It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another rundown of five musicals that I love!
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
How I’ve experienced it: I saw it onstage when I was little, but the TV movie version with Donny Osmond is what I’m primarily familiar with. Along with Cats and Into the Woods, it was a major part of my introduction to musical theatre.
It’s about: It’s the story of Joseph from the Bible, except funny.
Why is it so good? It uses all sorts of different styles of music to tell a coherent story, and manages to take a Bible story—which, like all Bible stories, is heavy and somber—and turn it into a brightly colored blast. It’s anachronistic in the best possible way, and I love the way the narrator interacts with and editorializes the story as she tells it.
My recommendation (if you can’t see it live): You can’t beat the movie. Maria Friedman as the narrator is great. Everyone is great, but I already mentioned Donny Osmond, and Friedman is too good to leave out.
My favorite songs: “One More Angel in Heaven;” “Song of the King;” and “Any Dream Will Do”
The School of Rock
How I’ve experienced it: I got to see it live! Of course, the original movie with Jack Black is a lot of fun, but I love the musical even more and I really hope that it gets recorded someday because I would love to see it again.
It’s about: It has the same plot as the Jack Black movie. It’s about a loser band guy who impersonates his roommate, a substitute teacher, so that he can make rent and ends up with a group of musically talented students with whom he hopes to win a Battle of the Bands.
Why is it so good? It is absolutely hilarious. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to this show, but it is a riot. Child actors can be kind of annoying, but I have never seen such a concentrated group of talented youngsters (they all play their own instruments!). There’s a mix of musical styles, with a few traditional Broadway numbers and some more rock ‘n roll moments. I would see this one again in a heartbeat.
My recommendation (if you can’t see it live): I really, really wish there was a way to experience this from home, but right now the cast recording is it. It’s a great cast recording, though!
My favorite songs: “Stick it to the Man;” “If Only You Would Listen;” and “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock”
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
How I’ve experienced it: The movie.
It’s about: A rugged outdoorsman marries a woman because he wants someone to keep house for him and his rowdy brothers, but takes on more than he bargained for.
Why is it so good? The premise of this one sounds a bit sexist, and that combined with the fact that it’s from 1954 makes for a potentially dubious musical. I loved this movie when I was little and watched it again recently with more than a little trepidation… and discovered that it is still great. Is the concept iffy? Yeah. But Milly is the most powerful character, and over the course of the show she teaches her new brothers-in-law how to behave; by the end, the gruff mountain men have all learned to behave like gentlemen and to treat her with the respect that she demands. But more importantly, this musical is delightfully silly. It makes me irrationally happy. I love all musicals, but something about this one makes me smile extra wide. Also–and this is a common compliment–the dancing is great.
My recommendation (if you can’t see it live): Watch this ridiculous old movie! You won’t regret it.
My favorite songs: “Bless Your Beautiful Hide;” “Goin’ Courtin’;” and “Sobbin’ Women”
How I’ve experienced it: I grew up with the animated movie, and got to see the musical live about a year ago. The stage musical is significantly different than the original, but they’re both really good.
It’s about: The story is based on the (now defunct) theory that Princess Anastasia escaped the Bolshevik invasion that killed the Czar Nicholas and the rest of their family. The movie has a supernatural plotline involving an undead Rasputin and a curse, and the stage show takes a more realistic/political approach.
Why is it so good? The score is great, and it has some really fun, silly moments mixed in with a dramatic and romantic main plot. Growing up, Dimitri was one of my favorite fictional characters in any movie, and I still find him a cut above the average bland Prince Charming type.
My recommendation (if you can’t see it live): The movie is essential viewing, but you should listen to the OBC recording to hear the new songs and plot changes, because the show and the movie are different enough that they can and should be enjoyed as separate entities.
My favorite songs (from the stage show): “A Rumor in St. Petersburg;” “Stay, I Pray You;” and “In My Dreams”
How I’ve experienced it: I’ve seen Oklahoma! performed by multiple high schools (all very well; my high schools all had bizarrely good/well-funded theatre departments) and have seen the 1955 movie and the 1999 version with Hugh Jackman. Also, I once saw a spectacular live performance that was staged outside with real horses. Unfortunately, the place that put that on has since closed, which is a complete travesty.
It’s about: When Oklahoma was a territory on the cusp of statehood, a young woman is caught in a love triangle between a cocky cowboy and a frightening farmhand with a seedy past.
Why is it so good? Oklahoma! is one of my favorite old shows. It has a good combination of goofy upbeat songs and traditional love ballads. I have a soft spot for this show because I lived in Oklahoma for a long time and that show is the best thing about the state. Also, Will’s lasso swinging is a very cool bit of choreography that you don’t see in other shows.
My recommendation (if you can’t see it live): I really like the version with Hugh Jackman, primarily because it updates Laurey so that she is Curly’s sassy and sarcastic equal, not just a silly, swoony girl who warbles slow songs whenever the sillier characters take a break. Also, the original movie Ado Annie can’t sing, so replacing her with someone who can is a good trade-off.
My favorite songs: “Pore Jud is Daid;” “I Cain’t Say No;” and “Kansas City”
gif credits here, here, here, here, and here