Musical podcast “36 Questions” is worth a listen

Musical podcast “36 Questions” is worth a listen

Margot Durfee

Have you ever heard about a musical, started listening to the soundtrack, and then looked at ticket prices and think, ‘two-hundred dollars?’ This is my feeling every time I discover a new musical, and it’s frustrating. Wouldn’t it be cool to have access to a musical in the convenience of your phone–and for free? Well, the musical podcast “36 Questions” is the perfect remedy.

I’m not one to usually listen to podcasts, but during the summer I found myself on an extremely long car ride and decided to give one a shot. Created in the summer of 2017, the musical “36 Questions” follows a woman named Judith Ford’s phone recording (Jessie Shelton) as she tries to salvage her breaking marriage with her husband Jase (Jonathan Groff). Their highs and lows are expressed beautifully through touching duets and the characters’ comedic personalities.

The concept of “36 questions” was developed by a group of psychologists in 1997. If two strangers were to ask each other these “36 questions,” they would supposedly fall in love. The questions are broken into three sets, each with increasingly probing questions. Following this trend, the musical is broken into three acts that are each about 40 minutes long. The musical is called “36 Questions” because Judith and Jase met by asking the questions, and Judith is attempting to ask him the questions again to repair their relationship.

The musical starts off with snippets of a happy conversation and the sound of rushing water, recorded by Judith’s phone. The next recording, which is marked by a “beep” noise similar to the one made when pressing ‘play’ on the iPhone’s voice memos, starts with Judith talking to the phone about her plan to go to Jase’s childhood home and attempt to ask him the questions. Unlike classic musicals, the podcast does not start with an opening number. Instead, it strings the listeners on for the first six minutes or so, all the while playing a quiet piano tune in the background, causing one to expect a song to suddenly start. Once the songs do start, they are filled with information and emotion that adds to the plot. As renowned professional singers and actors, Shelton and Groff both have beautiful and expressive voices. Despite the serious mood of the plot, Judith’s hopeful personality and a duck named Henry that Jase finds outside help to create a comedic atmosphere.

I was hesitant when I first started listening because I’d never heard of a musical being only audio before, but I soon found that it did not fall short in character development and complexity of the plot. In a way, being a podcast is better because it allows the listener to picture the characters and story in their head, making the experience unique for each individual.

I highly recommend trying the podcast on your commute to school or when you have some spare time (or just need a break from homework). “36 Questions” has the best of both worlds: it has the great music and the emotional story of a live musical, but also the price accessibility and convenience of a podcast.