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?