Lists11 Musical TV Shows to Binge While Self-Quarantined During the Coronavirus OutbreakRaise your spirits while still staying safe.
March 13, 2020
We know that the world feels scary right now, but in times of hardship, theatre has always been an antidote—especially musical theatre. And even though live theatres across the country have taken the necessary precaution to temporarily close and keep us safe, all is not lost! Musicals ar everywhere—on your streaming service, in particular.
As many of us hunker down, we're going to need entertainment not just to pass the time but to remind us that this too shall pass. We will get through this. With that in mind, here are 11 musical TV shows and how to watch them.
1. Smash How to watch: Free on NBC.com; Purchase on iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube Did you miss the insane drama and wild stardom of Broadway’s very own soap opera in 2012? Now is your chance to catch up, as Playbill organizes a community-wide rewatch starting at 8 PM Eastern, March 13. Live tweet with us as we watch the pilot, and then check out Playbill.com every day for a recap of another episode. (And stay tuned for more live tweet opportunities over the next month!) The NBC drama follows the making of a new bio-musical about Marilyn Monroe. Writers Julia Houston and Tom Levitt (Debra Messing and Christian Borle) realize that Marilyn is the obvious choice for their next project and they know just the girl to play the title role: longtime ensemblist Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty). But when newcomer Karen (Katharine McPhee) comes out of nowhere, the competition rises. Between Anjelica Houston's portrayal of a Broadway producer and Julia Houston's portrayal of wearing a scarf, this is the high camp you need.
2. Glee How to watch: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu Six seasons of glorious a cappella covers await you in the choir room of Lima, Ohio's William McKinley High. Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Tony nominee Matthew Morrison, who also earned two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination for this show) decides to start a glee club. Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) could not be more excited; this is exactly what she needs to propel her towards her dreams of stardom. Of course, the group isn't exactly stellar to start with. A band of lovable misfits but crazy good singers live through their own drama making music, while also at the risk of destruction by high school cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Golden Globe and Emmy winner Jane Lynch). This show launched the careers of folks like Amber Riley, Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, and Jenna Ushkowitz. Not to mention the guest appearances by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jeff Goldblum, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Jonathan Groff, Cheyenne Jackson, and more.
3. Galavant How to watch: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu Alan Menken joined forces with Christopher Lennertz to write the music for this musical fantasy series. Named for the dashing knight played by Joshua Sasse, Galavant follows him as he works to reclaim his reputation from the evil King Richard, who stole the love of his life, Queen Madalena. A bit of the absurd, mixed with melodies by the man who invented the Disney movie musical, the two seasons of Galavant have a fairy tale meets Princess Bride vibe.
4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend How to watch: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu As the theme song goes, she was: Working hard at a New York job / Making dough, but it made [her] blue / One day, [she] was crying a lot / And so [she] decided to move to West Covina, California / Brand-new pals and new career / It happens to be where Josh lives / But that's not why [she's] here.” If you haven’t watched the hilarious and socially-conscious musical comedy from Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), now is your chance. Over the course of four seasons, Bloom plays hot mess Rebecca Bunch, the New York lawyer who ditched it all to follow her ex to California. While creating ridiculous situations and a comedy of errors, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also manages to nod at issues like gender bias (songs like “Let’s Generalize About Men”),mental illness, and race, all to original show tunes and classic choreography.
5. Rise How to watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu Back to the drama category, this series from Friday Night Lights and Parenthood creator Jason Katims stars Josh Radnor as a high school teacher trying to revive the drama program by mounting a production of Spring Awakening. Just as the characters in Spring Awakening discover themselves, so too do the teen cast members as they struggle to find purpose in their small Pennsylvania town. The show includes beautiful performances from the Spring Awakening score. Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) and Damon J. Gillespie (Newsies) lead the cast of high schoolers, while Rosie Perez and Radnor lead the teachers. Be sure to watch Tony winner Stephanie J. Block’s incredible guest appearance in Episode 3.
6. Fosse/Verdon How to watch: FXNetworks.com, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu The musical theatre series of all musical theatre series. If you missed this Emmy-winning masterpiece created and directed by Tony winner Tommy Kail (In The Heights, Hamilton) and Joel Fields (The Americans) and created and written by Tony winner Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen), begin streaming immediately. Based on the biography Fosse by Sam Wasson, the eight-episode miniseries investigates the personal and professional partnership of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon. Remarkably portrayed by Sam Rockwell (who earned an Emmy nod for his performance) and Michelle Williams (who earned an Emmy Award for hers), the series is a complex dramatic exploration of what it means to be an artist on Broadway, what it took to create masterworks of the canon like Damn Yankees, Cabaret, and Chicago, and who these people were. A roster of current Broadway stars brought the ’60s and ’70s to life with appearances and winning performances, such as Norbert Leo Butz, Bianca Marroquin, Ethan Slater, Brandon Uranowitz, Aya Cash, and dozens of Broadway ensemblists. Plus, Playbill recapped each episode to accompany you on your journey. Start with Episode 1 here.
7. Soundtrack How to watch: Netflix From the Season 2 showrunner of Smash, this Netflix original is a series about the ways in which music connects the lives of characters living in Los Angeles—sort of like an episodic, musical Love Actually. The twist? Each character lip-syncs to their own soundtrack of songs, fully choreographed and staged as interspersed musical numbers. The cast includes Jenna Dewan, Megan Ferguson, Christina Milian and Broadway favorites like Campbell Scott (A Christmas Carol), Robbie Fairchild (An American in Paris), and Kyle Riabko (Hair).
8. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series How to watch: Disney+ Probably the most feel-good option on the list, this series takes everything we love about musical theatre and showcases it in just 10 episodes. Building off of the vocabulary in Disney’s High School Musical trilogy, creator and showrunner Tim Federle—book writer for Broadway’s Tuck Everlasting and author of the Better Nate Than Never series, among others—weaves nuggets from the HSM world into the new mockumentary series. Taking place at “the real East High” where the first High School Musical movie was filmed, HSMTMTS follows the students as they put on the school’s very first production of High School Musical: The Musical. But when real-life exes Nini and Ricky get cast as the couple at the center of the show, drama ensues. Already filming Season 2, the show is a delightful homage to the beauty and comedy of high school theatre.
9. Encore! How to watch: Disney+ Speaking of high school theatre, Kristen Bell brings her series Encore! to Disney+, where the casts of high school musical productions reunite as adults to put on that same show in a one-night-only performance. Throughout the 12 episodes, now grown students from 12 high schools across the country go back home to mount performances of shows like Annie, Beauty and the Beast, Fiddler on the Roof, and Ragtime. Armed with professional creative teams—and occasionally stars like original Belle Susan Egan—watch these casts go from rehearsal to opening night. This might actually be the most feel-good option on the list. Watch both Disney+ originals and you decide.
10. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist How to watch:NBC.com, Hulu, YouTube, Sling, FuboTV, YouTube Playbill exclusively premiered the first episode of this new musical series back in January. The show, starring Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke, tells the story of a computer coder who suddenly starts to hear the innermost wants, thoughts and desires of the people around her through popular songs. If there’s a song in your heart, it will get in her head. The show stars a host of Broadway alums, including Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (Candida) as Zoey's mother, Peter Gallagher (On the Twentieth Century) as Zoey’s father,Alex Newell (Once on This Island) as Zoey's neighbor, Skylar Astin (Spring Awakening) as her co-worker and best friend, and Lauren Graham (Guys and Dolls) as her tech pioneer boss. And the show has already taken on Broadway tunes, like this snippet from Jesus Christ Superstar.
11. Katy Keene How to watch: The CW, YouTube, FuboTV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu The CW series is a spinoff of its hit Riverdale, starring Lucy Hale as Katy Keene. Developed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (American Psycho) and Michael Grassi, it—like Riverdale—is based on the Archie Comics character. The show tells the origin story and struggle of four aspiring artists trying to make successful careers on Broadway, on the runway, and in the recording studio. The cast will include Broadway guest stars like Bernadette Peters and Daphne Rubin-Vega. The series premiered February 6, so you only have six episodes to catch up on; brace yourself for some high-octane musical performances.