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The Carroll News

A list of musical masterpieces to gush over

Stephen Leonardi
Marked by its opulent chandelier, Playhouse Square is Cleveland’s downtown theater district.

Cleveland, Ohio is not only “The Land” for sports and steel—it also offers entertainment in the form of performing arts. Playhouse Square, the largest performing arts center outside of New York City, is located in the heart of Cleveland. The center offers a season of several off-Broadway productions, sponsored by KeyBank Broadway Series. For Clevelanders who are theater enthusiasts, the opportunities to attend productions are enticing. 

To honor my thespian roots and for the fun of it, a list of musicals that I perceive to earn “masterpiece” titles are detailed below. These famous musicals, which are in no particular rank, are well-rounded and either poignant or just irresistibly catchy. I selected these musicals based on no criteria other than personal preference. Beware: spoilers are mentioned.

“The Sound of Music”

Story by Maria Von Trapp 

Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein Ⅱ

“The Sound of Music” takes us through a merry journey with the appearance of sublime Austrian alps and heartwarming relationships. Based on a true story in Austria during World War Ⅱ, the Von Trapp family, a family of seven, is parented by an uptight father, Captain Von Trapp. As a widow, Von Trapp employs the service of Maria, a postulant at a nearby Abbey. Blitheful Maria teaches the children about music and later falls in love unexpectedly.

In the second half of the musical, the journey turns gut-wrenchingly disturbing. The Austrian family faces German invaders and are forced to abandon their home. Together, they escape the disaster that could have been. With a guitar in hand, Maria’s love for music and the family serves as a protective shield from the horrors of the state of the world.

“The Phantom of the Opera” 

Story and Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

“The Phantom of the Opera” is not only musically riveting, but it also showcases an original plot with an intense love triangle. The story behind the musical originated in a Gothic novel of the same name written by Gaston Leroux. Lloyd Webber altered the original story quite a bit for the musical. 

The musical is the longest-running show on Broadway for a reason. The characters are dynamic and some have a mysterious past, most notably the iconic Phantom. Indubitably, what drives this story is the love triangle between the Phantom, the Primadonna Christine and her childhood love Raoul. The mystifying plot coupled with dramatic operatic melodies will have the audience on the edge of their seats.

“Singin’ in the Rain” 

Story by Adolph Green and Betty Comden

Music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed

While admittedly the plot is rather flat, the music and dancing numbers in “Singin’ in the Rain” are what prevents the show from becoming forgettable. The film, starring and directed by Gene Kelly, has become a cult classic for musical theater audiences. Debbie Reynolds, rising star at the time, starred alongside Kelly. In 1983, a stage production was adapted from the 1952 film.

The stage production is famous for the rainfall that splashes while Kelly’s character performs the titular song, which can be a messy task. When done right, the audience cannot help but sing along. Because of this musical, never will viewers look at rain the same again!


Story by Winnie Holzman

Music by Stephen Schwartz

“Wicked” has a special place in my heart because it is one of the first musicals that I watched at Playhouse Square. This musical chronicles the origin story of  the Wicked Witch of the West from the “Wizard of Oz,” or as she is named in “Wicked,” Elphaba. The audience sees a different side to Elphaba: a girl who is hurt and outcasted due to her green skin. 

What makes this musical so poignant is the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. These two opposites become best friends despite the majority’s ostracization of Elphaba. They see the good in one another, but due to lifelong mistreatment, Elphaba ultimately decides not to choose good in “No Good Deed,” thus solidifying her status as the Wicked Witch of the West.

These are a couple that make my personal list. However, I still have a ton more musicals that I plan to watch. I invite suggestions for what to watch and include for next time.

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About the Contributor
Alissa Van Dress
Alissa Van Dress, Campus Editor
Alissa Van Dress is a junior English major from Amherst, Ohio. She has a concentration in professional writing with minors in business, creative writing and Spanish and Hispanic Studies. Previously, Alissa served as the copy editor at The Carroll News. In addition to her current role as campus editor, Alissa is a JCU football and basketball cheerleader, a writing consultant at the JCU Writing Center, works as a digital engagement ambassador for the JCU Carroll Fund, and serves on the visual arts committee for The Carroll Review. Also, she is honored to have co-founded the Theatre Club at John Carroll University. Other than writing, some of Alissa's favorite hobbies include musical theater, vocal performance, fashion, dance and cheerleading/acrobatics. After graduation, Alissa plans to write for children's entertainment.

To contact Alissa, email her at [email protected].

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