After seeing this film, I started thinking about compiling a top 5 list of my favorite musicals for this blog because I feel like that's a form of music I haven't covered yet - and guess what? I like musicals. I mean, it has music in them, I'm going to be at least a little interested.
West Side Story (1957) I want to say this is probably my favorite musical OF ALL TIME. That's right. Caps lock. Not only is it based on a Shakespeare play, part of the reason I was interested in this musical in the first place as a 16-year-old, (Romeo & Juliet,) but the music is on point. Not to mention the whole forbidden romance thing, teenagers love that crap, right?! The harmonies and the way voices blend together due to the way alto, soprano and male parts were written by the amazing Leonard Bernstein (Where's REM when you need them to yell this out?) melting together but then breaking apart and coming back together again. One really good example of what I'm trying to explain comes from a song at the end, "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" performed by characters Maria and Anita. Anita's part is alto, Maria's part is soprano. The entire song they've been going in different directions with their voices and then at the end of the song, they come together and drop the mic metaphorically: "When love comes so strong, there is no right or wrong. Your love is your life." The way they both sing that ending line - CHILLS. And speaking of alto's, this is another reason I love this musical. They represent the alto's! Sure, Maria is a soprano, who is the main female lead, but Anita is pretty up there too and normally, female leads in musicals are soprano's. It gave us lady alto's hope in high school chorus that we matter.
Chicago (1975) Everything about this musical is perfect - except for maybe Roxie Hart, but Velma Kelly totally makes up for it. Not only is this musical important for the songs and dancing (cause Bob Fosse, worship,) but I think the actual story really captured a brief time in history that shaped and changed some things that are even evident today in America. Just go ahead and YouTube search "Cell Block Tango" because I'm linking another one of my favorites below from the 2001 film adaptation, and tell me it's not bad ass. I'll wait.
The Music Man (1957) The Music Man is very nostalgic for me. It's one of my dad's favorite musicals and he played these songs a lot while I was growing up. Not to mention every time a company theater was performing it around us, we would go. Then, when I was a teenager, our high school drama club performed it and I rediscovered how familiarly quaint this musical is and I never stopped loving it after that. Plus, the female lead is a librarian! I also love that a lot of these songs really rely on word play as well as instruments that usually aren't common - since it's about a marching band. Bring out the trombones, tubas and the piccolos cause Harold Hill has got shit to do! Fun fact: Me and a couple of girls that were in the drama club rendition of this in high school, were supposed to be in this scene I'm linking here (probably my favorite scene from the musical) and I was so excited but then all the girls got cut because, I don't know, #patriarchy? If you're curious, I played a pick-a-little lady in the show. Their songs involve a lot of fast rhyming with "say that 10 times fast" lines. Even today at almost 30 years old, I can still recite some of the fast lines: "She had a golden glint in her eye and a silver voice with a counterfeit ring." The train scene I love because it doesn't only incorporate peoples voices into the song, they also use background noise to enhance this rapidly distressed chant from traveling salesmen complaining about people taking their business. It almost sounds like a train rolling onto the tracks, faster and faster until the next stop. It's like they did that on purpose or something...
The Sound of Music (1959) Where do I begin with this? Another very nostalgic musical/movie from my childhood. There were a few movies I used to watch over and over again when I was a kid: E.T., Now & Then and The Sound of Music. Although I do find it funny that right before all the nazi stuff goes down, is when I would turn the movie off or rewound it to the beginning. Like, right after the puppet show. Maybe coming from a German family, where my grandparents lived in Germany during WWII, subconsciously my family was like, "let's not watch that part". But I did sometimes fast forward for "Climb Every Mountain". I'm not a big fan of that type of soprano voice but damn that woman sang the crap out of that song! I couldn't find out who exactly sang the song in the movie, but I did find out that apparently the actress who played Mother Abbess, Peggy Wood, did not. I'm really bummed I can't find a video of "I Have Confidence" where Julie Andrews is running down the sidewalk with her guitar and two huge suitcases - it's my favorite part! But oh well, here's just the song.
Gypsy (1959) Probably the most unpredictable on this list besides The Music Man, I remember the movie version when I was a kid as well although, it was the newer one with Bette Midler. I think as a kid, I had no idea what was going on in terms of the sexual nuances but I loved Louise and I loved Rose. But when it all comes down to it, I realize, I love this musical because it's sad. It doesn't necesarily have a happy ending and that's something a lot of musicals are too scared to do. But Julie Styne and Stephen Sondheim gave no shits - although Sondheim not giving any shits is not anything new. No wonder why it's sad, to be honest. I couldn't find a video of the 1993 version of "If Mama was Married" so I'll post the original movie's version which is still pretty good.
Honorable mentions: Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun, Into the Woods and Bye Bye Birdie