The Search for an Ultimate Musical Theatre Banger: Round I / by Alex Schneidman

Hello and welcome to the first entry of my apartment’s monthlong journey to discover an Ultimate Musical Theatre Banger. In this, the Round of 64, we had some quarrels and crises, but we have moved through and just like that our field has been cut in half. So long, fair well, auf Wiedersehen, goodnight. Let’s get to it:

While the three of us have some wildly varied views on bangerdom, we were able to calmly and collectively reach a decision fairly quickly on every single match up. The venn diagrams overlap.

Michael’s approach tends to invoke historical context, which you’ll find if you listen to the pod below. This invocation tended to help musicals like Rent, Hello, Dolly, and Spring Awakening. He is an academic of Banger History.

Chris is a contemporary bopper. His decisions and cravings fall mostly in the headspace of songs like “You Happened” from The Prom, the a cappella moment in “Two by Two” from The Book of Mormon, and “Some Kinda Time” from Dogfight. White people clapping, basically.

I’m a bit of a non-traditionalist. The bangers I like are not typically the favored bangers in the musicals from which they derive. Give me “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)” or “I Could Have Danced All Night” or “(Just a) Simple Sponge” and I will rage. That being said, I strongly adhere to pillars of the Bangerverse like The Color Purple or Wicked.

Two interesting debates that this exploration has uncovered are the anthem-banger dichotomy and the recording-performance-written text spectrum.

Michael raised the point that many of the songs that might be considered bangers might also be considered “anthems.” These are songs, typically solos, that are sung as proclamations or cathartic exorcisms of emotion. In the context of this bracket, think “I’m Here,” “This Is Not Over Yet,” or “She Used to be Mine.” I don’t think a song’s anthemic nature necessarily disqualifies its bangerhood, but this topic will definitely be one that arises again when we get into Round II.

The recording-performance-written text spectrum adds some fascinating shades to the discussion. Many older musicals do not share the production value of many newer musical’s recordings, and often sound a little antiquated to the post-cassette tape ear. So in the case of a musical like West Side Story, its original recordings may sound a little empty, whereas more modern performances and YouTube videos might bang. So, in choosing a banger, I’ve found it best to triangulate inside of this spectrum, while not weighing it too heavily.

Overall, the conversation around this bracket has been incredibly lively, and I’m very excited to see where we head when we start up the round of 32. We’ll be back soon with the next round.

An updated bracket can be found at the bottom of this post.


A recording of our sit down session to determine the winners of each matchup, edited for brevity:

One quick question:

Would you be interested in us opening this bracket up to public vote?
This is something that we have considered, but that I'd only do if enough people were interested. Let me know here:

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