of how humanity can still be good, and how people can come together to overcome an impossible situation.

2. "The Book of Mormon" (2011)

Hello! This musical will change your life. For anyone who thinks it's inappropriate to make fun of religion, turn it off like a light switch. Life isn't always perfect like it is in Orlando, and most of the time it's more like war-torn Africa — in a word, hard. 

Are there incredibly crude moments? Yes. Does it repeatedly mock the outlandishness of preparing to populate another planet or believing Joseph Smith found a third book of the Bible in 1823? Yes. Do white people butcher Ugandan names because they don't take the time to learn how to pronounce them? Yes — Neutrogena is my personal favorite. 

As the elders learn the hard way, not every musical has to be raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens. The takeaway: It's just a bunch of made-up stuff, but it points to something bigger. 

1. "Hamilton" (2015)

If you've only listened to the soundtrack and have never actually been in the room where it happened, you can't chime in on this one. Lin Manuel-Miranda is a genius and nobody can change my mind. He deserves 0 percent of the hate he gets. Have you SEEN his Twitter feed? Wholesome, through and through. And his work speaks — or rather, raps — for itself. All I have to say is: Awesome! Wow!

Honorable mentions because I can't help myself: "Finding Neverland" (2015), "Kinky Boots" (2013), "Newsies The Musical" (2012)


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