10 Underrated Musical Theatre Songs

If you’re a theatre kid like me, you’ll know that we have the ‘classics’ in the likes of ‘One Day More’, ‘Defying Gravity’ and ‘Seasons Of Love’, but there a hundreds of musicals and hundreds of songs out there that are equally as terrific. Whether they’re hidden gems in hit productions or from an underrated show all together, here’s my list of songs I believe never quite get the love they deserve.

1.    1. Wait A Bit – Just So  

Just So follows the adventures of Elephant’s Child, who is always asking questions, and the Kolokolo Bird, who has all the answers, as they travel to the banks of the Limpopo River in search of the giant crab, Pau Amma. (It confuses me to...) Set to an eclectic, upbeat score; Kipling’s Just So Stories are filled with wit and imagination into a song-filled journey through the jungle.

‘Wait A Bit’ is sung by the Kolokolo bird, near the beginning of Act II, shortly after having an argument with Elephant's Child in which they both blame each other for their lack of success in finding the river yet and he makes fun of her for her fear of flying.

Just So is a musical that I don’t think a lot of people know about, I’ve never really heard anybody mention it before. I’m yet to listen to the full musical myself, but this song is one of the best musical theatre songs I’ve heard in a while. The number has a beautiful melody, elegant lyrics and is hugely moving and up-lifting. It’s definitely one to add to the repertoire.

2     2. Right Hand Man – Something Rotten

Something Rotten is the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom who are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of Shakespeare himself. But when a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the brothers set out to write the world's very first musical.

Something Rotten opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre for previews on March 23, 2015 and has been a huge Broadway it. The show was due to make its UK premiere in Birmingham in September 2020, however I believe it has recently been postponed, but whenever it does happen, I’m certain the show will be just as a hit over here too. Despite its success, I don’t hear about this show too often, but it has some terrific songs. ‘Right Hand Man’ comes towards the start of Act I when Nick’s wife Bea tells him how she could be of help, but Nick is unsure. This is another great song to add to the rep. It’s perfect for altos and has great comedy elements paired with a catchy tunes and witty lyrics.

3.    3. I Can Do Better Than That – The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years composed by Jason Robert Brown tells the story of Cathy, a struggling actress, and Jamie, a budding novelist as they meet, fall in love, marry, and divorce over the course of five years. Cathy tells the story from the end of their marriage and Jamie begins from when they first met.

I’ve become obsessed with this show recently and I’m gutted I didn’t get the chance to see its recent revival at the Southwark Playhouse earlier this year. I did however buy the DVD lately and loved the film adaptation. I think the entire score is beautiful, but ‘I Can Do Better Than That’ really stood out to me and is probably my favourite on this list. The lyrics tell Cathy’s story brilliantly and I especially love Anna Kendrick’s version. You can really feel her grit and determination to make something 'more' of her life, and her voice is so pure and shines throughout the whole score. I urge you to have a listen to this one and the whole show for that matter. The songs are well balanced throughout, with the upbeat more humorous songs balancing out the slower sadder ones, making the show a joy to listen to.

4.    4. Take What You Got – Kinky Boots

Adapted from the 2005 film, Kinky Boots is the story of Charlie Price as he tries to save the Northampton shoe factory he inherited when his father died. When he meets a drag queen named Lola, Charlie soon realizes that he can save the factory by catering to a niche market: transvestites. He brings Lola on as a designer and they put together a line of ladies' footwear (for men) in time for a big fashion show in Milan.

‘Take What You Got’ is the second musical number in the show and see Charlie returning to London, as he meets his friend and fellow shoe salesman, Harry, in a pub to ask for help with the factory. Harry tells him he can only offer a temporary solution and advises Charlie not to fight the inevitable

I don’t quite know what it is about this song, but I just can’t stop listening to it. It’s one of the lesser known songs from a popular show that certainly deserves more attention. An uplifting, feel good song with an unforgettable melody that I could never get bored of.

5.    5. Who Will Love Me As I Am – Sideshow

Based on the true story of conjoined twins and famed entertainers Violet and Daisy Hilton, Sideshow is a musical about acceptance, love, and embracing one’s uniqueness. ‘Who Will Love Me As I Am’ is the power-ballad that closes the first act of the musical as the twins wonder if they will find someone to love and accept them both. A stunning reminder of the importance of accepting and celebrating what makes us unique.

6.    6. It Roars – Mean Girls

Based on the classic film, Mean Girls see Cady Heron entering a new school in Chicago, desperate to fit in and find friends. Janis and Damian befriend the new girl, and when The Plastics set their sights on Cady, Janis convinces her to be their “friend” in order to bring down Regina George’s reign.

‘It Roars’ is the second number in the show and our first introduction to Cady and her parents who have moved to a Chicago suburb from Kenya, but Cady soon realizes that her high school classmates don’t really accept others who differ from them. Mean Girls has become widely popular since it hit Broadway in 2018 but this song is one that’s not often talked about that much. Erika Henningsen in particular has a fantastic voice. The tune is catchy, and the lyrics are very funny in places - the timing of certain lines strike particularly well. Another one I find myself singing all the time.

7.    7. Unworthy of Your Love – Assassins

Assassins is the telling of nine individuals who try to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act musical that explores the dark side of the American experience.

‘Unworthy of Your Love’ comes in the middle of the show and features John Hinckley, Jr. and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme singing about their unworthy love (Jodie Foster & Charles Manson) as their drive to assassinate Ronald Regan & Gerald Ford. Now I don’t really know much about this musical at all, and I first heard this song sung by Ben Platt and Zoey Deutch from the Netflix show The Politician. However, this duet is simply beautiful. Sondheim uses the simple melody in contrast to the true meaning of the lyrics to powerful effect.

8. In – Carrie

Carrie The Musical follows a young woman with telekinetic powers who is dominated by her oppressive and religious mother. 

The music in this show is excellent, but the opening number ‘In’ is so powerful. The singing is superb, and it’s got some great harmonies! The vocal arrangements, orchestrations and edits for the recording bring the story and characters to vivid life.

9.    9. No Reason – Beetlejuice

After Barbara and Adam Maitland die in a car accident, they find themselves stuck haunting their old house, unable to leave. When Charles and Delia Deetz buy the home, the Maitland’s attempt to scare them and their teen daughter Lydia away without success. Their efforts attract Beetlejuice, a boisterous spirit whose "help" quickly becomes dangerous for the Maitland’s and innocent Lydia.

Beetlejuice has become a huge success since it debuted on Broadway in 2019 and is probably in my top 3 shows I’m desperate to see! It’s got an incredible score and some songs have become huge hits, but there’s many that are talked about frequently that are just as great. ‘No Reason’ comes mid-way through Act I and sees Delia telling Lydia that everything happens for a reason, but fails to get her in a positive state of mind. Leslie Kritzer as Delia gives a wonderful comedic performance during this melodious song, along with Sophia Anne Caruso who has an amazing voice for someone so young. If you’ve not yet heard the score to Beetlejuice The Musical I 100% recommend it.

       10. The Last Real Record Store On Earth – High Fidelity

This show follows the adventures of Rob, a record store owner who knows almost everything there is to know about pop music, but almost nothing about how to keep a girl. When his girlfriend Laura leaves him, he goes through a painful re-evaluation of his life and lost loves, and slowly learns that he must grow up before he can find real happiness.

‘The Last Real Record Store on Earth’ begins the show and introduces us to Rob and other characters. I could have picked any song from this show to end this list as the whole show is simply incredible. The music soars and the lyrics are well-written and comedic. It’s such an underrated show and if you listen any of the score, its opening number gives you a real insight to the rest of the show. This really is a hidden gem of the musical theatre world.

There are so many more songs I could have included in this list and I’m sure there’s loads I haven’t yet heard myself. A part 2 to this will most likely be on its way soon. What are your favourite underrated musical theatre songs? I’d love to hear your list!

Mia x