Every culture and generation have its stories that entertain but also teach important lessons. Fairy tales stand out because of how popular many of them remain today. These fairy tales have been rewritten and adapted into countless mediums, but our favorite, of course, is the musical. Whether you’re sick and tired of the same old happily ever after or you can’t get enough of the classics, this list has a musical fairy tale for you.
Obviously, this list is going to be full of classic fairy tales that have been launched to new levels of fame thanks to Disney, but Disenchanted stands out from some of the others on this list because it is a purposeful departure from the classic fairy tales that Disney has popularized. This musical was born when one musician decided to rebel against the Disney perpetuated trope of the helpless princess.
The show’s creator, Dennis T Giancino, was teaching a history class when one of his students asked how the real Pocahontas would respond to seeing the Disney version of her in the 1995 film. Inspired by this question, Disenchanted tells the story of 6 famous Disney princesses who are tired of their two-dimensional and weak portrayals in Disney films. This hilarious musical rails against the standard fairy tale depiction of princesses made so famous by Disney. This work is a great choice for you if you’re tired of the typical happily ever after ending.
2. Shrek The Musical
If you still don’t want the typical fairy tale story but are looking for something a bit more family-friendly than Disenchanted, than Shrek The Musical is the show for you. When the Shrek film premiered in 2001, audiences loved it for its anti fairy tale humor and the way it played with popular characters like Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man. This musical brings the same humor to the stage with wonderful songs and a massive production full of unique costumes and special effects.
While this show’s large ensemble and effects may make it feel like a theme park ride, the story and music are good enough to have earned it a slew of Tony nominations when it went on Broadway in 2008. With a score written by Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and a script written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, this musical packs a punch. If you want a show that takes you somewhere far, far away but you don’t want to deal with the boilerplate fairy tale story, then Shrek The Musical is for you.
3. Into the Woods
If you are a true musical theater fan, then you knew Into the Woods was going to be on this list. Just like Shrek and Disenchanted, Into the Woods crosses several famous characters from the world’s favorite fairy tales and a few lesser known characters into one wonderful story. Other shows may make fun of fairy tale tropes like the happily ever after ending or the beautiful princesses that need brave princes to save them, but Into the Woods keeps those conventions while still managing to breathe fresh air into the classic fairy tale narrative.
It’s no surprise that this musical won several Tony awards when it premiered in 1987 since it was the result of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine collaborating. Into the Woods has been so successful that it’s been frequently performed throughout the last decade despite being 30 years old. If you love fairy tales and have always wanted to see some of your characters teaming up, then this musical is a must see.
4. Beauty and the Beast–
The musical adaptation of Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast was the show that launched Disney into the musical business and started the film to Broadway trend that has become so popular today. If you loved the original film, then you’ll be happy to know that all eight of the original songs from the film found their way into this Alan Menken musical along with a few more additions that have been charming audiences since its premiere in 1994.
Beauty and the Beast was so successful that it’s being performed all over the world to this day. In fact, closing after a whopping 5,461 performances on Broadway, Beauty and the Beast is the tenth longest-running show in the history of Broadway! While other shows on this list may make fun of stories like Beauty and the Beast, there’s a reason that this story has gone all the way from a classic fairy tale to an Oscar-winning film and one of the most successful musicals in Broadway’s history.
5. The Little Mermaid–
This Disney musical was the follow-up to Beauty and the Beast, but unlike its predecessor, The Little Mermaid doesn’t follow its source material quite as closely. While there are a few big differences in the plot of this story, if you’re a fan of the original film and story then chances are you will still enjoy seeing it on stage in a large production the way only Disney can do.
For this musical adaptation, Disney turned again to Alan Menken, and while The Little Mermaid has not been as successful as the smash hit Beauty and the Beast, it still has all the songs and adventures that an underwater fairy tale should have. If you want to see Ariel and Sebastian live on stage, then The Little Mermaid is your chance to go under the sea.
Are you a big musical fan? Check out our collection of fantastic musicals here on Cennarium!