With Broadway closed for the foreseeable future, I have been blasting the cast recordings of my favourite shows and watching a lot of animated music videos on YouTube to fill the void that I couldn’t afford to fill anyway. However, when you have finished belting in the shower and are looking to curl up with a good book, consider these Broadway-inspired picks to bring a little razzle-dazzle to your shelves!
Tonight, the role of Beetlejuice: The Musical will be performed by…
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Beetlejuice: The Musical (The Musical, The Musical) was a smash hit on Broadway that introduced the story of Lydia and her ghost-with-the-most buddy, Beetlejuice, to a new generation of theatre kids. The show is deceptively crass, hiding a charming story of grief and growth underneath garish stripes and ghoulish special effects, and is generally full of bops. If you’re a fan of Beetlejuice, I recommend My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, a delightfully demonic tale following Abby as she attempts to rescue her friend Gretchen from the hellish forces inside her. It is a funny, often gross novel packed with ’80s vibes and irreverent escapades, but, like Beetlejuice, secretly contains a compelling, sweet message about loving your friends dearly and queerly.
Trigger warnings: body horror and gore
Tonight, the role of Hadestown will be performed by…
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
If you’re a fan of Hadestown’s gut-wrenching, tragic tale of love, which spins the familiar yarn of Greek mythology into a steampunk anti-establishment critique of capitalism, labour, and the pursuit of art, love, and comfort, I recommend Everything Under by Daisy Johnson. This book is a retelling of another Greek myth with a twist, discussing mental health, trauma, and the nature of perspective. It is not entirely evident from the beginning which tale this ballad retells, and I won’t spoil it, as part of the fun is the dawning realisation of the oncoming terror. This tale is waterlogged and murky, packed with twists and turns and pond-weed that will have your heart in your mouth, hoping that for once the tragedy won’t unfold how it always does.
Trigger warning: incest, sexual assault
Tonight, the role of Waitress will be performed by…
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Both this musical and this novel are courageous and empowering stories about finding solace and strength in a creative medium that you love, that feeds your soul and stokes a fire in it. In the musical Waitress, Jenna bakes and uses pies to navigate out of the distressing situations she finds herself in, and, similarly Xiomara depends on riveting slam poetry and spoken word performances to express herself in the face of stifling repression at home and at school. Told entirely through poetry rather than prose, Acevedo’s work is a performance in its own right, a one-woman show about finding your voice and making it loud. Lyrical, full of rhythm, and passionate monologues, The Poet X is a beautiful insight into the mind of a brilliant artist that will both affirm and inspire you.
Trigger warnings: domestic abuse, homophobia, sexual harassment.
Tonight the role of A Strange Loop will be performed by…
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
A Strange Loop is a Pulitzer Prize–winning musical by a Black gay man about a Black gay man making a musical about a Black gay man. Laugh-out-loud funny, joyful, but tinged with somberness, this musical is fantastic to pair with Rainbow Milk, a debut novel by a queer Black man about a queer Black man finding his place in London, reading James Baldwin, and trying to develop his creative voice as he pursues a career in nonfiction. Both are great stories about moving to the big city and chasing down your artistic identity, navigating queer spaces while dodging fetishization, and tense relationships with religion. The novel also touches on experiences of the Windrush generation, and the stress of family expectations.
Trigger warnings: sexual assault, racist and homophobic slurs, drug abuse
Tonight, the role of Dear Evan Hansen will be performed by…
Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson
Dear Evan Hansen follows the catastrophic web of lies that the eponymous Evan ends up trapped in when he feigns a friendship between himself and a boy who has died. In Let Me Hear A Rhyme, Jasmine and her friends pretend that her late brother is still alive in order to get his previously unreleased music played on the radio, fulfilling his dream. Balancing the tragic with the hopeful, as Jasmine and friends find themselves in more and more tricky situations as a result of their plan (which involves tricking music executives and organising live events in disguise) this novel is a charming examination of legacy and grief with a delightful group dynamic at the centre that fans of Dear Evan Hansen will also love.
Tonight, the role of Next To Normal will be performed by…
Weather by Jenny Offill
Next to Normal studies the impact that one person’s mental health can have on an entire household, and examines the weight of grief, autonomy in the fight against mental illness, and the creeping horror of becoming detached from it all. Similarly, Weather is a disjointed and hesitant narrative about a woman who quietly muses on the various difficulties in the world, including her brother’s process of recovering from addiction. It is a slow, disparate novella that asks us where we can, or should, put our focuses in a society that seems to be crumbling from every angle, as the narrator’s strained thoughts begin to reflect in the anecdotal style of the prose. Like Next to Normal, Offill’s work is contemplative, tinged with sharp comedy, ventures into dark territories before skittering away again, echoing a mental state that I’m sure many of us can relate to at the moment.
Trigger warning: drug addiction