I was raised on show tunes and musicals hold a very sentimental place in my heart. So sentimental in fact that when people claim to dislike musicals that I immediately get sad…and then mad. What’s not to like about spontaneous singing and dancing?! Those people are humbugs, in my opinion. I desperately wanted to go into show business when I was younger, but, alas, I lack perfect pitch and decided that international relations and government was more for me, which, when you think about it, is show business in its own right.
I have seen a multitude of musicals, but these are five of my favorites:
1. “Meet Me in St. Louis”
This isn’t a stage musical, it’s a movie musical, but it’s the first musical I remember seeing. I was four or five and I think I re-played it ten times over in one day. I just loved Judy Garland and her love affair with “The Boy Next Door”. Believe me, when I headed west for college and we drove past St. Louis, I was in the car singing “Meet Me in St. Louis”, which is something I still do when I drive back and forth between home and school, because that’s just the type of sappy person I am. Everybody knows the Christmas classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but few people know it came first from this musical and hearing anybody but Judy Garland singing it is like hearing nails on a chalkboard. I always scream out, “That’s Judy’s song!!!!”. I’m dramatic. If you’ve been reading my posts, I’m sure you can guess that this song makes me cry every time.
2. “Funny Girl”
Ok, I haven’t seen the stage musical, but the movie is just as fantastic, I’m sure. This was another movie I re-watched ten times over. I will never grow tired of watching Fanny Brice flailing around on roller skates as a part of Ziegfeld Follies, sailing into New York Harbor to win the love of her life, and singing her broken heart out on stage in “My Man”. Barbra Streisand’s voice just radiates and Omar Sharif is so handsome. Sorry Lea Michele, but you ain’t got nothing on Babs. I’m sure she’s aware.
3. The Fantasticks
Lord, I haven’t seen this one on stage either but I LOVE IT, so no one can stop me from adding it. I have seen the movie (duh). This musical might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s marvelous. With their parents desperately trying to get them together with the help of a the mysterious El Gallo, a circus performer, two star crossed lovers learn the must find themselves before they can love another, and when they do they find that their love is only stronger. Jerry Orbach originally played El Gallo, and for anyone who doesn’t know me, I love Jerry Orbach and cried when he died. My mother used to sing me “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” as a lullaby.
You can probably guess that hearing Jerry Orbach sing “Try to Remember” makes me cry every time, as well. I don’t even care that he’s wearing an ascot, it’s still beautiful.
4. Billy Elliot
Ok, I have seen this on stage and the movie. Ha! How’s that for a double whammy? If you haven’t seen the movie, you should go to Family Video and rent it or Netflix it or something because…wait for it…it’s beautiful and it makes me cry. I cry a lot. A little boy, growing up in Northern England during the coal miners strikes of the 70s, decides he has a passion for ballet despite the discouragement from his family and community. In the musical, there’s a scene where Billy does something like 20 consecutive pirouettes. Insane. I have never been in a theatre where people stood up not to clap, but to simply get a better look. Seriously, people stood up just because they were so amazed and moved that they had to stand, while he was still dancing. Then there was a standing ovation that lasted at least five minutes, if not more, and that was only at intermission. It is truly an inspiring musical. Oh yeah, and the music was written by Elton John. That’s cool.
5. Les Miserables
As I’ve already said, this is my favorite musical of all time. If you only see one musical in your lifetime, it should be Les Mis. The musical is based off Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, detailing the terrible struggles of the proletariat class during Louis Philippe’s reign in France during the 19th century. The musical leads up to the failed June Rebellion of 1832. The plot is more complicated and romantic than the historical background and cannot be easily explained in a paragraph, but in short, it a series of love stories, broken hearts and dreams that could only best be felt by those with nothing, the miserable, the poor ones, the wretched. The musical is heartbreaking and yes, it does make me cry.
Believe me, my list of favorite musicals extends much further than these five, like “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Rent”, and “Company”, just to name a few. I realize that there are so many more amazing musicals, like “Gypsy” most recently starring Patti LuPone, but I’ve never seen Patti LuPone live and I’ve never seen “Gypsy” on stage, which believe me, is one of the greatest tragedies of my life. All that says about me is that I’ve lived an incredibly blessed life, and I think some of that has to do with musicals.