My Top 10 Favourite Musicals of All Time- Part One

So its been a while since I wrote a countdown review, last time I discussed my personal favourite horror films of the past decade ( and; I now am however going to discuss what is my second favourite film genre, the musical. Ever since I can remember I have had a love for theatre and have been lucky to have the opportunity to see a wide variety of plays, pantomimes and of course musicals, as seen in previous reviews I have experienced two of the best nights of my life this year and that is down to the sheer brilliance of going to the West End in London and seeing some stunning productions. The Musical for me is my favourite type of show, I love the surrealism and the use of music to tell a story to explain a characters emotions. In this review I am going to be looking at my favourite musicals from both stage and screen; so sit back, relax, enjoy and all that jazz:

10. “Ghost-The Musical” (2011-present)

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this one as I have previously written a review on the whole show which can be found here, and here ; however I currently can’t get enough of this show and it has been one of my biggest talking points as of late. As a musical it is very current and edgy and ambitious in terms of its use of digital imagery to create the setting for the story. The story is incredibly powerful and emotional; and due to it being a recent musical I have been fortunate enough to see the complete original cast who’s performances were beyond incredible; the leads Richard Fleeshman (Sam Wheat); Caissie Levy (Molly Jensen) Sharon D Clarke (Oda Mae Brown) and Andrew Langtree (Carl Bruner) created believable characters that kept the audience engaged. It would be my absolute dream to have the opportunity to see this show again as I have never experienced anything so magical in my entire life. I now own the cast album and fell in love with the music that captures both the tragic nature and the comedy of the show; the music seems to have a mix of rock and more soulful sounding songs especially Oda Mae’s numbers. I was delighted to hear that the West End run of the show has been extended till late 2012. All I can say is go see this show; I promise the experience is worth while and you will be absolutely spellbound. Believe.

9. “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952)

 Well what can I say?! “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952) is one of the all time classics. I initially saw this on stage in my home town back in 2004 prior to seeing the film, and I thoroughly enjoyed the production especially the iconic scene which featured actual water on stage; after viewing this I was spurned on to rent the film which I loved just as much. I have never actually been a huge fan of the older musicals in all honesty, maybe its a generation factor in some ways but I completely detest a lot of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals such as “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “The King and I” (1956) ever since I was a child; I do however respect that they are considered classics and loved by many people but that’s just my opinion; I think what I liked about “Singin’ In The Rain” is the story; the fact that it is set in back-stage Hollywood and tells the story of the history of how the “talkies” came about; the decline of silent cinema and how technology in terms of the film industry was changing and advancing; I think the plot was what mainly held my interest. I also love how classic Hollywood this musical is; featuring entrancing dance sequences and memorable songs that can easily get stuck in the head; my personal favourite being “Good Morning”. Gene Kelly was such a fantastic dancer and his performance in the film as Don Lockwood has to be one of the best in terms of musical cinema. I think what I also enjoy about the musical is that it tells the story of the underdog who achieve’s stardom by the end; I am discussing the character of Kathy (played by Debbie Reynolds) here and I think her version of “You are my lucky Star” is one of my favourite songs in the entire musical. “Singin’ In The Rain” will definitely give you a glorious feeling!

8. “Blood Brothers” (1983- present)

 For me, “Blood Brothers” has always been a very underrated musical or as I would depict it “a play with songs”; I say this as I rarely hear people discussing it these days. Amazingly the show has remained on the West End for over twenty years and as far as I’m aware also has a touring production around the UK and has played all over the world at one time or another. Again with “Blood Brothers” similarly to the other musicals I have discussed I think the most powerful element it has is its story. The show or play mirrors a Shakespearean tragedy where the audience are taken on a lifelong journey with the characters of Mickey and Eddie; despite knowing the heartbreaking outcome we still remain transfixed with how their journey unfolds to the bitter end. What I like about “Blood Brothers” is that it feels very real, the characters are representative of people we could all know in real life and I love the true British grit it portrays; I love how it plays both tragedy and comedy very well; in terms of comedy I think its clever and daring to have the children versions of the protagonists played by adult actors; It really does give actors a chance to play such a range from child-like to the more darker parts of the play. I thought it was so clever ending the first half so upbeat with the number “Bright New Day” indicating that everything is now looking up for this working class family while lulling the audience into a false sense of security. A connection of empathy between the audience and the characters is created especially regarding Mrs Johnstone; watching her unfortunate struggle unfold is painful and her most iconic number “Tell Me Its Not True” is a massive tear-jerker. The character of the Narrator fascinated me acting as a negative conscience throughout the entire play for Mrs Johnstone; I liked his dark and superstitious nature and I think I enjoy his songs the most as he brings us back to the reality of what is happening to these characters. I have seen this show twice on the West End back in 2007 and 2008; although I would say the songs are incredibly repetitive it still has to be one of the most powerful pieces I have ever witnessed on stage.

7. “Hairspray” (2007)

 Unfortunately I have not as of yet had the opportunity to see “Hairspray” on stage; therefore I am going to purely discuss the film version that was released in 2007. This film was part of the musical-movie revival we had throughout the noughties possibly starting with “Chicago” (2003) or slightly further back with “Moulin Rouge” (2001). Ultimately I think “Hairspray” delivers a positive message demonstrating the struggle for acceptance that occurred for the African-American race during the 1960’s; I also like that the film focuses on the protagonist determined to make a positive change for the better. I think the film was brilliantly cast and all the performances are fabulous; Nikki Blonsky (who played Tracy Turnbland) offers so much potential up against the legendary performers that are John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and Queen Latifah. The music in the film is infectious; “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is probably in my top favourite musical songs of all time; “Ladies Choice” is my second favourite number in the musical and ironically Zac Efron reminds me of a young John Travolta; I think all the musical numbers have so much energy and admittedly I do have a fascination with the dancing styles of the 1950’s and 1960’s; Queen Latifah’s rendition of “I Know where I’ve been” is the most powerful performance with lyrics inspired by the civil rights movement and for a moment does take a serious note and tones down the complete surreal nature of the film. Despite being fun and entertaining I feel that “Hairspray” is in place to educate audiences; you can’t help but feel you have taken something positive away with you after watching it. I think its important that it portrays a protagonist that isn’t conventional and that anybody can achieve their dreams if they work hard at it and make a difference. I hope that one day I will be fortunate enough to see a touring production of this musical as I would be interested to see how it is portrayed on the stage.

6. “Mamma Mia” (Stage: 1999-Present) (Film: 2008)

“Mamma Mia!” is my favourite feel-good musical of all time; having seen both the film and stage version, when I come out of either I can’t stop smiling. Some people may be sceptical as its a “Jukebox Musical”; however if all you are looking for is a simplistic, light-hearted story and enjoyable music then “Mamma Mia!” is for you and those are the reasons I enjoy it so much. I can relate to the portrayal of the Mother and Daughter relationship so I think that is what the biggest pull of the story is for me; and of course like many I have grown up listening to ABBA music and I honestly believe that it hasn’t dated. Regarding the film version, I think the locations where it was filmed are absolutely breathtaking; the choice of cast was perfect and throughout the whole film it looks like they are having so much fun making it; Meryl Streep particularly impressed me with her rendition of “The Winner Takes it All” resulting in a powerful cinematic moment. What I liked about the show is that it gave so much more than the film and added more dimensions to the story; I loved how songs such as “Knowing me, Knowing you” and “One of Us” were included in their contexts and how the second act opened with a number called “Under Attack” a dream-sequence in which gave the audience an insight into the character of Sophie’s anxiety’s surrounding her wedding and finding her father. “Mamma Mia!” is complete escapism and is incredibly feel-good as I have previously stated; I think its going to be eternally popular and like other musicals such as “Grease” (1978) it will be one that can be watched over again and again!

So there we have it; part one of my all time favourite musicals; Part 2 will be on its way very soon. I would love to hear your comments and critcisms; do you agree or disagree with my choices? and what are your favourite musicals and why?

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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