For most of my life I have been a fan of musicals. As an avid movie and music fan, musicals seamlessly combine two of my favorite things. My parents gave me the Grease soundtrack & DVD for my pre-school graduation. Was that an appropriate gift for a 4-year-old? Probably not, but it is where my love for musicals began. Anytime a new musical comes out you can guarantee I’ll be there to watch it. Whether it’s a movie theatre, Broadway, or even Disney Channel, I love them all!
Making a list of my favorite musicals would be next to impossible. To narrow it down, I chose five that I spend the most amount of time listening to according to my Spotify.
THE START OF IT ALL
GREASE: I have always had such a love for this 1971 classic. This was the number one CD I would ask my mom to play anytime we were in the car. This story follows the lives of group of high school students as they learn who they are. The audience follows them as they decide if they want to stick to the same old routine or grow into who they really are before graduation.
The movie stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, and more. The songs vary in style from ballads, to bluesy, to duets, to assemble numbers. There is a reason that this musical continues to play on TV several times a year. It continues to be a popular musical amongst high schools and beyond. The songs are fun and timeless and an easy watch for all types of music fans.
MOULIN ROUGE: I am a huge fan of jukebox musicals. I think it’s such a cool concept to be able to create an entire story around a few songs. Then, when songs are put in just the right spot it makes the entire show magical. In 2020 I watched the 2001 film Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. I fell in love with the movie immediately and added it to my list of favorites.
This past summer, I was lucky enough to go see Moulin Rouge on Broadway starring Derrick Klena and Ashley Loren. I was blown away by the performances from the entire cast & was amazed the entire show. This musical includes songs like “Your Song” by Elton John, “Chandelier” by Sia, and much more. Finally, it was so easy to sink into the musical and enjoy the story when you knew the words to all of the songs.
MAMMA MIA: The definition of a cultural reset for my friends and I was watching Mamma Mia for the first time. The songs. The movie. The acting. Everything about Mamma Mia made my life better in 2018 (Yes, I know I watched it late). I cannot begin to tell you how long I listened to that album and only that album after watching the movie. My friends and I threw a Mamma Mia themed party and my dream wardrobe is Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia 2.
If you don’t know, this is a jukebox musical consisting of only Abba songs. It came to life on the big screen in 2008 starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, and Pierce Bronsnan. The sequel came out 10 years later in 2018 and both movies continue to be a consistent comfort movie in my life. The songs are generally on the upbeat, poppy side of music with a few emotional ballads making their way in there.
LIN MANUEL MIRANDA + mUSICALS
HAMILTON: Hamilton swept the nation when it came out in 2015 & did it again when it was came out on Disney+ in 2020. The show was written by Lin Manuel Miranda who also had the starring role of Alexander Hamilton. A main theme of the show was telling the story of America with actors that looked like todays America. This was one of if not the most diverse cast on Broadway. What drew me in the most was the fact that I was getting a history lesson, (albeit a slightly dramatized history lesson) that was actually holding my attention and genuinely entertaining me.
This show took a turn away from standard musicals. Instead of pop music, a majority of the songs fit into the rap genre. There were a few ballads and emotional songs, most notably the song “Burn” performed originally by Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton after she found out about Hamilton’s affair. This is a genre of musicals I hope to see more of in the future.
TICK TICK BOOM: This movie was one of my favorite releases last year. The musical it’s based on was written by Jonathan Larson, the man who created RENT. The movie came out in 2021 starring Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, and more. Lin Manuel Miranda directed Tick Tick Boom. The film tells the story of Larson’s last years before he tragically passed away at the age of 35.
Much like the other musicals on this list, this show jumps around from songs that make you want get up and dance to songs that you want to curl up in a ball and cry. There is most notably a heart wrenching performance by Garfield as he performs the song “Real Life” after he finds out his best friend Michael (played by Robin de Jesuś) has AIDS. Much like Larson’s musical RENT, he is able to tackle the difficulties and hardships those with AIDS suffered in the 80’s and 90’s.
Musicals are often judged or written off by people without giving them a chance! As you can see there are many different sub-genres within theatre for you to explore. I’m certain you’ll find one you’re into, and who knows one day you may think of yourself as a musical lover just like me.