Musicals have been a popular form of entertainment for decades and have incorporated various instruments in their scores. The banjo, with its distinctive twang and versatility, has been used in several musicals to add a touch of Americana or folk music to the music. In this list, we will explore ten musicals that feature the banjo and the impact it has on the overall sound of the show.
10 Musicals that Feature the Banjo
- “Oklahoma!” (1943) – This classic musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein features a banjo in the song “The Farmer and the Cowman”. The banjo adds a playful and folksy element to the song.
- “Finian’s Rainbow” (1947) – This musical, with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, prominently features the banjo in the song “If This Isn’t Love”. The banjo gives the song a distinctly Irish-American sound.
- “1776” (1969) – In this musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the banjo is used in the song “The Lees of Old Virginia”. The banjo adds a touch of Southern charm to the song.
- “The Robber Bridegroom” (1975) – This musical, with music by Robert Waldman and lyrics by Alfred Uhry, is based on a Southern folktale and features the banjo prominently throughout the show.
- “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1978) – This musical, with music and lyrics by Carol Hall, features the banjo in several of its songs, including “Hard Candy Christmas” and “The Aggie Song”.
- “Big River” (1985) – This musical, with music and lyrics by Roger Miller, is based on Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and features the banjo prominently in the score.
- “Bright Star” (2014) – This musical, with music and lyrics by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the 1920s and features the banjo prominently throughout the show.
- “Hamilton” (2015) – Although not a traditional use of the banjo, Lin-Manuel Miranda incorporates the instrument into the score of this hit musical in the song “The Room Where It Happens”. The banjo adds a unique flavor to the song and emphasizes the Southern influence on American politics.
- “Come From Away” (2017) – In this musical about the aftermath of 9/11, the banjo is used in the song “Screech In” to give the song a Newfoundland folk music feel.
- “Hadestown” (2019) – This musical, with music, lyrics, and book by Anaïs Mitchell, features the banjo prominently throughout the show, adding a folksy and Americana sound to the retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The use of the banjo in musicals has added a unique and memorable element to the scores of many shows. From classic musicals like “Oklahoma!” and “1776” to more modern shows like “Hamilton” and “Hadestown,” the banjo has been used in various ways to enhance the storytelling and create a specific atmosphere. As musicals continue to evolve, it will be exciting to see how the banjo and other instruments will be incorporated in the future.