Photo Credit: Disney / "The Lion King"
Warning: This post has BTE—big theater kid energy—but when it comes to raising our voices for the health of the Earth, that’s a very good thing. After all, the arts are how we explore what it means to be human, and just like galleries and movie theaters, a Broadway stage can help connect us with our place on the planet. Here are the musicals we sing in the shower… and in the car… and on TikTok… when we want to (literally) act more natural.
This blues rock musical takes a love story from Greek mythology—guitar f*ckboi Orpheus and doomed hippie Eurydice—and turns it into a parable about losing love when you ignore nature. Written by folk musician Anais Mitchell, Hadestown is an onstage party that turns into a full-circle lesson on the balance between plants, people, and the roots that connect us all.
Listen to… “Wedding Song,” an indie rock ballad about birds, trees, rivers, and sex, with vocals by Bon Iver.
The original protest musical, Hair braids together messages of peace, love, and nature while exploring the chaos of ‘60s New York. Its most famous song—Let the Sunshine In—encourages us to seek solace in nature, and its under-the-radar bops (Air Is Everywhere, I Got Life, and Electric Blues) are full-on calls to uphold the planet as well as we do the American Dream.
Listen to… “Age of Aquarius,” the classic anthem about harmony, understanding, and everyone’s favorite zodiac sign.
THE LION KING
Ok fine, it’s a tourist attraction. It’s also the most stunning thing you’ll ever see onstage, and once the show starts, you’ll smile like a five-year-old until the final curtain call. With massive animal puppets by Julie Taymor and sets that recreate the savannahs of central Africa, this musical takes the concept of “wild wonder” to new levels of amazement.
Listen to… “Circle of Life,” obviously!
NATASHA, PIERRE, AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
Science and sex collide in this techno opera that puts a white hot love triangle against the cosmic flame of a once-in-a-lifetime comet sighting. Based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace but scored with punk rock riffs and an onstage piano, this Broadway hit asks, how can we understand magic if we can’t understand nature?
Listen to… “Charming,” a song that’s really a pickup line and a punchline all at once.
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND
Set on the island of Antilles after a storm, this calypso musical follows four gods—Mother Earth, Papa Sea, Fire, and Love—as they root for their favorite mortals, fight amongst themselves, and deliver the bounties and warnings of nature in the process. Last seen on Broadway in 2018, it’s currently being adapted for Disney+ as a movie.
Listen to… “Mama Will Provide,” a dance party for the abundance and protection of earth’s gifts.
THE SECRET GARDEN
This beloved ‘90s musical is kind of goth—its main romantic lead is literally a ghost—but it’s really about the power of plants to connect, restore, and rebuilt broken people and the places they haunt. In other words, this classic children’s book became a Broadway show with a major message: Nature heals.
Listen to… “Wick,” the North England guide to getting your rose bushes back after winter.
Bonus Round: 6 Songs About Nature from Other Musicals We Love
“I Remember Sky”—A cautionary tale disguised as a ballad, this song by Stephen Sondheim (for the now-obscure musical Evening Primroses) is about a teenage girl living inside a department store who can no longer imagine clouds, grass, or the moon.
“Millworker”—Written by James Taylor for the rock musical Working, this Irish folk song about a farmgirl’s rural longing is so legit, he even recorded it on his 1979 album Flag.
“Morning Glow”—This sleeper bop from Pippin compares the regeneration of nature to the recovery of a heartbreak, and somehow does it while cranking up the bass.
“Muddy Water”—A rollicking escape song about the mighty Mississippi from the bluegrass Mark Twain musical Big River.
“Origin of Love”—Written like a Nirvana b-side, this grunge rock gem from Hedwig and the Angry Inch imagines the beginning of nature and the universe, and wonders how “the stars and the moon and the earth” created people (and, in Hedwig’s case, glam rock ex-boyfriends) who spread chaos like dandelions spread seeds.
"Don't Do Sadness / Blue Wind"—Spring Awakening’s emo duet about the “spring and summer” that separate our realities from our daydreams, and the people we dream about, too.