I have a little confession to make.
I love musicals.
I love the stories, the romance, the songs! I love learning the songs and singing along, much to the annoyance of my housemates and neighbours (they dread Christmas and my annual Nightmare Before Christmas sing along), they’re quite often a bit of good old fashioned, campy fun.
Which is why I never understand it when people tell me they don’t like musicals, how can you not love escapist cinema in it’s purest form. For a couple of hours you’re going to get some great songs, a bit of a love story and a rolicking good time!
So, to try and spread the joy and my love of musicals to as many people as possible, I present to you a list of musicals that have often been accompanied by the phrase ‘I don’t like musicals, but I loved that!’.
5) The Wiz (1978, 127mins, U, Dir: Sidney Lumet)
The Wiz, a Motown production, presents an alternative look at the The Wizard of Oz. Goodbye cute little Munchkins from the Lollypop guild, and hello urban wall dwelling graffiti munchkins!
I’m sure you’re familiar with the original story, Dorothy (here played by Diana Ross) ends up in Munchkinland and kills the Wicked Witch. The only way she can get home is by visiting the Wizard in the Emerald City, with Dorothy making friends with some unlikely heroes along the way.
As much as The Wiz sticks with the original plot it makes up for it with it’s wonderfully original design. It transports Oz from being a twee cute world into one of urban vibrancy. It celebrates African American culture, when it was first performed on broadway it was lauded for it’s roots in African American culture.
This celebration is most present in the soundtrack. The songs are all wonderful and full of soul, the title of the original broadway musical is The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. As soon as they hit wonderland you’re taken back to that great era of soul, the mid seventies.
Should see this film, it’s for a Sunday afternoon. Just look at Michael Jackson as the scarecrow there! Look at his little face, you wouldn’t to disappoint him, would you? Go watch it!
4) South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999, 78mins. 15, Dir: Trey Parker)
Those of us of a certain age are sure to have watched this at some point. Due to its excellent story and writing, the fact it’s a musical often gets forgotten.
It’s rude, crude and sometimes kinda lewd.
All our favourite foul mouthed 8 year olds are here, and they have to go on an adventure to liberate their comedy heroes Terrance and Phillip who are to be executed for farting on TV.
Yeah, it’s as daft and as bitingly satirical as you could hope for from a big screen outing of one of the smartest shows on television.
The songs are wonderfully written and composed, especially with the Oscar Nominated ‘Blame Canada’. It’s here that we really see the influences of classic musicals such as Les Miserable.
If you want a bit of biting satire with your spontaneous music sequences then this is the one for you!
3) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, 96mins, 15, Dir: Jim sharman)
One of the original Midnight Movies, Rocky Horror has delighted audiences for 40 years.
It was first recognised for being terrible, audiences would start dressing up and talking or responding to the dialogue on screen, giving the film it’s cult classic status.
Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sandon) find themselves with a flat tyre, so they knock at the door of the nearest mansion to use the phone (remember kids, people in the 70s didn’t have mobiles), where they find themselves in a musical house of horrors.
This is the film that gave us the Time Warp, a staple of school discos everywhere. It’s got Meatloaf riding a motorcycle through a wall, it has half naked men running about the place, and best of all it has Dr Frank ‘N’ Furter (played wonderfully by Tim Curry) the ultimate transvestite party boy who creates his own human toy.
I Rocky Horror is truly a beacon for the lost generation, for those that march to the beat of their own drummer, it’s united those of us who enjoy and revel in the non-mainstream, the freaks, the weirdos. Watch this if you have ever felt ‘out of place’, you may just fit in.
2) Pitch Perfect (2012, 112mins, 12, Dir: Jason Moore)
The most recent film on my list; Pitch Perfect has the perfect mix of irreverent comedy and brilliant songs. Unlike the other films this one relies mostly on cover versions, making Pitch Perfect feel like the edgier, more grown up, cousin of Glee.
The story follows Becca (Anna Kendrick) as she tries to make friends with the Barden Bellas, her college’s only all female acapella group. The Bella’s are fighting their way to get to the national championships and come up against some stiff competition.
The premise sounds kinda lame, but I promise that I have yet to meet anyone who has not been swept along with it’s amazing cheeriness, brilliant covers of some inspired songs, and fantastic humour (with just the right hint of a bit of gross out). A shout out goes to Rebel Wilson who mostly improvised her lines.
1) Little Shop of Horrors (1986, 91mins, PG, Dir: Frank Oz)
And so we make it to the final curtain. Little Shop of Horrors is with Rocky Horror in the cult classic camp. Like many great films that have reached the hearts of the people this didn’t do too well at the box office and really found it’s home in, well, the home. It’s release on VHS and Betamax really gave this it’s cult status.
Seymore (the always lovable Rick Moranis) was out buying plants one day (for the flower shop he works in) and came across an unusual looking plant. He simply has to buy it, and then name it Audrey II after his crush. The delightfully high pitched Audrey who goes out with a scoundrel dentist played by Steve Martin. However, it turns out the plant only eats human blood… Dum dun duuuuuunnnnnn.
There is nothing not to like here, it’s got bright, lovely and somewhat intimate songs (see Audrey singing ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and not cry, I dare you!) to great scary moments. There’s thrills, there’s spills, there are moments where you’ll laugh, cry, and maybe wet your pants, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The puppetry was all the work of the Jim Henson Co. and it is astounding. There are stories I could tell about how they had to shoot certain scenes at super slow speeds and speed it up later so it syncs up with lyrics.
See this film! There is really no reason not to, the musical numbers are just fab and very original, there’s a mix of genres, the design is scrungy yet beautiful, the characters are just adorable and lovely. I would recommend the Blu-Ray version as you can opt to play it with the original ending. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s very different from the theatrical version.