Posts Tagged ‘musicals’

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Ten Things, and it’s been a very weird week, for lots of reasons, so here’s a Ten Things.

And again, same caveat as always: I’m not sayin these are the best ever musicals. They’re not even necessarily my favourote ever musicals all the time, just ten that immediately sprang to mind when starting this post. They’re just ten musicals I enjoy seeing on stage, and watching and rewatching

Oh, and I can guarantee you’ll disagree. There are a couple of musicals you’ll ask yourselves ‘how the hell could he not include this one, or that one?’

Answer’s simple: either I don’t enjoy it, or I didn’t think of it.

But, for example, no West Side Story. That’s not in the list because I don’t like the musical. Nor’s Grease, though I quite like it. But I’ve seen it so many times, yeah, quite happy not to see it again for a very long time. And no Iesus Christ, Superstar, even though I like the musical a lot. I was in the show at school, and yes I was that bad. But it just didnt make the cut

Oh, and as always, no particular order.

And there’s one at the end you’d be astonished if it wasn’t there… thing is, I’ve never considered it a ‘musical’ as such. But I couldn’t leave it out. Apart from anything else, Mitch Benn would never forgive me.

OK, time to start.

Fiddler On The Roof
OK, a small lie to start with. This was obviously always going to be first. It’s the first one I think of whenever I think of a musical I enjoy. Lord knows how many times I’ve seen this on stage or watched the movie. And there’s an additional reason why it’s special to me.

When Laura and I were married, on a Sunday, we didn’t actually fly off on honeymoon until the Tuesday, so on the Monday, we took our parents to see Fiddler On The Roof at the London Palladium. Topol was Tevye, and it was fun, and funny, and wonderful, as you’d expect, but after the show, I’d arranged for our parents to meet him. And I’ve never seen my mum or Laura’s so completely star struck. So, yeah.

But apart from that, it’s a fantastic musical strong story, great acting in the movie, wonderfully catchy songs, and yeah, the subject material may be a bit rough at times, but yeah, love the show and I’ve rarely seen a bad version of it.

(The stories the musical was based on also reminds me of the only time my father ever warned me off a book. ‘You’re too young’, he warned me when I, as a teenager, wanted to read it. I ignored him and read some English translations since the originals were written in Yiddish. I couldn’t understand why everyone enjoyed them. Where was the fun? The cleverness. The sly observations of everyday life? A few decades later I reread them and then I understood. I had been too young, too immature, to appreciate the writings. Now, I enjoyed them, now I had a bit of life experience.)


I’m sure there’s someone British over the age of 30 who hasn’t seen this, but I struggle to understand how. For years, it was a staple of the Christmas and Easter tv schedule. And it’s a great muscial; classic tale, amended more than a bit from the original novel. What? You thought Ron Moody’s Fagin was a clever rogue in the book? Boy, have you got a surprise coming. But spot perfect casting, glorious songs, and the enthusiasm of the performances always make this worth a viewing.


Guys and Dolls
Years ago, I finally managed to get ahold of the Damon Runyon tales that the musical is based on. And they’re fantastic. But you have to work at them, to understand the dialects and characters. The stage musical and movie of Guys and Dolls goes out of its way to make the story and the characters more accessible but somehow doesn’t lose the zest, the excitement and the fact that these are not, for the most part, very nice people. But they are people of their time, and the muscial captures that time and place beautifully. And, as with other songs on the list, they’re catchy, smart, with wonderfully clever lyrics. If you can get past Brando’s ‘singing’, the movie’s ok. My personal favourite cast however was the 1980s London cast: Bob Hoskins, Julie Covington, Julia MacKenzie and Ian Charleson as a superb Sky Masterson.

It’s a tale of gamblers in New York in the 1950s, the women they love, and who love them.


Singin’ In The Rain
You know, if I hadn’t watched this really recently, I’m not sure I’d have remembered how much I enjoy this musical. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, accompanied by the wonderful, the sheer delight that is Jean Hagan turn this fault light tale of Hollywood moving from silent movies to talkies into a gem with extraordinary set pieces.

I watched it a few months back with the children of friends of mine who’d never seen it. And then I watched it again a month later just for the pleasure of doing so.

I recommend it without hesitation.

And how Donald O’Connor wasnt given a special one time Oscar for this scene alone is beyond me…


Les Miserables
Yeah, ok, some musicals should definitely stay on the stage because you’re always going to fuck up something when you film them. This is a prime example. I’ve never managed to make it through the movie all the way through. But the stage musical? My heavens it’s wonderful. And sweeps you away for a few hours. The lyrics are great, yeah, but it’s the music that completely grabs you, holds you, hugs you close and envelops you.

It’s glorious. How good an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel it is, I don’t have a clue. Never read the book. But as a piece of theatre? Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.


My Fair Lady
My heavens, they hit paydirt with this one. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn are magnificent as the leads, although Marnie Nixon does Hepburn’s singing. And then secondary leads are spectacular as well, particularly Wilfred Hyde-White and especially Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s father.

Have to say though, that I for a long time agrees with those who’ve said they ruined the ending when they filmed it, and should have left it with the same ending the play it’s based on – Pygmalion – used. I’m less sure of that now, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate both endings.

Genuinely could have used any of half a dozen different songs for the video for this one, and in fact did swap in and our three or four before landing on this one for its cleverness and just how it’s shot.


Blood Brothers
Willy Russell’s only musical, and damn it’s a good one. It’s never been made into a movie, as far as I know, which is a pity because with the right cast, it’d be magnificent. But I’ve seen it several times on stage, and maybe I’ve just been lucky but I’ve never seen a bad cast do it.

The idea? Two children separated at birth have very different lives, meet up as school children, then again as teenagers, and as adults. It’s a story of sacrifice, what parents sacrifice for children, the story of the two children, and of the girl who loves them.

Not a laugh a minute – though there are laughs a plenty, and extraordinarily catchy tunes. And you’ll not be able to think of the name Marilyn Monroe or Miss Jones the same way again.


The Rocky Horror [Picture] Show
There aren’t that many musicals where watching the stage show is unquestionably a different experience, a qualitatively different experience, to watching the movie.

Now, yes, ok, I’ll acknowledge that sitting in a theatre for a live performance is always a qualitatively different experience to watching a movie. But that’s not what I mean. Rewatching Rocky Horror as a movie, you know exactly what’s going to happen. Second by second, line by line, beat by beat.

That’s never, as in not ever, the case when you see it live. Oh, the songs will be the same, the lines as well. But there’s something extra, something special about seeing it live.

And yes, there’s audience participation in the movie. There is. Trust me on that one. But even that is prepared. Most, if not all, of the audience knows what’s happening every step of the way, and have prepared for it.

Again, not the case when you’re seeing it live. Because you have no idea what the actors will get the audience to do. And you’ve no real idea what you’ll do, when carried away by the energy, the fun, the sheer joy in the room.

But the movie’s pretty great anyway. You should watch that. But go see Rocky Horror live if you ever get the opportunity.


OK, we’re up to eight.

Two more.

One that you’ve probably never heard of but is one of my all time favourite musicals.

The other, if you’ve not heard of it, you don’t know me.


A Slice of Saturday Night
Yeah, this is the one you’ve probably never heard of. I discovered it almost by accident about thirty years ago and I absolutely love it.

Set in the 1960s, at a dance club, the cast are seven 17 years olds out for a Saturday night, and the club owner. That’s it.

What’s it about? Best way to sum it up is: it’s about falling in love on Saturday night… every Saturday night.

Almost all the songs are homages to classic 1960s hits; close enough so you know the song they’re homaging, far away enough from the original that the songs work in and of themselves.

It’s glorious. Clever lyrics, wonderful tunes, and with the right cast, it’s an evening of sheer joy.

Yeah, with the right cast.

A long time ago, while in a discussion about ‘end of life’, I was asked if I’d ever seen anyone die. My reply was “Yes, Dennis Waterman in A Slice of Saturday Night”. It wasn’t only his fault. The show needs to be in a small theatre. It’s an intimate piece. Seeing it with 800 others, the show lost its charm, and its cleverness.

But yes, if you ever get the chance to see A Slice Of Saturday Night in a small-ish theatre, go and have fun.

Been unable to find a decent video from the show, but here’s a song from the London cast that I saw… on Saturday chat….


OK, the one that Mitch would never forgive me if I left off, and I wouldnt recognise me had I done so.

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
Oh, come on, not a surprise surely…?

It’s a musical that needs no introduction, so it’s not getting one. Just enjoy.


Oh, ok, then…

See you for the usual tomorrow.