19 Avant-Garde Musicals That Will Bend Your Brain

Whether you’re auditioning for musicals, setting up your rep book, or simply looking for some new musicals to get into, it’s good to get familiar with what’s out there. And that’s why we’ve put together this list of avant-garde musicals for you below, sorted alphabetically.

Keep in mind that a few of the following musicals were abstract or avant-garde at the time, even though they may be considered more normal or mainstream today.


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Avant-Garde Musicals

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant

Music/Lyrics/Book: Kyle Jarrow

Musical Type: Contemporary (2003)

Musical Info ➝


Adding Machine

Music/Lyrics/Book: Joshua Schmidt Lyrics/Book: Jason Loewith

Musical Type: Contemporary (2007)

Musical Info ➝


Cats

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: TS Eliot, Trevor Nunn, Richard Stilgoe

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1981)

Musical Info ➝


Celebration

Music: Harvey Schmidt Lyrics/Book: Tom Jones

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1969)

Musical Info ➝


Ghost Quartet

Music/Lyrics/Book: Dave Malloy

Musical Type: Contemporary (2014)

Musical Info ➝


In the Green

Music/Lyrics/Book: Grace McLean

Musical Type: Contemporary (2019)

Musical Info ➝


Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

Music/Lyrics: Jacques Brel Book: Eric Blau, Mort Shuman

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age/Revue (1968)

Musical Info ➝


Octet

Music/Lyrics/Book: Dave Malloy

Musical Type: Contemporary (2019)

Musical Info ➝


Pippin

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz Book: Roger O. Hirson, Bob Fosse

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1972)

Musical Info ➝


Preludes

Music/Lyrics/Book: Dave Malloy

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)

Musical Info ➝


Promenade

Music: Al Carmines Lyrics/Book: Maria Irene Fornés

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1965)

Musical Info ➝


Runaways

Music/Lyrics/Book: Elizabeth Swados

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1978)

Musical Info ➝


Space Dogs

Music/Lyrics/Book: Nick Blaemire, Van Hughes

Musical Type: Contemporary (2022)

Musical Info ➝


Starlight Express

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alistair Lloyd Webber Lyrics: Various

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1984)

Musical Info ➝


Stop the World – I Want to Get Off

Music/Lyrics/Book: Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1961)

Musical Info ➝


The Fantasticks

Music: Harvey Schmidt Lyrics/Book: Tom Jones

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1960)

Musical Info ➝


The Last Sweet Days of Isaac

Music: Nancy Ford Lyrics/Book: Gretchen Cryer

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1970)

Musical Info ➝


The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd

Music/Lyrics/Book: Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1964)

Musical Info ➝


The Who’s Tommy

Music/Lyrics/Book: Pete Townshend Book: Des McAnuff

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1992)

Musical Info ➝


Other blog posts you might like:

Dark Musicals

Fantasy Musicals

Obscure Musicals

Underrated Musicals


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Which of these avant-garde musicals is your favorite?

Or have you ever played a role in any of the above avant-garde musicals? Feel free to share in the comments below! And if you like these types of lists, check out the musical database. That’s where you’ll find musicals sorted by composer, theme, setting, and more!


Stacy Karyn, author of Avant-Garde Musicals.
Author: Stacy Karyn

Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theater Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She has a TESOL drama certificate, a BA in theater, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.


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