There’s a time for us…to love musicals.

When I was little, my favorite movie was The Sound of Music. I still know every song and scene by heart. In junior high—that ages me!—our school put on Lil’ Abner and I was the understudy for Daisy Mae. I loved musicals then and I still love them today. One of the great joys of my adult life has been seeing musicals performed—I try and get to New York at least once a year to see a show and have season tickets to my very good local performing arts center. Recently a friend and I went to go see the Tony award winning In the Heights. I thought it was excellent. The play covers three days in a mélange of characters’ lives in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights and was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards in 2008—it won four.

Seeing In the Heights got me thinking about my favorite musicals. When I was growing up the musicals I loved were those I saw on television: My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, The Music Man, West Side Story, Grease (still the highest grossing movie musical of all time), South Pacific and my beloved Sound of Music.  (Trivia fact: a woman named Marnie Nixon sang the parts of Eliza in MFL, Sister Sophia in SoM, Maria in WSS, as well as Anna in The King and I.)  I still love those shows, and, over the past twenty years, have seen several others—including In the Heights—that would make my top list.

I have seen the extraordinary Spring Awakening four times and it has become my favorite show of all time. I’ve seen The Lion King three times and never fail to be amazed by Julie Taymor’s set and costume brilliance. I just saw Wicked for the first time last year and loved it. Several filmed musicals have also wowed me: Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Dreamgirls (2006), and—one of the best hours ever on television—Once More with Feeling (a 2002 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

There are a few musicals from my youth that I liked then but don’t think much of now such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair.

So, if you are a fan of musicals—or not!—what are your favorites? Which do you loathe? And what are the ones whose songs you could sing every word?

14 thoughts on “There’s a time for us…to love musicals.

  1. Jo-Ann W.

    Most of the musicals I’ve seen have been on film. I’ll add Camelot and Annie. Grease, of course, is the Ultimate, but recently I’ve re-watched Jesus Christ Superstar for the twentieth time or so and though the production value is awful, I still love the music.

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  2. Jane AAR

    I really enjoyed Wicked, but then it got super popular and the fangirls took away some of its shine for me. But I have soft spots for You’re A Good man Charlie Brown and The Music Man (both of which I saw on Broadway as a child), Hairspray (another B’way experience from High school), and Guys and Dolls.

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  3. Dabney AAR Post author

    I do love much of the music from JCS. I sang “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” as a solo in junior high school! I was so intense about the whole thing and I’m not sure I’d even had my first kiss!

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  4. Susan/DC

    My mother’s favorite musical was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. The dancing is fantastic, as it has people like Jacques D’amboise, who danced for years with the New York City Ballet, and Russ Tamblyn, who went on to “West Side Story”.

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  5. Tee

    Susan/DC: My mother’s favorite musical was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. The dancing is fantastic…

    Oh, I loved Seven Brides. Very dated, but absolutely wonderful. And the budget was so slim and yet the product was so beautiful. Totally forgot about that one.

    My faves have to be The Sound of Music, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof. I could watch any of the above four any time and any amount of times.

    Susan/DC: My mother’s favorite musical was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”.The dancing is fantastic, as it has people like Jacques D’amboise, who danced for years with the New York City Ballet, and Russ Tamblyn, who went on to “West Side Story”.

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  6. Lynda X

    I tend to like dark, cynical musicals. My ABSOLUTE favorite is “Les Miserables.” Upon hearing the music for the first time, I could not get it out of my head. The staging is fabulous. I think the BEST staging, hands down, is “The Lion King.” Great, great choice for both adults and kids.
    But to get back to dark musicals, the movie with Johnny Depp of “Sweeney Todd” is almost too dark. If you like funny and cynical, try another wonderful movie (or play, if you can get to it) of “Chicago.” If you want something lighter, “Mama Mia” should appeal to you, especially if you are a baby boomer. And what about “Annie.” I love the woman who runs the orphanage, played by Carol Burnett in the movie. In spots, I think it drags and it’s a little too sweet in places, but some excellent songs. If you are a musical lover and you haven’t seen “My Fair Lady,” boy, what a treat you have in store. I love the music from Camelot, but hated the movie because of the two leads, Vanessa Redgrave, a weak singer, and Richard Harris who whispered throughout the whole thing.

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