Thursday, March 6, 2014

Favorite Stage Musicals

After watching the trailer of the Annie remake I was reminded of how much I cared about certain musicals.  I will be doing lists, not of the greatest musicals, but the ones that mean the most to me.  This is probably the most unpretentious list of stage musicals, but I do love all of these.  I think that part of the charm of a great musical is how accessible they can be and how the songs never get old.  I am only including musicals I have seen on stage on this list.  There are a lot of musicals I have seen the movies of or have heard the songs, but not seen live.

I am also not including musicals I have performed in (one exception).  I love Guys and Dolls and My Fair Lady a lot, but I have a different relationship with musicals I have been in than ones I have seen.  There is a certain fantasy about watching a great show and wanting to be a part of it.

10. King and I (1951, Rodgers and Hammerstein)
I grew up with the classic movie, the terrible animated movie, I have seen it on stage several times and have the soundtrack memorized.  Rodgers and Hammerstein filled this out with some of their best songs.  Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance and I Whistle a Happy Tune are such simple songs that are just joys to listen to.  Add in the sweet Hello, Young Lovers and the fun A Puzzlement, this is classic show that still holds up.

9. Footloose (1998, Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford)
This is how I was introduced to Footloose.  The original movie has an amazing soundtrack and a good performance from Kevin Bacon, but is not all that great.  The movie takes itself too seriously, but its ridiculous premise works great on the stage.  The songs from the movie are full of energy and make great dance numbers.  I don't know why the movie remake was not an adaptation of the Broadway musical.  The stage musical is just fun.

8. The Music Man (1957, Meredith Wilson)
I technically have not been in this musical, as the one my junior high did was Music Man Jr., so I will include this since I do love this show.  The humor in this show still holds up.  The characters are fun and the lyrics are very clever.  This is one musical that I actually think could lead to a sequel.  I can see a fun musical with Harold Hill's "girlfriend in every county" showing up in River City and a subplot with Marcellous running for mayor against Mayor Shook.

7. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1973, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice)
I know it is over done and is not the most complex musical.  But I don't think I have ever seen a version of Joseph that I didn't enjoy.  These are fun songs and the theatres always do a great job with the costumes.  Close Every Door to Me, Any Dream Will Do and the rest of the songs are an eclectic mix that is just fun.

6. Crazy for You (1992, George and Ira Gershwin)
A new musical featuring classic Gershwin songs.  The new arrangements for the Gershwin songs are great.  The script from Ken Ludwig is very funny and cute. The story is a fun throwback to pre-Show Boat musicals.  It is a flimsy storyline with over the top caricatures that makes for a great time at the theatre.

5. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967, Clark Gesner)
I love Peanuts.  I grew up with the work of Charles Schulz and still love it.  I have seen this a few times on stage, but I fell in love with the show from the soundtrack of the great 1999 revival.  The characterization is all spot on and the lyrics are just as sharp as Charles Schulz's classic comic strips.  My favorite song has become Book Report which has some of my favorite characterization of Charlie Brown.  I have never seen the sequel, Snoopy, but that musical did create on of my all time favorite songs: Just One Person.

4. Peter Pan (1954, Mark Charlap and Carolyn Leigh with Julie Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green)
I grew up with a video of the telecast of the Mary Martin musical.  I forgot about this until I received the soundtrack a year ago and I fell in love with it all over again.  The songs are terrific, especially the beautiful Distant Melody.  I think that Peter Pan is one of those perfect stories that allows for several great adaptations.  This is just as good as the original play, the Disney cartoon or Finding Neverland.

3. The Will Rogers Follies (1991, Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green)
I saw a tour of this with my Dad and later discovered the original soundtrack on a cassette at a pawn shop.  I love this show and would love to be part of it or see a film adaptation (hopefully directed and starring Seth MacFarlane).  This show is structured like a Ziegfeld show and features the characters breaking the fourth wall.  It is a huge spectacle, surprisingly heartfelt and laugh out loud hilarious.  Definitely look up the original soundtrack, especially the songs sung by Dee Hoty.

2. Beauty and the Beast (1994, Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice)
Adapted from the perfect animated feature by the film's composer and screenwriter, this was the first Disney Broadway hit.  The story and music is strong enough to survive reinterpretation.  The stage allows the story to delve into different emotions and complexity than the movie.  The new songs are all great and it just can't be done wrong.  Having grown up with the movie this is always great to see on stage.

1. South Pacific (1949, Rodgers and Hammerstein)
This is my favorite stage musical of all time.  I think I may be the only one who will label this their favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I don't get the hate.  I think that it is a beautiful love story with a realistic portrayal of clashing cultures.  It was very topical at the time, but its message against hate is still relevant.  A beautiful show with terrific songs that I always love listening to.

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