The Shows Must Go On: Free Musicals


Opinion Editor

    The pandemic has brought a myriad of changes, some for the better, and some for the worse, but one thing is abundantly clear: it has given many people pause. While many have used this extra time at home to focus on self-care, take up new hobbies (like baking or gardening), watch TV and movies and listen to music, or implement a more efficient workspace at home, one piece of the puzzle has been largely neglected: musical theatre. After Broadway went dark in the early stages of quarantine and COVID-19, shows were cancelled and actors and performance artists alike were forced to stay home, social distance, and make do with their individual musical talents. Those involved with theatre in their schools and local communities quickly followed suit. But now, both Broadway actors and local performers, including students and staff here at SMHS, have slowly begun to emerge from their creative shells in a safe manner as theatrical spaces start to reopen.

“I was…just in a Santa Barbara City College show (called Looking Back, Looking Forward) that…performed behind plexi-glass screens…for a streaming event,” said SMHS Theatre Director Mrs. Saleh. “It was a really unique experience but I am in favor of any form of art in this unusual time.” 

Mrs. Saleh performs a song from Avenue Q, in Looking Back, Looking Forward. Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara City College

Actors have tried to keep musical theatre alive even during the coronavirus by hosting Zoom singalongs and other special streaming events, but one channel on YouTube stands out in particular: The Shows Must Go On (TSMGO). 

TSMGO commenced April 2, 2020 by order of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, an EGOT since 2018 (that is, the winner of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) who is best known for his decades-long-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, and possibly his most controversial musical, Cats. According to his official video announcement’s description on YouTube, “Starting this Friday [April 3, 2020], we’ll be releasing a full-length, smash-hit musical once a week for you to watch for free! It will be available for 48 hours, so you can tune in whenever you like over the weekend!” Ever since the channel started, Webber’s own musicals, some of which include not just Phantom and Cats, but Evita, Sunset Boulevard, and even the little-known By Jeeves, have aired. 

A clip of Christine and the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera. Summer Slotnick-Lastrico/The King’s Page

A few notable events and live versions of musicals from other creators besides Andrew Lloyd Webber have also gotten the spotlight on TSMGO, including The Wiz Live! (directed by Kenny Leon and Matthew Diamond), Peter Pan Live! (directed by Rob Ashford and Glenn Weiss), Hairspray Live! (directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski), and, most recently, Midnight Tango (which, according to IMDB, is “choreographed by Arlene Phillips”). There is a catch, though: each show premiere happens at 11 AM Pacific Standard Time on Fridays, so Santa Barbara viewers, for example, would have until 11 AM Sundays to watch a musical or event lasting up to 3 hours in some cases. After that, the video becomes private. For those who miss the opportunity to see a show, or want to relive the magic of the production, clips of certain songs from each musical aired remain on the channel for future reference. Each musical is usually available to download and keep for a reasonable price, while it is still up for public viewing, during those 48 hours. 

The channel header for TSMGO, which has gained over a million subscribers since its start in April. Summer Slotnick-Lastrico/The King’s Page

The best part of TSMGO, though, is not the fact that their musicals and events are free to watch, full length, and high definition. The best part is that all of the channel’s proceeds go towards notable charities, many of which support those involved in the arts. There is a donate button underneath every full-length show that airs, and TSMGO has already raised thousands of dollars for these good causes. Every little bit counts, and they realize that not everyone will be able to donate. If you can’t go out for in person entertainment, and you’re tired of watching movies and TV, give musicals from The Shows Must Go On a try. You may just find your new favorite show—Broadway show, that is!