I have a confession to make. Over the past two years I have had an awakening, specifically, regarding the realization that I am a theatre kid – in that time, my passion for musicals has increased exponentially. I not only fell in love with the drama, raw emotion, and glamour of musical theatre, but also how directly different musical numbers may fit into day to day life, and our particular emotions and states of being. I sometimes wished, and still do, that there was a summary or list to refer to when exploring such a vast and rich genre, so I’ve created a very (and I cannot stress this enough) brief introduction to some of the best musical numbers.

Formative Moments

Most musicals have a moment where the protagonist experiences a moment of resolution, specifically expressing confidence, ambition, or frustration at being held back from reaching their goals. My personal favourites include “Chip On Your Shoulder” from Legally Blonde, “Not My Father’s Son” from Kinky Boots, and “Hurricane” from Hamilton.


  • Chip On Your Shoulder, Legally Blonde
  • Not My Father’s Son, Kinky Boots
  • Hurricane, Hamilton
  • I’m The Greatest Star, Funny Girl
  • And I Am Telling You, Dream Girls
  • Defying Gravity, Wicked
  • Fearless, Mean Girls


Musicals are able to capture the synthesis of sensations that occur when falling in love, both the good and the bad. The highs and butterflies of having a crush are expressed through sweet and light vocals, and the raw pain of heartbreak manifesting in big, belting melodies. These are just some of the numbers that capture how musicals have a unique ability to reflect the most powerful moments in our lives, and the fundamental experience of love. 

Mood: In Love

  • Granger Danger, A Very Potter Musical
  • I Don’t Know How To Love Him, Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Stupid With Love, Mean Girls
  • I Want To Be Seen With You, Funny Girl
  • If I Could Tell Her, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Lay All Your Love On Me, Mamma Mia
  • Fallin’, They’re Playing Our Song
  • A Whole New World, Aladdin

Mood: Hopeful

  • Tomorrow, Annie
  • Try, Fame
  • Wait For It, Hamilton
  • Step One, Kinky Boots
  • Take A Chance On Me, Mamma Mia
  • I Believe, Book of Mormon

Mood: For when your crush is in love with someone else, and you’re being oppressed by the bourgeoisie

  • On My Own, Les Miserables

Mood: Heartbreak

  • Burn, Hamilton
  • Forget About the Boy, Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • I’m Not That Girl, Wicked
  • Take Me or Leave Me, Rent
  • So Much Better, Legally Blonde


Many a night, I have been tempted to slink out of Stauffer Library to return to the comfort of my own bed, defeated by schoolwork; however, I know I can always count on these songs to push through. As a whole, Legally Blonde, Hamilton, and Funny Girl are the most appropriate musicals for a studying playlist, given the ambition and drive that the protagonists possess in achieving their goals. Yet, there are some other thematically similar numbers to be found across the musical genre, as listed below.

Mood: Studying

  • Anything You Can Do, Annie Get Your Gun
  • Non-Stop, Hamilton
  • What You Want, Legally Blonde
  • Blood In The Water, Legally Blonde
  • Do This Thing, Mean Girls
  • The Rain in Spain, My Fair Lady
  • I Have Confidence, Sound of Music
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Mary Poppins

Mood: When Shakespeare sucks

  • This Bottom’s Going to Be On Top, Something Rotten


Conflict and pain are vividly reflected and amplified in the songs listed below; oftentimes, it feels cathartic to hear and experience the physical release that emotions such as anger, sorrow, vengeance, and resiliency fully realized through sound. 

Mood: Getting in an argument

  • Your Obediant Servant, Hamilton
  • The Confrontation, Les Miserables
  • The Winner Takes It All, Mamma Mia
  • Revenge Party, Mean Girls
  • Fine, Ordinary Days
  • Different As Can Be, A Very Potter Musical
  • Right Hand Man, Something Rotten

Mood: Woe is Me

  • Hard Knock Life, Annie
  • There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Grease
  • Legally Blonde, Legally Blonde
  • Totally Fucked, Spring Awakening
  • At the end of the Day, Les Miserables


Finally, and this is where the true novelty and magic of musicals lies, are the numbers that are so oddly specific, and yet completely accessible to listeners due through this unique medium of dialogue and song. Many musicals take on fantastical qualities, or are set in a different time period, providing society with incredibly interesting and dynamic perspectives. Here are some of the gems that couldn’t quite fit into the general categories above. 

Mood: When You’re tired of Sharing the Spotlight

  • Rose’s Turn, Gypsy
  • World Burn, Mean Girls
  • I’m The World’s Greatest Star, Funny Girl

Mood: When you Need Help Surviving On the Streets of London in the 19th Century

  • Consider Yourself, Oliver!

Mood: When You’re Plotting the Revolution

  • Red & Black/ABC Cafe, Les Miserables
  • Right Hand Man, Hamilton

Mood: When you’re an orphan and/or missing your family

  • Missing You, A Very Potter Musical
  • Maybe, Annie

Making this list was incredibly fun and challenging, as I needed to leave out so many wonderful numbers. This is in part due to trying to include as many musicals as possible in the list, while also there not being enough time on earth (unfortunately) to exhaustively listen to the whole history of musical theatre. In particular, it was difficult to not even partially represent my two favourite musicals: Hamilton and Legally Blonde. So, for the love of the arts, all things beautiful, fun, painful, and amusing, please check out the musicals listed here to explore all that each production, and the genre, has to offer.

Isobel Gibson is the First Year Intern at MUSE.

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