My Top 10 Favourite Musicals of All Time- Part Two

Here is the continuation of my countdown on what I consider my personal favourite musicals to be of stage and screen; I don’t think we need a long introduction here; you guys know the drill…so let’s begin with number five:

5. “Grease” (1978)

 I first saw the film version of “Grease” as a child (however I think the innuendo’s completely went over my head!); nobody can deny that it is one of the classics and to an extent its themes of teenage growing pains still holds up and is still relevant to teenagers today. It is probably one of my most watched films and I have seen it on the stage on two occasions; professionally in Llandudno around ten years ago and as a toned down high school production. If looked at closer it has a lot to say about the difference in gender and how men and women are perceived differently in the film; for example in the song “Summer Nights” the lyrics entwine, however the male characters are placed in a separate location from the female characters and come off as more rebellious and crude, whereas the female’s especially Sandy (played by Olivia Newton-John) has a more innocent perspective on her romance with Danny (Played by John Travolta). The musical is also about friendship and being there when your really needed e.g. Danny filling in for Kenickie (Played by the late Jeff Conway) on Thunder road. My only issue with the musical as probably is with most people is the message it presents suggesting ultimately in order to win over a guy’s affections you have to “slut yourself up”, I think in order to enjoy the film for what it is its best not to take that part of the story too seriously, overlook it and just enjoy it for what it is; however I think Danny’s character also made an attempt to change for Sandy; therefore I think it should have been implied that no one should change for another person and accept each other for who they are deep down. “Grease” has some fantastic and memorable numbers that are addictive and catchy and people to this day still enjoy the “Grease Medley” at parties and disco’s. I also love the 50’s pop soundtrack during the school dance sequence as I am pretty obsessed with everything 1950’s; and as I stated previously, its just memorable and nostalgic.

4. “Chicago” (Film:2002) (Stage: 1975-Present)

 Out of all the “new musical movies” I think “Chicago” (2002) is the one that dazzle’s the most! Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma Kelly) Rene Zellweger (Roxie Hart) and Richard Gere (Billy Flyn) all gave out incredible strong performances. “Chicago” has the right mix of intensity, class and to a certain degree is modern enough to keep younger audiences engaged in the story and the music. I love how the fantasy sequences bring glamour to the dreary prison setting. The “Cell Block Tango” for me is the best number and on both screen and stage it is done cleverly through dance and music; I love how all the scorned prisoners stories unfold and its darkly humours when they reveal how and why they killed their victims. The characters are larger than life and entertaining especially Mama Morton. Roxie and Velma are brilliant characters, despite being murderesses and criminals as an audience you can’t help rooting for them hoping they won’t end up on death row; its an interesting spin having the protagonist committing a horrific crime yet the audience still expressing empathy for them; I think I enjoy the twisted nature of that aspect. I have been fortunate enough to see two professional productions of “Chicago”; on the West End in 2003 and more memorably last year in my home town of Aberystwyth which I think was its first UK production of the show off the West End; definitely something to be proud of.  “Chicago” overall is dark, humours, impressive and down right entertaining and includes several memorable numbers; the opening of “All That Jazz” still gives me chills.

3. “Once More With Feeling” (2001)

 For the regular readers of my blog, you will all ready be aware that I am a complete nerd when it comes down to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003) so the fact that this unique musical episode is on this countdown will come as no surprise. “Buffy” is a show that has several moments where it could be imagined that the characters would burst into song and its no secret that creator Joss Whedon had been itching to make a musical for so long and the perfect opportunity came in its Sixth Season; the storyline’s fit in brilliantly with the concept of a musical, Buffy (Played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) being out of touch with life after her resurrection, Spike’s (Played by James Marsters) not-so-secret infatuation with Buffy, Tara (Played by Amber Benson) being manipulated by Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan) and her descending into dark magick, Giles (Played by Anthony Head) no longer feeling needed, Xander (Played by Nicholas Brendan) and Anya’s (Played by Emma Caulfield) wedding nerves etc. I love how the cast gave it their all and the numbers brilliantly fit in with the context of the show’s current storylines. My favourite numbers have to be “Rest In Peace” performed by Spike as he can no longer hide and his feelings as they just spill out in song, I also like it because its more of a rock sounding song and definitely edgy; “Under Your Spell” performed by Tara is the perfect love song, and the episode’s antagonist the demon Sweet is sensational, Hinton Battle who played him was actually a Broadway actor, its great they added someone with that level of musical talent into the mix. The most powerful moment for me is “Something to Sing about” in which Buffy can no longer hide her emotions and reveals to her friends that she had been contented and was ripped out of heaven; it always chokes me up. I love “Once More With Feeling” it was a ground breaking piece of television and an nice little homage and comment on musicals in general.

2. “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

 I have previously discussed in a previous review how “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) has been a huge part of me growing up and I think it has been the musical that I have seen on stage the most. I love the element of escapism, the powerful portrayal of women, the infectious, catchy numbers, the quirky characters and the ultimate message of discovering who you really are. I think that its an essential part of childhood and every kid should experience it. For me “The Wizard of Oz” has stayed with me my entire life; I think it has such a strong and positive message. Dorothy is a strong heroine, she is fiercely independent and a feminist of her time and for me is one of the best role model’s in cinematic and musical history. I love the film’s optimistic tone and the characters playing as metaphor’s for people in Dorothy’s (played by Judy Garland) life. The film was ground breaking in its day and it was the hope and escapism people needed; the second world war had broken out, America had seen a collapse in Capitalism, times were depressing and “The Wizard of Oz” reminded people of what really matters and the concept of home and how we get back to what’s important to us. It really did keep up morale and still holds up today in relation to the recent recession and fear of terror. Every time I hear Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” I get chills and feel slightly chocked up as its just a powerful, stunning song as well as being iconic. I love the parallel idea of the physical world and the fantasy world; the realism of the Wizard’s character as a metaphor for believing in something and it not turning out how you expected. I love how the film was ahead of its time, the special effects were amazing for its day, without the option if CGI the tornado scene was created by using wind machines and dust which is impressive. My favourite numbers from “The Wizard of Oz” aren’t conventional choices I love all of them however my favourites have to be “Optimistic Voices” and the deleted scene “The Jitterbug”; I love the jazzy sound of it. “Wizard of Oz” is my second favourite musical of all time as it has stood the test of time, its easy to relate to, its message is strong and important and it provides escapism, along with several catchy, fun numbers, its part of history and I don’t think it will ever date.

My Review of the West End Version:

…And Now…Ladies and Gentlemen; Here is what I think is the greatest musical of all time….

1. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975

 I’m aware that this is not a conventional choice and I’m guessing many would disagree with me here but “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “The Rocky Horror Show” as the stage version is titled is my ultimate favourite; in some respects I view it as a more grown up “Wizard of Oz”; we have these protagonists Brad (Played by Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Played by Susan Sarandon) embarking on a journey of self discovery, having their minds opened (as well as other things!) and entering a whole new bizarre world. The “Transylvanian’s” could be viewed as the “Munchkins” of the piece; I love its Horror and Sci-Fi B Movie references, how it dares to be unique and outrageous. What’s wonderful about “Rocky Horror” is its such an interactive musical that allows the audience to engage with it; It wasn’t until I saw the touring version of the stage show last year in Llandudno that I experienced the full impact and the sense of community it brings; everyone dressed up, brought props and it was just good fun. The character of Frank-N-Furter (Played by Tim Curry in the Movie and David Bedella in the touring production I saw in 2010) is a complex one, he has appeal to both men and women and posseses masculine and feminine qualities; his entrance has to be one of the absolute best character introductions I have ever seen, “Sweet Transvestite” tells the audience everything we need to know about this sexually awakened transvestite alien; I love how it invites you to explore your true self and the best number for me has to be “Don’t Dream It; Be It”, I think its a unique yet poignant message which reminds you to just be yourself ad take the chance of becoming who you are while you can. I love the fun “Frankenstein Monster” sub-plot, the Meatloaf cameo and the awesome songs. I first saw “Rocky Horror” when I was twelve and have been doing the “Time Warp” ever since! Its wonderful, wacky, down right outrageous, fun, daring, shocking and completely cult and for all those reasons it is my favourite musical of all time! It most definitely thrills, chills and fulfils!

Thank you for reading; I would love to hear what you all think of my choices and what musicals you think should have been on my list!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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