White Coat, Black Art

The 7 most memorable medical moments in musical theatre

Where does Medicine the Musical fit into the cultural pantheon of singing doctors? We've rounded up seven of our favourite medical musical theatre moments.
Jack Nicholson as the doctor in the film Tommy (Youtube)

Originally published on May 26, 2018.

In this week's episode, Dr. Brian Goldman speaks with Dr. Michael Ehrenreich, the creator of Medicine the Musical, which will premiere off-Broadway next fall...but where does this musical tribute to med school fit into the cultural pantheon of singing doctors? We've rounded up seven of our favourite medical musical theatre moments.

1. The Who's Tommy 

In an early scene from The Who's legendary rock opera, the Walkers take their "deaf, dumb and blind" young son (and future pinball wizard) Tommy to see a doctor who discovers that despite the boy's unresponsive nature, his eyes and ears appear to function normally. In this clip from the 1975 film adaptation, Jack Nicholson plays the doctor.

2. Next to Normal

This intense 2008 musical by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt is about a woman who struggles with bipolar disorder, and the effect that her illness and treatment has on her family. Her interactions with her doctors are portrayed in a few different songs, including this song, My Psychopharmacologist and I.

3. Rent 

Several of the characters in the late Jonathan Larson's 1997 Broadway hit Rent have AIDS, and the sweet, simple ensemble song Will I, set in a group therapy session, is one of the show's most moving moments.

4. Little Shop of Horrors

Steve Martin's leather jacketed bad boy portrayal of the sadistic singing dentist in the film adaptation (directed by Muppet legend Frank Oz) is a highlight of this campy cult classic.

5. A New Brain 

This autobiographical musical by William Finn deals with the composer's own experience with an arteriovenous malformation.The show takes place largely in the hospital, as Gordon (played by Jonathan Groff in this 2015 Encores concert revival) and the people in his life deal with his condition.

6. Scrubs

The popular medical sitcom got ambitious in its sixth season, when writer Debra Fordham wrote an original musical episode, with help on the tunes from the Tony Award-winning team of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, creators of the Broadway hit Avenue Q.

7. Chicago Hope

A decade before Scrubs hired a bone fide Tony Award winner to write an original musical episode, the medical drama Chicago Hope gave its main character, played by Adam Arkin, a brain aneurysm ... during which he hallucinates musical numbers from Broadway classics like Guys and Dolls.