Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The Soundtrack of Our Lives: The Teen and I Discuss what Musical Theater Means to Theater Teens and Why Librarians Should, and Can, Care

There are a lot of different ways to tell a story and books are just one of them. No one was more surprised then me when The Teen signed up for musical theater in the 7th grade. I have no talent to pass on and this child of mine is introverted and shy so it never occurred to me that in theater, she would find herself and her people. She is now a junior and I have seen her perform in 6 musicals, 6 plays, and win 2 awards. More than that, it has been my greatest parental joy to see her happy, fulfilled, working hard, succeeding and just finding herself.

The Teen in Sweeney Todd

She is one of many teens who find themselves in theater. Theater kids are her friends and her family. And like many teens around our world, they speak a lot in musicals. Today she has put together this list of her and her friends favorite songs from the musicals that speak to them and shares what they mean to her. Want to know about teens and what they’re thinking about? Don’t forget about the theater kids.

The Teen’s Musical Playlist

A list of songs from various musicals and why they matter.

Dead Mom from Beetlejuice

This musical is very easy to relate to. A lot of people have lost someone who they loved and relied on. It can be hard for people to talk about that but this song really captures how it feels to experience a lose.

She Used to Be Mine from Waitress

This musical is truly beautiful. It talks about wishing you could go back and change the things that you did in the past because you aren’t living a happy life. As the musical progresses the main character begins to accept that she made mistakes and realize that who she has become is enough.

In My Dreams from Anastasia

This song is just so extraordinary. It sounds so amazing and the singer has a stunning voice.

Lifeboat from Heather

This song gives us insight into the life of one of the Heathers. Se talks about how she wishes she didn’t have to be the way she was but she feels like she has no choice.

I Don’t Need Your Love from Six

This musical is so fun and it actually talks about something important. This musical is about the six wives of Henry the VIII. This song is about his last wife and she sings about how she shouldn’t be known for who her husband was because she was so much more than that.

In the Air Tonight from American Psycho

This musical sounds super cool and the Eleventh Doctor is in it. It is a very violent show but if you look past that it has some really awesome music.

I Like It from A Bronx Tale

This musical is very underrated. It has some amazing music and it talks about how greed can lead to so many problems.

Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening

This song has so much depth. It sounds so meaningful and it has so much heart.

Wait for Me from Hadestown

Amazing voices, amazing choreography, and amazing set. Just an all around amazing performance and show.

Rockin’ Jerusalem from Choir Boy

This may not technically be a musical but the songs are beautiful. Every voice is meant to be heard.

Turn it Off from The Book of Mormon

This song is hilarious. It is absolutely ridiculous and so fun. You can’t help but sing along.

High Adventure from Aladdin

This musical is fun and this song is even more fun. It makes you want to go on a high adventure.

Requiem from Dear Evan Hansen

This is my favorite song from the whole musical. It talks about how the sister of the boy who committed suicide can’t feel sad about losing him because he really wasn’t that good to them. It sounds so enchanting and it makes me cry every time.

One Normal Night from The Addams Family

If you love the movie then there is a good chance that you will love this musical. It really adds a fun little extra bit to the family.

City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

The Teen and cast sing City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

After doing this show I always find myself thinking about this song. It was awful to learn how to sing because it’s all over the place but it was so fun.

Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof

This musical made me mad when it ended but the opening really sets up for a spectacular show.

Think of Me from The Phantom of the Opera

All of the songs in the show are amazing and this musical will always be a classic.

Tango: Maureen from Rent

Everyone knows the opening song for this musical but this song is also amazing.

No Me Diga from In the Heights

This is one of the most funny songs from the show. It is just so fun to sing along to.

Cell Block Tango from Chicago

This song is known by everyone in theatre. It makes you want to be in jail just so you could do something like this.

A Few More Thoughts from a Teen Librarian on Public Libraries and Musical Theater

You’ll notice that she left Hamilton off of this list. Make no mistake, we went through our Hamilton phase and wore that soundtrack out. Hamilton singalongs were and are a ton of fun. I’ve even done a few High School Musical singalongs when the movie was popular. These are just a few ways you can incorporate musical theater into your teen services.

Want to know how you can incorporate musical theater into your programming and support local teens and your local schools? Start networking with your local drama teacher and ask them to do a special sneak peek of upcoming musicals at your library. They can sing a couple of songs in costume, do a meet and greet, and generate PR while you get some fun, arts based, and community networked programming. You don’t need scenes or props, just local teens in costume singing a couple of songs to generate interest and community support. On the occasions when I have worked in libraries that did this, they were tremendously successful. You have a somewhat built in audience because every kid that comes and performs will bring some parents and friends with them.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a fun book about teens and theater

You can also find out far enough in advance what those upcoming high school musicals are to make read-alike book lists, put up displays, and help promote community events. YA Librarian Cindy Shutts and coworkers have started a great series of Broadway Booklists to help get your started: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown, and Prom: The Musical. You can bundle the books on the lists with the soundtracks and the movie if they’re available and make binge kits and circulating bundles.

There are also a lot of book lists out there for tweens and teens who love musical theater. You’ll definitely want to check out the classic No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman about a young boy who turns a book report into a musical theater rock opera . . . on roller skates. Goodreads has a book list of 63 YA titles that deal with theater, not just musical theater.

You can do workshops, viewings, singalongs and more. Teach teens how to use technology to create their own playlists. Set up a music writing station as suggested by Mary Amato in this post. Circulate ukuleles. Make-up, costuming, graphic design and more are all ways that you can incorporate musical theater and theater in general into your library programming. Network with your local schools, community theaters, and your very own teens.

And Scene . . .

The Teen writing her musical playlist list for you

Before writing this post, The Teen, Thing 2 and I just finished watching High School Musical, The Musical, The Show on Disney+. The Teen cried through the last two episodes because it captured perfectly everything that musical theater means to her. It’s about the grit that is required when life throws you every curve ball, because as you know, the show must go on. It’s also about finding your family, which I am so glad happens for these kids.

Teens crave ways to express themselves creatively, they crave finding a place that they can belong and feel comfortably accepted as self, and they thrive when they are supported by the adults in their lives and their communities. Supporting the arts and bringing them into our libraries in creative ways can make all of this happen.

Books for fans of Hamilton: an American Musical, a guest post by Maisie

Today as part of our week dedicated to Broadway musicals, because why not, teen librarian Maisie shares with us a list of read-alikes for the hit musical Hamilton.

Hamilton: An American Musical, for those who don’t know, is a hip-hop musical that follows the life of Alexander Hamilton–you know, the founding father? It follows Hamilton from his arrival in the US to the end of his life, spanning the Revolutionary War, his marriage, and the founding of the United States.  It has become a cultural touchstone and broke the record for the most Tony nominations in 2016! While I love the music, the humor, and the fact there are several songs that make me weep uncontrollably; my favorite part of this musical is I can talk to theater kids and non-theater kids about it at my library. Everyone loves Hamilton, and that’s pretty amazing!

Their performance from the 70th Annual Tony Awards features the original cast and has a fun cameo from Barack and Michelle Obama!

But people love Hamilton for different reasons, so the read-a-likes below are broken into three categories: books for teens who loved Alexander Hamilton the person, books for teens who loved the hip-hop, and books for teens who loved this take on history. Find those suggestions below:
             

If you loved Alexander Hamilton the person:

Alex & Eliza : a Love Story by Melissa De la Cruz

When Alex and Eliza meet one fateful night, an epic love story begins that would forever change the course of American history. The first book of a recently finished trilogy!

Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship by Laura Elliot

In the throes of the Revolutionary War, Peggy Schuyler finds herself a central figure amid Loyalists and Patriots, spies and traitors, friends and family. Among those friends, she develops a relationship with Alexander Hamilton, who becomes romantically involved with her sister, Eliza.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manuel Miranda 

This book offers a behind-the-scenes view of Hamilton the musical, detailing the many dramatic episodes in Alexander Hamilton’s life.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow 

Though a longer adult biography, this is also the biography of Hamilton that inspired the musical and totally approachable for older teens!

Alexander Hamilton : the graphic history of an American founding father by Jonathan Henessey

This complete graphic novel-style biography presents the life and legacy of one of the most influential figures in United States history.

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough 

Complex, passionate, brilliant, flawed? Alexander Hamilton comes alive in Martha Brockenbrough’s exciting biography Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary, which is an essential read fans of Hamilton.

If you loved the hip-hop:

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

When a young black teen is murdered, his two best friends decide to keep his memory alive by promoting his music — rhymes that could turn any hangout into a party — with the help of his younger sister, Jasmine, who is out for justice. As the buzz builds, it forces Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine, to each confront the death in their own ways.

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

Rani Patel, almost seventeen and living on remote Moloka’i island, is oppressed by the cultural norms of her Gujarati immigrant parents but when Mark, an older man, draws her into new experiences red flags abound.

Spin by Lamar Giles

When DJ ParSec (Paris Secord), rising star of the local music scene, is found dead over her turntables, the two girls who found her are torn between grief for Paris and hatred for each other–but when the lack of obvious suspects stalls the investigation, and the police seem to lose interest, the two girls unite, determined to find out who murdered their friend.

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

In the New York City borough of Queens in 1996, three girls bond over their shared love of Tupac Shakur’s music, as together they try to make sense of the unpredictable world in which they live.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, she discovers slam poetry, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers, especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

If you loved the history…

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the nation. 1, The pox party by M.T. Anderson

Various diaries, letters, and other manuscripts chronicle the experiences of Octavian, a young African American, from birth to age sixteen, as he is brought up as part of a science experiment in the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Henry “Monty” Montague was bred to be a gentleman. His passions for gambling halls and late nights spent with a bottle of spirits have earned the disapproval of his father. His quest for pleasures and vices have led to one last hurrah as Monty, his best friend and crush Percy, and Monty’s sister Felicity begin a Grand Tour of Europe. When a reckless decision turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything Monty knows.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

After being sold to a cruel couple in New York City, a slave named Isabel spies for the rebels during the Revolutionary War.

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

A fictionalized account, told in verse, of the Salem witch trials, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692–Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam, Jr.

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand

You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester–and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she? Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems…

Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance when she is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.

The Notorious Benedict Arnold : a True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery by Steve Sheinkin

Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America’s first, most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true adventure tale.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Maisie is a teen librarian for the White Oak Library District who loves musicals, bogs, and Diana Wynne Jones novels. They live with two fat cats and way too many plants.