New to musical theater? Here are the top 10 musicals you need to watch!


Isabella Carrero-Baptista, Reporter

Who better to determine the most highly rated musicals than the fans themselves? Multiple Urbana High School students, all avid theater enthusiasts, were surveyed and all of their overlapping suggestions were compiled together. Taking accessibility and popularity into account, this list goes from the least suggested to the most:

10. Mean Girls

A movie adapted into a musical, the songs in Mean Girls add more spunk and enjoyment to the popular movie. Jesse Martin, 11, commented that “Everyone already knows Mean Girls because it’s iconic and the show is also really good.”

9. The Lion King

A popular movie that holds a special place in most of our childhoods, the new songs added to the show add new depth to the story and characters of the classic animated Disney film. Sophomore Nick Gerace said that “it is a story that everyone knows and it’s just an amazing story”.

8. Newsies

Inspired by true events, Newsies tells the struggle of homeless newsboy Jack “Cowboy” Kelly and brothers David and Les Jacobs as they go on strike in New York City against publisher Joseph Pulitzer after he sets new rules making it even harder for young newspaper salesmen to make money. Maggie Cowan, 10, noted that this musical is very easy to follow because it has “enough singing that by listening to the soundtrack you can get a good idea of the story and what it is about.”

7. Grease

Perhaps the most successful musical-movie adaptation on this list, Grease is about the romances, friendships, and adventures of a group of high schoolers from the 50’s. Told through rock n’ roll songs and multiple dance numbers, Grease is a very high-energy show. Junior Arianna Yi described it as “a bubbly romance that your parents would have watched… (and) could be a memory to watch with them again.”

6. The Phantom of the Opera

Another musical adapted to a movie, The Phantom of the Opera revolves around a mysterious and disfigured musical genius who lives under the Paris Opera House who becomes obsessed with Chistine Daaé, a beautiful singer at the opera. Sophomore Tana McCoy commented that “it is different than a lot of musicals but it tells a great story”

5. Les Miserables

Les Miserables, or as it’s more well known, Les Mis, tells the tragic story of Jean Valjean, a french peasant who was put in prison for 19 years after stealing a single loaf of bread, and his desire for redemption for the wrongdoings done to him. Les Mis also has a movie adaptation, starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valijean, that was wildly successful. Quoting Page Stapleton, senior, “this is the quintessential musical,” and “it has well known ear worms and a distinct score featuring several thematic callbacks, or Leitmotifs.”

4. Hadestown

The first retelling on this list, Hadestown tells a version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice through a combination of jazz, folk, and Broadway style songs and sets the couple in a more modern setting. In the myth, the musician Orpheus travels to the underworld to rescue his fiancee Eurydice. Page Stapleton enthusiastically praised the musical by saying it “has a wonderful score and fantastic performances by some of my favorite actors and singers, Such as Amber Grey and Patrick Page” and “It also has a powerful message and it never fails to reduce me to tears.”

3. Dear Evan Hansen

Taking a sadder turn, Dear Evan Hansen is about a boy with social anxiety who longs to form an emotional connection with his peers. After the death of one of the students at his high school, he lies about his and the deceased student’s relationship to get closer to the boy’s family. It’s a tragic story dealing with themes of depression, suicide, grief, and self-acceptance with a bittersweet ending. It was also recently announced that the musical is going to be adapted into a movie. Jesse Martin notes: “It’s a new musical that also was one of my first favorite shows. It’s being made into a movie so again, easy access. Also Ben Platt, the original Evan [main character], is coming back to do the movie.”

2. Hamilton

This one came at a close second. Arguably one of the most popular musicals at the moment, and one of the most easily accessed thanks to Disney+, Hamilton tells the story of one America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, through a blend of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and Broadway style songs. Ella Allen, 11, commented that “[it] is the current fan favorite for a lot of theater fans. It was the first show I got interested in, and it’s not your typical musical style!”

1. Wicked

It’s no surprise that Wicked came in first. Its signature song, “Defying Gravity,” has been heard by everyone, fan of musical theater or not, and has been covered by many artists. Idina Menzel’s remix of the song even made it to #5 on the US dance charts in 2007. Wicked puts a new spin on the classic movie and novel Wizard of Oz, retelling it through the eyes of the witches instead. According to Jesse Martin, it “creates a whole new meaning to the movie.” Ella Allen also had a lot to say about the musical: “Wicked, to me, embodies what theatre is all about.”

Sources Cited:


“Wicked Songs in the Pop Charts.” Cheap Theater, 


Interior of the Palais Garnier. Wikipedia,