Musicals to Revisit While You're Hunkering Down at Home
As you practice social-distancing, here are some musicals you can watch at home to keep you in the Broadway mood.
We get it: Social distancing is tough during this pandemic, especially if you're a theater fan. But as we all stay put at home to help flatten the curve, there's no shortage of ways to get your musical-theater fix. To that end, we have some suggestions for you — especially if you're a fan of Stephen Sondheim, who will be celebrating his 90th birthday on March 22.
Watching an old familiar musical can be comforting and soothing in these times (much like being under a weighted blanket while reminiscing about the Obama era). And for others a bit of over the top campiness can do the trick for a couple of hours of escapism. If you prefer the latter, then Camp (2003) is the choice for you. It features a cast of teenage "unknowns" including Anna Kendrick, Robin De Jesus, and Sasha Allen before they made a name for themselves. Imagine the joy you experience watching YouTube videos of the Jimmy Awards but instead the performers are at a musical theater summer camp (à la the infamous Stagedoor Manor) playing roles way too mature for themselves. You can watch Camp on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes. — Jeffrey Vizcaino
Guys and Dolls: Off the Record (1992)
While not a full production, Guys & Dolls: Off the Record gives a glimpse of what the legendary 1992 revival of this beloved Frank Loesser musical was like. This documentary goes behind the scenes at the production's cast recording session, featuring interviews with stars Nathan Lane, Faith Prince, Peter Gallagher, and Josie de Guzman, as well as their indelible performances of songs like "Sue Me," "Adelaide's Lament," "Luck Be a Lady," and more. This is an essential watch for any fan of this quintessential Broadway musical comedy, and if all that isn't good enough, Lane is wearing a delightful Hawaiian shirt throughout the film, which pretty much makes it worth the purchase price on its own. (You can order it here.) — David Gordon
Into the Woods (1991)
As a property, there's a lot to recommend Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1986 musical Into the Woods in these trying times. At the most basic level, just the title speaks volumes about where most of us are thinking about heading during this global pandemic. But Into the Woods also has a lot to offer by way of commentary on the human condition and what we owe to one another — important lessons to consider as we collectively head into weeks of social distancing meant to keep everyone safe (even if you yourself aren't at particular risk). So pop it on when your isolated workday is over (I recommend the 1991 version starring Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, and more) and feel comforted that even Sondheim knows how hard it can be to do the right thing. — Bethany Rickwald
Sunday in the Park With George (1984)
In these chaotic days, we're longing to bring a little order to the whole. But when order is elusive, I'll take some calming color and light. That's why I'm looking forward to rewatching Sunday in the Park With George, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1984 musical meditation on art and creative genius told through a fictionalized account of Georges Seurat and his masterpiece of pointillism, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters (both of whom received Tony Award nominations for their work) starred in a live-performance recording that's available on DVD and streams on iTunes. With Sondheim's birthday this week, now is a great opportunity to revisit this musical and finish the hat with George one more time. — Pete Hempstead
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982)
Before Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, there was George Hearn and Angela Lansbury. The two played murderous barber Sweeney Todd and his pie-baking sidekick Mrs. Lovett in the first national tour of the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical thriller. A 1981 performance that took place at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was captured for broadcast on the Entertainment Channel the following year. While that cable venture is long dead, the televised version of Sweeney Todd lives on, in both DVD and streaming formats. The world seems like a scary place right now, but (in the most tuneful way) Sweeney helps you imagine how much worse it would be with a serial killer on the loose. — Zachary Stewart
West Side Story (1961)
If you haven't seen Ivo van Hove's new Broadway revival of West Side Story, you're going to have to wait until Broadway is no longer dark. In the meantime, this is the perfect opportunity to revisit the Oscar-winning 1961 film adaptation. Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, not only will you see Robbins's original choreography (which Van Hove has thrown out in favor of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's), but you'll get to experience a fuller version of the musical, including the song "I Feel Pretty," which was cut from Van Hove's production. Regardless of comparisons to the new Broadway production, though, the film version remains a memorable experience in and of itself, with career-making supporting performances from Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, and, of course, the still-iconic Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim songs to provide all the sizzle you could want as you hunker down at home. — Kenji Fujishima