TRAVEL FROM HOME: Musicals are the hottest ticket if you really miss travelling


In the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Sunset Boulevard, Norma sings: ‘We’ll show them all nothing has changed. We’ll give the world new ways to dream. Everyone needs new ways to dream’. I mean, sure, these are the rambling words of a depressed, suicidal movie star, but since now we can only travel from home, I think most of us can relate. Am I right?

Last week, I was dancing in the kitchen with baby Isobel to the marginally inappropriate ‘the heat is on’ from Miss Saigon, when I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to pack a bag, head to the airport and flee to Vietnam. As Lea Salonga sings that Kim’s heart is like the sea, I imagined myself sitting on the limestone rock at Ha Long Bay, slurping noodles as a thousand lanterns float into the sky to celebrate the full moon. After the sombre middle eight, the song picks up again with a brass-fuelled, neon jazz finale. In just four minutes, I had travelled somewhere further than my front garden and greater than my imagination. The feeling lifted me 31,000 feet in the air.

How musical theatre is the ticket to travel from home if you really miss travelling

Music does that, doesn’t it? It takes you places. For me, musical theatre in particular has the ability to transport me somewhere so effortlessly. Sometimes it’s to the time and place I first watched a song performed live. With these five simple chords, suddenly I’m ten-year-old me with my mum at The Palace theatre in London, taking my seat to watch the first (of twelve, to date) performances of Les Miserables. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my first taste of giddying euphoria.

travel from home musicals les mis
Final curtain on Les Miserables: The concert (Image: Helen Wright)

More often, it’s the places to which you are transported through music and art that resonate. Take the opening ballad for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; You could be anywhere in the world watching this sinister Sondheim masterpiece, but as the lights go down, you’re right there standing on a drizzly, cobbled street in Victorian London. But, hey, don’t hang around too long, you might get minced and served with some mash and liquor… (More importantly, 19th Century England was bleak and the River Thames was basically an open sewer, so that’s one location I’m definitely glad we can’t travel to).

Musical theatre can help mental health

This year, we’ve been forced inside, our passions extinguished. I knew I would miss travel, but during my five minute mini break to Ho Chi Minh City, it suddenly dawned on my how much I was missing the theatre too. There is a similarity, in the anticipation of escaping for a holiday, to the excitement you feel when you finally see a show you’ve waited years for. Musicals are often unfairly considered the Skegness of the theatre world and their bouncy, colloquial riffs passed off as silly and unrealistic. But when you’re feeling gloomy about life, what’s better than a break from reality?

In fact, if you’re feeling down, listening to upbeat, happy tunes can be just the therapy you need. Neuroimaging has shown that songs stimulate many different areas of the brain, and give us a hit of dopamine while they’re at it. Neuroscientist Jacob Jolij actually analysed the beats per minute, theme, key and lyrics from upbeat songs and determined the average tempo of a ‘feel good’ track was around 140-150 beats per minute (BMP).

To put that into real terms, ‘You can’t stop the beat’ from Hairspray comes in at 166 BMP, so crank up that bad boy in the morning and every day is a party!

Sad songs have a happy ending

Even if your favourite musical score depicts squalor during the French revolution, unrequited love, homophobia, racism or other depressing themes, research has also found that sad songs can have an uplifting effect. This study found that sad songs are psychophysiologically calming, which is actually good for your emotional health and can make you feel better afterwards. If there is ever a song to make you grateful to be safe in your bubble it’s Maria sobbing over Tony’s body or Alexander Hamilton lamenting that ‘It’s quiet uptown’.

Even musicals that take place in fantasy settings and make little or no sense (I’m looking at you Cats) can speak to us directly, because musical theatre defies all reality. Who can honestly say they haven’t fantasised about venting their anger or frustration by bursting into song? Eliza tells Hamilton ‘you are paranoid in every paragraph, how they perceive you. You, you, YOU!’. You can hear the rage; this woman is furious, but it sounds great.

Wouldn’t it all just be better if we could over-share to our friends with a passionate, yet tuneful inner monologue à la Everything’s coming up Roses? If you’ve never wanted to break into a chorus of ‘and I’m telling you, I’m not going‘ at the airport home from a great holiday, this post isn’t for you. (Click here to return to the home page).

Travel from home: escape with escapism

travel from home harry potter musical
Get lost in your favourite location (Image:

Of course it’s ridiculous, but that’s the point isn’t it? With everything that has been going on, why wouldn’t we want to get lost in a world of song, dance and escapism? It’s the perfect way to travel from home. We can’t jet off anywhere at the moment, but we can board the ‘Starlight Express’ or follow the ‘Wicked’ witches along the yellow brick road. You can listen to the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ or take a walk down ‘42nd street’. You can even go ‘Into The Woods’ or spend ‘Sunday in the Park with George’. (OK, I’ll stop now)

In 1968, Lloyd Webber wrote ‘Close every door to me, hide all the world from me,’ for Joseph. Little did he know, that 42 years later, that sentiment would take on a whole new meaning during a global pandemic. It’s fair to say his other lyrical offering, ‘I kept my promise, don’t keep your distance’ from Evita, possibly hasn’t aged so well for the Covid generation…

Fancy taking a trip down musical lane? We have an itinerary for you – 21 musicals that let you travel from home – and remember that even when times are rough, ‘the darkest night will end and the sun will rise’ (Last one, promise!).

Travel with musicals around the world

21 brilliant musicals that will inspire your next trip (when we can travel again)

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Scottsdale’s colourful wall art (image:

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1. Miss Saigon

Where: Vietnam

Set at the end of the war in Vietnam, the musical tackles the doomed love affair of a Vietnamese teenager and an American soldier during the fall of Saigon. Despite the depressing subject, Miss Saigon dazzles with a soundtrack of punchy rock ballads and soul-stirring love songs, often blended with the melancholic harmonies of Asian panpipes (paixiao).

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: The Heat is on in Saigon. A bouncy jazz track that makes you want to throw down your backpack and party along Pham Ngu Lao.
Don’t miss: Sun and Moon. A love song set on the deck of a wooden hut overlooking the rice fields at moonlight.

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Beautiful and cultural Vietnam (Image: Roberto Trombetta)

In real life:
Vietnam today is nothing like the desperate and impoverished peasant village, as depicted in Miss Saigon (in fact, the Musical has faced some backlash in recent years for its whitewashing of, what the Vietnamese call, the ‘American War’, and for it’s sexist and racist themes). In contrast, Vietnam is thriving. A mesmerising, fascinating and beautiful country with exciting cities that have so much to offer, it should frankly, be at the top of everyone’s travel bucket list

2. Mamma Mia!

Where: Greek Islands

I’m not going to lie; I hated this musical. (That still hasn’t stopped me from seeing it three times, I should point out). It was the first ‘jukebox’ musical I had ever seen and after growing up with the masters – Rice and Webber, Rodgers and Hamerstein, Boublil and Schönberg, – I was completely thrown by the sporadic bursting into song. Songs that had been shoehorned into an, actually quite weird when you think about it, story just seemed lazy and ridiculous. Plus, it played directly to the critics who sneer at ‘opera-style’ plays (musicals) where much of the dialogue is sung, passing them off as the tacky black swans of the theatre world.

Fun in the sun (Image: Universal Pictures)

Anyway, Mamma Mia! has since earned £3 billion at the theatre box office, inspired two smash hit Hollywood films and become the highest grossing musical film of all time, so what do I know, eh? What I will say is that there can be no denying the genius of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and the perfection of Abba songs, so I’m not actually surprised at the success of Mamma Mia! Plus, the perky blue and white aesthetic makes me fantasise about living on a sunny Greek island and floating about in white dresses eating Tzatziki all day. I liked the films MUCH more, so I think I’ll stick to the movie version in future – which is actually perfect for lockdown, so the winner takes it all!

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Does your mother know? Such a perky song for holiday romance nostalgia.
Don’t miss: Our Last Summer. ‘memories that remain’ (Don’t mind me while I have a little sob about how long it’s been since I had a holiday)

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Island life on the Greek islands (Image: dronepicr)

In real life:
The Sporades Greek islands are dotted along Greece’s eastern coast, surrounded by white sandy beaches and perfect Aegean waters. Skiathos is the most popular island but it’s Skopelos that stands in for the fictional ‘Kalokairi’ in Mamma Mia and is now famous for its rugged scenery and quiet ‘Greekness’ (even though, thanks to the movie, it can be overcrowded in summer). You can even visit the wedding chapel from the film version of the musical, Ayios Ioannis Kastri, and walk up the steps to the idyllic cliff top church.

3. Come From Away

Where: Newfoundland, Canada

If there was ever a production that celebrates both musicals and travel, it’s the ridiculously uplifting musical, Come From Away. Set after the events of September 11th 2001, it follows the story of a tiny town in Canada that was asked to take in 7,000 airline passengers, whose planes were stranded in the skies after the atrocities. The charming musical is packed with upbeat songs and heart-warming stories, all based on real life. Plus, there is a fantastic sub-plot as one of the plane’s pilots, Beverley Bass, was the first female captain to ever fly with American Airlines. This part of the story was actually the original inspiration behind the musical, and the story grew from there. I mean, you couldn’t make it up, could you? And they didn’t have to!

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: 28 Hours. This theatrical track explains the unique situation along with the fear and confusion for all involved. As someone who travels a lot, it makes me cry every time.
Don’t miss: Me and the Sky. This girl power ballad sung by Beverley talks about never giving up on your dreams.

come from away canada
Newfoundland has fresh air and fresh fish (Image: Megan Cole)

In real life:
Sat on the north-east corner of Canada, extending into the ocean, Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the most distinctive and unique places on the continent. Watch giant Orca splash down in clear blue waters as towering icebergs float serenely in the distance. Feast on daily-caught fish and chips, washed down with a celebrated Nova Scotia l’Acadie Blanc. If you’re up at dawn you can enjoy the first sunrise in North America, yet surprisingly enough, this picture-perfect destination is just a five hour 30 min flight from the UK.

Why did all the planes stop in Gander?

You may think this tiny town is an unlikely location for an international airport, but, in fact, Gander International Airport is one of the world’s most significant aviation destinations. It was from here that Alcock and Brown embarked on the world’s first nonstop transatlantic flight and was also a runway frequently used by Amelia Earhart. Back when passenger planes couldn’t make it all the way across the Atlantic without stopping, Gander was the perfect refueling stop for pre-jet engine aircraft and by the mid-50s, was one of the busiest airports in the world.

4. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Where: Australia

Like the cult movie, Priscilla Queen of the Desert follows a fabulous Aussie drag trio as they take their show to the Australian outback. The fabulous three set off on a road trip in a battered old bus (nicknamed Priscilla) complete with outlandish costumes and a killer soundtrack. Expect to hear all your favourites, including ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘I Will Survive’ and ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

From the soundtrack:

Travel from home with: MacArthur Park. This Donna Summer favourite about heartbreak is a perfect road trip singalong.
Don’t miss: I’ve never been to me. A coming of age number that talks about travelling around the world in order to find yourself.

In real life:

Make like the queens and explore the ancient landscapes of Central Australia on an iconic Aussie road trip. The 705-mile Red Centre Way road trip is one of the Northern Territory’s most iconic journeys, beginning in Alice Springs, then making its way to Tjoritja/West MacDonnell Ranges, Watarrka/Kings Canyon, and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

5. The Lion King

Where: Africa

A soundtrack that doesn’t need any introduction. As well as childhood nostalgia and Elton John brilliance, the Oscar winning soundtrack celebrates the sacred beauty of the animal kingdom.

From the soundtrack:

Travel from home with: Circle of Life. ‘From the day we arrive on the planet and blinking, step into the sun. There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen. More to do than can ever be done’ sums up a travel fan’s biggest dilemma.
Don’t miss: They live in you. A beautiful melody that talks about how we live on in the hearts of those we leave behind.

where is the lion king set
The Lion King is the wild one (Marc Veraart)

In real life:
Did you know, you can actually travel to the very location of The Lion King? In Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, Hell’s Gate National Park offers a breathtaking lookout over sweeping cliffs, carved out by a prehistoric lake and the view that inspired Pride Rock. Roughly two hours from Nairobi, the park is not under threat from predators (so you won’t see Simba – which is Swahili for Lion) but you can roam savannas and wander with with giraffe, zebra, antelope, and warthogs without threat.

6. In The Heights

Where: Puerto Rico

This Tony award-winning musical, was Lin Manuel Miranda’s debut and definitely not celebrated enough for being the genre-defining, original hip hop musical that it was. Set in New York’s Washington Heights suburb, which is populated with Dominican-American and Puerto Rican immigrants, In The Heights follows the community as they deal with rising rents, financial struggles, love and losses in 90s America. The soundtrack combines Latin rhythms and dance with hip-hop lyrics to tell a beautiful and heart-warming story. (*Yes, we know it’s set in New York City but In The Heights joyfully celebrates Puerto Rican colour and heritage, so that’s where it takes us to)

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Carnival de Barrio. The sound of Puerto Rico bursts into life in this vibrant ear worm.
Don’t miss: 96,000. This epic song moves seamlessly through different musical styles to portray how different characters would react if they won the lottery.

in the heights Puerto Rico
Colourful Puerto Rico

In real life:
Old San Juan is decorated with elegant cobbled streets and restored Spanish-colonial buildings. It’s exactly what I imagined Havana would be like, but wasn’t. The city is one of the Caribbean’s most attractive urban destinations. The nightlife is lively and hipster bars are thriving thanks to a winning combination of the American dollar and Caribbean charm. The island is ideal for a road trip. Highlights include: El Yunque subtropical rainforest; the Camuy Caves and the Arecibo Observatory (which got a starring role in James Bond’s GoldenEye).

7. Hairspray

Where: Baltimore, USA

Believe it or not, Hamilton wasn’t the first popular musical to celebrate race and inclusivity. This perky pop soundtrack follows a young girl desperate to be picked for a cheesy dance show and then uses her popularity to protest against segregation in 60s Baltimore.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Welcome to the 60s. Controversial not to choose the show’s big number (and ‘feel good’ track ‘You can’t stop the beat’). But, for me, the song that perfectly summerises what this show is ultimately about – change – is this catchy track.
Don’t miss: I know where I am going. Powerhouse number still relevant for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

In real life:
Baltimore is a curious destination that has earned the nickname ‘city of neighbourhoods’ over recent years. From street to street, you don’t really know what you’re going to stumble across next. And that’s part of the fun! Canton is the trendy area, with independent bars, cafes and stores and a definite young professional vibe. Tourists usually start at the picturesque Inner Harbor, but year-round, there is always something going on in Baltimore from food and wine festivals, arts pop ups and historic events.

8. Hamilton

Where: Washington DC and the Capital Region

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years, you’ll already know that Hamilton is the Pulitzer Prize, Tony, Olivier and Grammy-winning musical based on the story of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. The music and lyrics, both by Lin Manuel Miranda, are a masterpiece comprised of lyrical show tunes, power ballads, rap-battles and, of course, hip hop.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Yorktown (The World Turns Upside Down). An energetic and descriptive banger that sums up the minds and motivations of the key players.
Don’t miss: Wait For It. YES, I know it’s not ‘Satisfied’ (arguably the best song in the show and maybe ever) but ‘Wait For It’ is the story-defining track for me. Described perfectly by Miranda himself;  ‘[Burr] is a guy who is scared of losing what he has, as opposed to Hamilton who has nothing to lose and is just ready to get everything he can’.
Plus, the precipitando after the pause at 01:31 is perfection… just wait for it.

guide to Virginia usa
Sailing ships in the harbour (Pic: L. Allen Brewer)

In real life:
You may think it’s all happening in Manhattan ‘the greatest city in the world’ but, Hamilton’s story stretches further than Harlem and ‘Kings College’ (now Columbia University). Take Thomas Jefferson’s camp comeback, for example: ‘So what’d I miss? Virginia, my home sweet home, I want to give you a kiss’. The Capital Region comprises of Washington DC and the neighbouring states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s really a destination where history and culture thrive, especially for anyone interested in the founding fathers and the abolishment of slavery. You can visit the Yorktown Battlefield (Virginia), the Library of Congress (where Hamilton ‘writes like he’s running out of time’) and the Treasury Building, both in Washington D.C.

9. Once

Where: Dublin, Ireland

When I first met my partner, he wasn’t really someone who went to see musicals. So, for his crash course in musical excellence, I eased him in gently with this simple and beautiful musical by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. It follows a Dublin busker and a Czech musician – who unexpectedly fall in love. The story only takes place over five days, but it helps them see the world differently.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Falling Slowly. The Academy Award-winning song is the standout track.
Don’t miss: If you want me. A melodic tale of loneliness and longing.

In real life:
Dublin is a feisty city with a heady mix of pretty much everything you could want from life, all played out to the sound of the Irish fiddle. Whether it’s downing Guinness on Grafton Street or a romantic stroll along the Liffey river or in Phoenix Park, you’ll probably encounter a busker or twelve along the way. Celebrated for its Irish charm, this is a city that embraces love and/or whisky. And that’s a yes from me.

10. Book of Morman

Where: Utah

This musical is so funny that when I first saw it, I hit my head on the seat in front because I was laughing so much (London theatres are very compact). I was so caught up in the comedy, that it was only when I saw it for the second time that I truly appreciated the fantastic musical contribution. Music and lyrics for Book of Morman were written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, and Robert Lopez who co-wrote Disney’s Frozen. An unlikely team, you may think, but together they have created a modern musical masterpiece. In essence, the tongue-in-cheek story follows two young missionaries as they travel to Uganda to convert locals to the religion of the Latter Day Saints, but realise that poverty, famine, AIDS and gang culture is a more pressing issue.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: All American Prophet. It’s hard not to mock Mormonism after this…
Don’t miss: Turn it off. Delivers a funny, yet powerful message that feelings and emotions should not be surpassed at the cost of your happiness.

where is book of morman set
Salt Lake City is beautiful (Image: Garrett)

In real life:
It’s true that the majority of this musical takes place in Uganda, but since the whole thing is just one big piss take, we decided to focus on the Morman Headquarters, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is in Salt Lake City, Utah. Known as Temple Square, the church is among Salt Lake City’s top tourist haunts and the 35-acre area contains more than 15 attractions related to Mormon heritage and beliefs. Beyond the M-ourism, Salt Lake City is actually a beautiful destination, which benefits from 220 days of sunshine every year. The Bonneville Salt Flats, Grandeur Peak and the Utah Olympic Park (home to the 2002 Olympics) are the top spots to check out.

11. Cabaret

Where: Berlin, Germany

Cabaret, written by Kander and Ebb and originally choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, was a ground-breaking musical for its time (1972) looking at gritty politics, anti-Semitism and complicated relationships, instead of the usual, winning formula of happiness and optimism. Set in 1931 Germany at the early rise of the Nazi party, the central character is a flamboyant American cabaret performer, Sally Bowles, who dazzles with an infectious joie de vivre and represents liberation within the clutches of repression.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Mein Herr. Sally’s power song ‘my man’ portrays a woman who wont let anyone control her.
Don’t miss: Maybe This Time. Sally’s eternal optimism played out in a three-minute belter.

In real life:
Just like the musical, Berlin is bloody cool. The city celebrates eccentricity, a result of a liberation still being celebrated over 30 years since the Berlin Wall fell. As well as über cool bars, hipster pop-ups and shopping, Berlin holds such a fascinating history, it’s almost as though all of this won’t work side-by-side, but it does. Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (which translates to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) consists of 2,711 concrete blocks made to remember the six million Jewish victims of the Third Reich and is quite incredible.

12. The Sound of Music

Where: Austria

Another musical set on the eve of World War II, but this one has a far more wholesome vibe. Based on the real life story of the Von Trapp Family, tomboyish nun Maria becomes governess to a widowed naval captain with seven children, and (understanding the uplifting power of musicals) brings a new chapter of life, love and music into the home.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: The Loney Goatheard. This fresh song includes yodeling, the traditional music of the Austrian Alps, so you’re transported right there.
Don’t miss: Edelweiss. Named after the white flower that blooms in the Alps. This lullaby serves as both a love song to a person and a love song to the country.

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The hills are ‘live’ if you go to Austria (Image: Norbert Rupp)

In real life:
Visiting the sites of The Sound of Music isn’t quite as easy as Do-Re-Me, but many a tour company will offer to take you. Mehlweg Mountain is actually set on private land, but the surrounding area is equally as captivating. You can, however, get a selfie by the gazebo where Liesl and Rolfe kissed, visit Nonnberg Abbey and Mirabell Gardens (in Salzburg) and get a look at the magnificent Gothic church in Mondsee, 20 minutes outside the city. Perhaps, these may become a few of your favourite things… Boom.

13. On the town

Where: New York City

It was really difficult to choose a musical to represent New York. From toe tapping spectacles like 42nd Street and A Chorus Line, to the darker West Side Story and Rent, they all tell a little bit of New York’s story. But, in the end it came down to a soundtrack that really makes you want to go to NYC and see and do as much as possible, so it had to be On The Town. The musical, by Leonard Bernstein and Comden and Greenwas, follows three sailors who have 24-hours to spend in NYC and includes many legendary musical numbers that have gone into history as the sound of New York City.

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The sound of New York (Image: Paolo Margari)

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: New York, New York (what else?)
Don’t miss: Lucky to be me. ‘Now that I’ve found you, I’ve changed my point of view’. This is what I will be singing when I finally get to go back!

14. Waitress

Where: USA

Sarah Bareilles’ Waitress is one of the West End’s most underrated soundtracks. Bouncy upbeat songs get you toe tapping to a subtext of everyday struggles in small town America. One of my absolute favourites, this heart warming, feminist musical mirrors exactly the diner that provides its main setting. Simple, strong and solid, where the coffee is hot and the welcome is warm.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Opening up. The melodic serving of plates and stirring of coffee takes you directly to any classic diner in the USA during the atmospheric breakfast rush.
Don’t miss: It’s soooo hard to choose (because ‘I didn’t plan it’, ‘Take it from an old man’ and The Negative’ all serve up some excellent storytelling) but I had to go with ‘She Used To Be Mine’- the show’s standout song that laments the realty of life when it doesn’t go your way.

I can’t resist a 50s-style diner when I am in the USA (Image:

In real life:
We have done our fair share of U.S road trips, including to California, Virginia, Florida and Oregon, and all of them definitely included a roadside diner or a local restaurant in a small town – and I love them all! A friendly server armed with coffee and a stack of pancakes is just a slice of the wholesome Americana you can experience on the road and it takes your mind off ugly politics to focus on the real lives of residents in rural America.

15. South Pacific

Where: Hawaii

An American nurse stationed at a U.S. Naval base on a South Pacific island during World War II, falls in love with a French plantation owner, but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. Racial prejudice is the running theme of the musical but comic songs and performances keep the story upbeat.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Bali Ha’i. Polynesian melodies lead in this soliloquy about island life.
Don’t miss: I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair’ – get your west coast swing on and shimmy down the beach with this power track that literally says ‘her guy is getting cancelled’. Trust Oscar Hammerstein to predict the buzzword of 2020.

travel from home musicals on tour
We’d happily fly anywhere in the South Pacific right now! (Image: Johnny Silvercloud)

In real life:
The island depicted in South Pacific is undefined, so we’re just going to ride that Polynesian vibe and take ourselves off to the islands of Hawaii. Deciding where to go in Hawaii is a tricky one if you have never been, but for a good all-rounder, tropical happy hours and beautiful beaches, we’d suggest a trip to Honolulu on the capital island of Oʻahu.

16. The Color Purple

Where: Tennessee and Georgia (The deep South)

The Color Purple is the inspiring musical with a killer soundtrack, based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Alice Walker. Told over 40 years, the story follows tormented heroine Celie, as she suffers despair and anguish, and then joy and hope in racially divided southern America. The evocative soundtrack is a celebration of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues that screams life, love and the power to stand up for who you are and what you believe in.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: The Colour Purple. This poignant song places you in the heart of the American south.
Don’t miss: I’m here. This slow burn is an absolute powerhouse of a track. All the feels.

In real life:
One of the reasons the USA is a great place to explore (and probably why only 45% of the population own a passport) is because every state offers something different. On a road trip through Georgia, and Tennessee in the deep south to Memphis, over which The Color Purple is set, you will find an explosion of music, culture, food and beautiful scenery. The Blue Ridge Mountains encompass much of northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee – a region that is just begging you to hike, bike, drive, ride horses (etc) and explore. In Memphis, learn more about the Civil Rights Movement with a visit to the National Civil Rights museum and the Slave Haven Underground railroad.

17. Blood Brothers

Where: Liverpool, England

Written by Willy Russell, the iconic Blood Brothers’ tale of nature Vs nurture follows the tragic and moving story of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences. Grab the tissues.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Bright New Day. This catchy number sums up life for Mrs Johnstone in working class Liverpool.
Don’t miss: I’m not saying a word. Comparison is the thief of joy summed up with a smooth 80s heavy saxophone accompaniment.

In real life:
Far from the rough and ready setting of Blood Brothers, Liverpool is a stylish city with world-class galleries, an exciting foodie scene and brilliant nightlife guaranteed. The famous Albert Dock is a UNESCO World Heritage site on the waterfront, showcasing the largest collection of Grade I-listed buildings in the UK. If you prefer your history a bit more musical (if you’ve read this far, I’m sure you do), you can also follow the path and haunts of a little local band from here called The Beatles. Read our post on the top things to do right now in Liverpool.

18. Everyone’s talking about Jamie

Where: Sheffield, England

16-year-old Jamie lives in a council estate in Sheffield and doesn’t quite fit in. Supported by his loving mum and surrounded by his friends, he overcomes prejudice, bullies and steps out of the darkness to become a drag queen in this modern, relevant musical, based on a true story. The award-winning show has original music by Dan Gillespie, songwriter of pop band The Feeling, with story and lyrics by Doctor Who writer Tom MacRae.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with:  ‘And you don’t even know’ is Jamie’s song about breaking free of his emotional chains.
Don’t miss: ‘It means beautiful’. Why being yourself is as beautiful as glitter to hide behind. And it really is.

Everyone’s talking about Sheffield (Image: Chris Hill)

In real life:
At some point, Sheffield became one of the coolest places to be in the UK and no one really knows why, it just is. The excellent nightlife here puts on a good party, yet a third of the city is actually in the Peak District National Park. So there is room to explore and have a breather. The city’s rich and important industrial heritage means Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and the Kelham Island (a man-made island in the River Don) are musts. Plus, since Sheffield has been touted as the friendliest city in the north, you might even make a friend too.

19. Oklahoma!

Where: Oklahoma…

This timeless musical about turn of the century Americana was the first major production for (future legends) Rodgers and Hammerstein. Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, Oklahoma! is a coming of age story set in the country (in the somewhat romanticised Western Frontier) just before the Oklahoma territory joined the United States.

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: Oh what a beautiful morning. You can time travel there immediately with the simple opening lyrics to this happy song.
Don’t miss: People will say we’re in love. A surprisingly modern number from this classic show.

In real life:
The musical (and film) famously describe Oklahoma as vast plains and endless golden prairies, and that’s exactly what you will find, even today. The charming town of Guthrie was Oklahoma’s first state capital and the centre of the 1889 Oklahoma land rush. Arriving on the main street, it’s a surprising display of elegant Victorian-era architecture, unique restaurants and fantastic vintage shopping.

20. An American in Paris

Where: Paris, France

After the war, a former GI falls for a beautiful French girl. However, his paintings draw the attention of a rich and glamorous American heiress, who is interested in more than just art from our main man…

From the soundtrack:
Travel from home with: I got Rhythm. Composed by George Gershwin in 1930, this has became a jazz standard and a defining sound of the time.
Don’t miss: Shall we Dance? A power struggle with a catchy tune.

In real life:
Every time I go to Paris, I just get drunk on wine and high on blue cheese, but I am assured there are plenty of other spectacular sights… The Louvre is just the beginning when it comes to art. There is a wealth of beautiful paintings and sculptures in smaller, more boutique galleries. Monet’s famous Nymphéas (Water Lily) murals can be found in the Musée de l’Orangerie, at the far end of the Tuileries Gardens. Wear flat shoes so you can walk everywhere and eat as many delicious breads and pastries as possible.

21. Made In Dagenham

Where: Essex

This completely surprising musical is both entertaining and historically important. It follows the 1968 workers strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where women walked out in protest against sexual discrimination in the workplace. A group of fiery seamstresses, led by Rita O’Grady, fought for equal rights when they discovered that they were paid a hella lot less than the men (sound familiar?)

From the soundtrack:
Travel there with: Stand up. A rousing number to have you out of your seat and cheering for the girls.
Don’t miss: Busy Woman. ‘If you want it done, ask a busy women’. Ain’t that the truth?

In real life:
As someone who grew up not far from Dagenham and regularly passed the Ford factory on the way to see my nan, I definitely don’t recommend anyone take a holiday to Dagenham. Even a virtual one…
However, other parts of Essex are beautiful and well worth a visit. Have a look at our top places to visit in Essex here.

And there you have it! A tuneful tour around the world so you can travel from home, enjoy some great music and still feel like you’re getting to experience a bit of the world. Do you hear the people sing?

Cover image: California Musical Theatre
Additional reporting by: Elizabeth Doherty


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