Sick of staring at your screen, but still feel craving some musical theatre? Why not try an audio musical!
Audio musicals can be stage shows adapted for audio-only, others are written specifically for podcasts. It’s like radio theatre! With the cost of production being significantly lower than mounting a full stage production, and powerhouses Audible and Clubhouse joining the game, I think we will continue to see more audio musicals being released into the world.
Here’s a collection of 20 audio musicals from the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia, for your listening pleasure. Ranging in length from 10minutes to full-length musicals, and with a wide range of topics including the first woman to row across the Atlantic, growing up with dyslexia, LGBTQ love stories, murder mysteries, re-vamped fairy tales, and the first dog in space, there truly is something for everyone.
10 Days That Shook the World
Produced by Thereby Hangs A Tale Productions and presented by the TTS World Wide Virtual Fringe Festival, this audio musical is set in Petrograd, 1917, where a pair of married journalists are about to experience an all-singing, all-rioting, Russian Revolution. An irreverent retelling of a true story featuring songs and spoken word. For anyone who’s ever wanted to change the world. Written and directed by Milo Morris. Available for free on Scenesaver.
Billed as the world’s first podcast musical, the show tells the story of a couple in their last-ditch attempt to save their marriage by using the 36 questions, an experiment known for making strangers fall in love. Composed by Chris Littler and Ellen Winter with sound designer Joel Raabe, the musical features Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton. It was released in 3 acts in July 2017, and is available from Two Up Productions.
Written by John Cameron Mitchell and Bryan Weller, this podcast musical follows Ceann Mackay who is broadcasting a podcast to crowdfund treatment for a brain tumor from the trailer once occupied by Hedwig Schmidt (of Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Told over 10 episodes, the musical features 31 original songs, and a starry cast including Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Cynthia Erivo, Marion Cotillard, Laurie Anderson, and John Cameron Mitchell. The podcast was released in April 2019, and is available on Luminary.
In a world where it’s too dangerous to go outside, a starry-eyed teen cellist risks leaving her apartment to win the love of the rebel punk next door. A twisted musical with a good, pure heart. With a book by Jason Schafer, music by Arthur Lafrentz Bacon, and lyrics Harris Doran, the cast includes Annie Golden, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Marc Kudisch, Sarah Stiles, Taylor Trensch, and Tony Vincent. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and the Broadway Podcast Network.
Childish: The Podcast Musical
A musical comedy presented by Whale Bus about Dante, a college student in NYC, becomes an RA in order to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Childish Gambino. While he hopes this will be the next step toward becoming a famous rapper, his delusions of grandeur are shattered when he realizes his dweebish co-workers are hellbent on making his life miserable. Created by Whale Bus, POC, LGBTQ+. Muslim, Jewish, and Latinx artists, among other underrepresented groups, who strive to uplift and celebrate minority voices on and off mic. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and Whale Bus.
Driving From Barking to Deptford
Billed as “Minder meets Game Of Thrones as a musical,” a podcast musical about the story of three men and their van driving from Barking to Deptford. Presented over 7 episodes by Men with Ven. Available via Bandcamp.
The Fall of the House of Sunshine
A serialized musical comedy adventure where the beloved host of the Sunshine Smile Hour is murdered! Can anyone solve it? Meet the suspects, untangle the mystery. Created by Matt Roi Berger and Jonathan A. Goldberg, and features a starry cast include Bonnie Milligan, Grace McLean, and Larry Owens, Available via Soundcloud.
Theatre Sheridan at Sheridan College in Ontario have launched a new project entitled First Drafts, a series of 5 musicals that “reimagine, reconstitute, and reanimate the Western “musical theatre canon” in a way that acknowledges the truth of where we are now and where we hope to go. First Drafts is grounded in an urgency to make space for stories that must be told now and must continue to be prioritized in our art form.” All pieces are presented as podcast-style audio recordings, and one, To Ronnie, With Love was also rehearsed and filmed remotely. All pieces are available for free via Theatre Sheridan.
The Flame: An LGBTQ Romantic Comedy
An original musical that over 8 episodes tells the story of two women: Jamie, a queer bar owner, and Sam, the woman selling the building the bar inhabits, and the inevitable sparks that end up flying between them. With music and lrurics by Leigh Holmes Foster, book and additional lyrics by Caitlyn Clear, the cast includes Ellie Brigida, Jen Colella, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Chilina Kennedy, Harrison White, Valerie Rose Lohman, and Leigh Holmes Foster.
Produced by Lez Hang Out Productions, the producers, director, writer, and lead characters are all members of the LGBTQ community, and the orchestra is made up predominantly of women.
Available wherever you listen to podcasts including the Broadway Podcast Network.
In Strange Woods
A fictional documentary musical about 18-year-old Peregrine Wells who seeks out survivalist skills from an enigmatic old recluse after a tragedy in the Whitetail National Forest. Produced by Atypical Artists, and created by Jeff Luppino-Esposito, Brett Ryback, and Matt Sav. The cast includes Donna Lynne Champlin, Patrick Page, and Beth Leavel. Available on Apple Podcasts.
It Makes a Sound
A serial fiction musical podcast about what we remember, and what we forget. Deirdre Gardner finds a lost cassette tape from 1992 in an attic and embarks on a quest to revive the sound of a generation. Written by Jacquelyn Landgraf and presented on the Night Vale Presents/PRX network. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and It Makes a Sound.
Little Did I Know
Presented over 9 podcast episodes, this new musical tells the story of a group of friends – recent college graduates – who bring a broken-down summer theatre back to life in 1976. The summer will be different from anything they expected, and what they experience will resonate throughout their lives. Directed by Marlo Hunter, with music by Doug Besterman, lyrics by Dean Pitchford and Marcy Heisler, and book by Lou Aronica and Johanna Besterman. The cast includes Broadway actors Patrick Page, Lesli Margherita, and Richard Kind. Available via Apple Podcasts.
A celebration of the moment of risk, heartbreak, and joy when the wild strangeness of love comes into clearer view presented over 9 episodes. With book and lyrics by David Zellnik and music by Eric Svejcar, the cast features Kathryn Allison, Kathryn Gallagher, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Hailey Kilgore, Mason Alexander Park, Ryann Redmond, and Ali Stroker. Available on Loveville High.
Prime: A Practical Breviary
A song cycle composed by the innovative Christian and named IndieWire‘s number 1 Podcast Episode of 2020. The piece was inspired by breviary masses performed by cloistered monks, employing modern language and rich, contemporary musical arrangements to reimagine what a modern prayer for a Tuesday morning at 6 AM might sound like. Released in April 2020 as part of Playwrights Horizons Soundstage podcast. Available wherever you listen to podcasts.
New musical Row by Daniel Goldstein (book) and Dawn Landes (music and lyrics) was scheduled to have its world premier at the 2020 Williamstown Theatre Festival. Due to the pandemic, the festival was cancelled, but rather than wait, Williamstown pivoted and partnered with Audible Theater to present the world’s first audio theatre festival.
Row is inspired by Tori Murden McClure’s memoir A Pearl in the Storm, which chronicles her incredible journey to becoming the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic. Directed by Tyne Rafaeli, Row features Grace McLean as Tori, supported by Kerstin Anderson, John Ellison Conlee, Nehal Joshi, Tamika Lawrence, John McGinty, Kathryn O’Rourke, Lance Roberts, Sean Stack, and Sally Wilfert.
The musical is currently available on Audible (affiliate link), and will be also presented in person at the 2021 Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts from July 13 - August 15, 2021.
Sammy Smile Music
This music publishing company have developed two “audiobook musicals”, Spin the Rumpelstiltskin Musical, and Puss in Boots: A Musical, both with music by Neil Fishman and lyrics by Harvey Edelman. Both musicals are re-tellings of classic fairytales, and have won multiple awards. A new musical, Dead End the Musical will be released in 2022.
A tragic alt-country australiana romantic horror musical podcast set in a jaded small town on Australia’s east coast. Written by audio and multiplatform producer Jessica Hamilton, the podcast was inspired by a surf trip down the coast through small town Australia listening to country community radio, and a real life Slaughterhouse Road. Presented in 3 acts. Available on Spotify and Slaughterhouse Road.
Created as part of The Truth podcast, the musical tells the story of Doc, Penny, & Jojo who had a band that was going nowhere, until they found a drum machine that transported them into their songs. Written by Jonathan Mitchell and Josh Perilo, and presented over 8 episodes. Available via The Truth podcast.
Originally produced as a stage show in 2017, this Canadian musical about growing up with dyslexia has been re-imagined as a radio play. Written and performed by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson, the musical is being made available in three formats. From July 7 - 16, the musical is available to livestream at select times. From July 20 - August 1, audiences in Toronto can book a performance in their own backyard, and from August 16 - 29, the musical will play at TIFT’s “Bees in the Bush Festival.” Tickets for the audio broadcast are $15CAN. More info and tickets from Outside the March.
Take a Ten
Need a ten minute break? Founded by NYC composer Andy Roninson, and first released in 2013, the podcast features 17 original 10 minute musicals. Writers and performers include Laura Osnes, Rob McClure, Kathryn Allison, George Salazar, and Mary Page Nance. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and on Take a Ten.
U.Me: The Musical
An original musical by Theo Jamieson (book, music, and lyrics, and former music director for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), and Simon Pitts (book) about two young people on opposite sides of the world who meet online and make a true connection. Commissioned by the BBC, the audio musical premiered on May 12, 201 on BBC World Service. The musical features a diverse and international cast including Anoushka Lucas, Martin Sarreal, Kevin Chen, Nicole Deon, and Michelle Yumiko Payne, with narration by Stephen Fry, and music performed by the BBC Philharmonic. A free online programme includes cast and crew bios, and the complete lyrics.
U.Me is now available on the BBC Sounds podcast.
The World to Come
In a post-apocalyptic world with no internet or electricity, five disparate factions vie for dominance in the city-state of Fiveboro. Each tribe worships at the altar of the bygone pop-culture references of an earlier time, and relishes the stories of film and television they've never actually seen. Created by Rachel Klein, Andy Peterson, and Erik Ransom, and presented by David Treatman Creative and Iconoclast Theatre. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and The World to Come.
Keep an Ear Out
The following musicals are not currently available, but they deserve a mention for their innovative use of the medium and what could be coming up next.
Triassic Parq: The Musical: Radial Park
First premiering off-Broadway in 2012, this musical comedy is told from the perspective of dinosaurs from a certain Theme Park as they discover the truth about faith, science, innocence, sex, and gender identity. In late May 2021, the musical was performed for three shows only at the drive-in at Radial Park in Queens. Billed as the world’s first binaural musical, the show was performed live with “atmospheric and stage projections”, with in-person audience members receiving special “silent-disco” type headphones. Remote audiences were also able to tune into the audio simulcast.
Launched in March 2020, Clubhouse is an invite-only audio app with chatrooms where users can host and join live discussions. The app has has been host to several audio musicals, all of which have been produced, directed, and performed by people of color, including The Lion King (December 2020), Dreamgirls (March 2021), The Wiz (March 2021) and Fela! (May 2021).
The Lion King featured a 40-member cast, choir, live music, and orchestrated pull-to-refresh (PTR) imagery where performers changed their profile pictures to re-create scenes from the movie. The entire cast and crew were people of color, including director and executive producer Noelle Chestnut Whitmore, musical directors Bomani X and Kam DeLa, and lead actors Chris “Boogie” Glover (Mufasa), Myles Grier (Simba), and Mir Harris (Nala). Performed over two shows on December 26, over 5000 people tuned into each show, and #LionKingCH trended nationally on Twitter.
Dreamgirls held an open call through the app on January 2, with over 10,000 people tuning in for the auditions. The musical was performed over four performances on February 27 and 28 with four different casts, featuring professional and amateur performers. The musical received creative input from original Broadway cast member Sheryl Lee Ralph, London revival cast member Amber Riley, and composer Henry Kreger.
Produced by Talia Moore and Serita Carton, The Wiz was performed by two different casts on March 12 and 13, 2021. Like The Lion King, the audio musical employed PTR to create dynamic visuals. The Friday show featured singer/songwriter YahZarah as Dorothy, and the Saturday show featured singer Alana Houston. Each show attracted over 3000 listeners.
Fela! was adapted into Fela Ten Twenty and set in the #EndSARS movement, a protest against police violence in Nigeria that erupted in late 2020 and resulted in the death of 12 people. The musical was produced by original Fela! producer Stephen Hendel along with Maduka, and Ọlabimpe Ọlaniyan, and featured an international cast hailing from Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. Like Dreamgirls, cast and creatives from the original Broadway production served as consultants. The production intentionally tripled speaking roles for women in the musical, to show the vital role of women in the struggle for equality and progress.
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