Seven Alternatives to Hamilton Fever

It seems the entire New York theater scene has been swept with Hamilton fever — which is bad news for anyone attempting to buy tickets. With seats sold out months in advance and ticket prices soaring, many who are going to the theater are looking for equally entertaining alternatives to the popular hit. Luckily, Broadway (and off-Broadway) are bustling with exciting new productions set to hit stages for the 2016–17 theater season.

If you liked Hamilton for its award-show prestige, try:

Yen

Hamilton held the popular vote from its very first opening, but the deal wasn’t truly sealed until the 2016 Tony Awards, at which it took home an impressive 11 awards, followed shortly by the Pulitzer Prize. If you’re looking for another Broadway show with that prestige to back it up, try Yen — starring the Oscar-nominated Lucas Hedges (from the hit film Manchester By the Sea).

The show itself is still new to the scene, debuting off-Broadway on January 31st, but its star power has already caught the attention of many theater critics. Hedges is accompanied by two other theater newcomers, Justice Smith Stefania LaVie Owen as well as Ari Gaynor, and the cast is already being praised as the show’s biggest highlight.

Yen tells the story of two neglected teenage boys growing up on a London housing estate. It’s an import from the UK, where it won the Manchester Royal Exchange’s Bruntwood Prize and received largely, favorable reviews from the likes of The Guardian, who gave it five stars for a “brutal but tender study of brotherhood”, and The Telegraph, who described it as “moving if, at times, contrived”.

If you liked Hamilton for its clever lyrics, try:

Avenue Q

In Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda found a way to make the topical issue of immigration resonate with his audience through clever lyrics and frequent pop culture references — a technique shared by comedy hit Avenue Q. Instead of immigration, the hot topic this musical tackles is millennials and the growing disillusionment with the American dream.

It first hit stages in 2003, and has been going strong ever since — perhaps speaking to the timelessness of its subject matter. The New York Times praised both the original and the revival, while Time Out gave it five stars, calling it a “sly and winning piece of metamusical tomfoolery”. Its popularity took it around the world, appearing in theaters in Las Vegas, the UK and Australia, before returning to play off-Broadway in New York.

This satirical comedy follows a cast of twenty-somethings in New York who are starting to realize that growing up might not be all it’s cracked up to be. All the woes and worries of entering adulthood are laid bare in jaunty musical numbers. The creative use of puppets with unconcealed puppeteers gained it much favor amongst the New York theater crowd.

If you liked Hamilton for its fresh format, try:

Paramour

When Lin-Manuel Miranda first rapped his way onto Broadway, it took the New York theater scene by surprise, and then by storm. Hamilton fever owes much of its reach to the show’s unique and novel approach to musical theater, and newcomer Paramour looks set to do the same. The surprising force behind it? Cirque de Soleil.

Running at Lyric Theater until April 16th, Paramour tells the story of an aspiring star who has to choose between love and art through a unique blend of original songs and acrobatics. The glitzy backdrop of old-time Hollywood seems the perfect backdrop for Cirque de Soleil’s famous razzle-dazzle style.

While it seems critics are divided on the story itself, there’s no question about the impressive artistry on display. The New York Times said: “There’s no denying the breathtaking magic of seeing bodies swim through the air with such apparent weightlessness,” although it condemned the plotline as “far more forgettable.”

If you loved Hamilton for its non-traditional soundtrack, try:

The Wiz

Hamilton took a risk when it chose rap as its main means of storytelling, but it’s one that paid off big. Another musical that garnered much attention for its unique choice of music style is The Wiz, which first debuted in the 70s. The likes of Luther Vandross lent their talent to the soundtrack, which led to the production being hailed as the “super soul” musical.

The Wiz shook things up on Broadway with its urbanized retelling of the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, shifting the focus to African-American culture. The show’s original broadway production took home seven Tony Awards, and spawned a film adaptation that has become something of a cult classic — due in no small part to its all-star cast including Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

Time magazine’s enthusiastic review of the original stage production said: “It grins from the soul, sizzles with vitality, and flaunts the gaudy hues of an exploding rainbow”. Having enjoyed successful runs in theaters around the globe, The Wiz is now set to return to New York Broadway for the 2016–17 season.

If you loved Hamilton for its historical story, try:

Assassins

It came to many as a surprise that a musical about American presidential history would prove so successful on Broadway, but the prevalence of Hamilton fever seems to suggest that the trend for true stories has hit as big in theater as it has in film recently. Fans of the (admittedly niche) genre might also enjoy Assassins — although as the title might suggest, the focus is shifted away from the men in charge and towards their attempted or actual assassins.

The somewhat controversial show uses a carnival show as the surreal backdrop to the very real stories of some of the country’s most infamous killers. Lyric Theater’s producing artistic director, Michael Baron, who is producing the latest remake, explains: “Assassins does not glorify the killing of a president but it does explore how extreme anger and violence does not benefit the individual or the country as a whole.”

Assassin’s creator is another name for the history books — theater’s iconic Stephen Sondheim, winner of a Special Tony Lifetime Achievement Award among many other accolades.

Although the show’s dark subject matter inevitably drew criticism, it received high praise within the art world. Variety described it as “exquisite,” saying that “Assassins is {Sondheim’s} most scabrous commentary yet on the poisoned chalice of romantic illusions.”

If you loved Hamilton for its cast, try:

Amélie

Phillipa Soo made a name for herself in the New York theater scene when she originated the role of Elizabeth in the play that gave the world Hamilton fever. She departed the show in July 2016, at the same time as Lin-Manuel Miranda, and is now set to appear in Amélie, playing the titular role on Broadway from March 2017.

The show is a retelling of the cult classic film of the same name, with Soo taking on the role of the quirky lead character whose isolated childhood has led her to develop a fierce imagination and an appreciation of the simple things in life. The story follows Amélie’s misadventures in life and love as she devotes herself to helping others.

Already, Soo’s performances in an Los Angeles production of the same show has received heavy praise, with the L.A. Times declaring that “every time Soo opens her mouth to sing, the stars in Paris’ night sky shine brighter.” Of the show itself, the same critic said: “It’s the still delectable sweet lightness of this theatrical macaron that we savor most.”

And if you’re just a hardcore Hamilton fan, try:

Spamilton

With Hamilton receiving the spotlight it did, it seems only inevitable that spin-offs would appear. The light-hearted Spamilton spoofs the hit show in good humor in its off-Broadway run.

The show’s creator Gerard Alessandrini is known for his musical parodies, created under the theater group Forbidden Broadway. He is undoubtedly a fan struck with Hamilton fever, with his comic production doling out respect and ribbing in equal amounts. In fact, even Hamilton’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has been to see the show, with Vulture reporting that he was “covering his mouth he was laughing so hard.”

Rather than remaking the original story, Alessandrini’s story focuses on the making of it, with Miranda and Stephen Sondheim both appearing as characters. The Huffington Post described it as “convulsively funny”, while Variety praised it for “savvy casting, an ear for musical motifs and an impeccable grasp of visual design” as well as the “witty character impersonations.”

Seeing Hamilton is certainly an essential entry in all avid theater fans’ social calendars, but luckily for those still on the waiting list, there’s plenty of creative, entertaining and unique Broadway plays to enjoy in the meantime.

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