Sunday, April 14, 2013

M is for Musicals

Who doesn't love musicals? Folks dancing around, singing about everything.  It's greatness.  Unless you're Madonna and the musical is Evita.  I'd rather tear my eyes and eardrums out with forks than watch that crap again.  The first musical I ever saw live was "The Wedding Singer", based on the film of the same name starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.  It's one of my favorite Sandler movies, mostly because of the soundtrack.

Although The Wedding Singer isn't actually categorized a musical (most usually contain some singing and dancing by the actors), it is one of the best music-oriented films ever, right up there with Empire Records, Dazed & Confused and Almost Famous.

In honor of this most fantastical genre, here are my top-ten favorite musicals!

10. Wizard of Oz
Everyone with a television has seen Dorothy and company fight the wicked witch at least once.  (Remember being a kid and looking for the man hanging himself in the forest?)

Young Dorothy is caught in a tornado that carries her to the land of Oz, where she hooks up with scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion to search for the great and powerful Oz.  The wizard is the only one who can send Dorothy home, but along the way she has to fight the wicked witch, who's pissed because Dorothy dropped a house on her sister.  Much singing and dancing is ensues along the way.  Throw in some munchkins and flying monkeys and you have yourself musical.

It wasn't until my late teen years that I realized the parallels between Oz and Dorothy's real life.  This story is really much more psychological than originally thought, which is one of the things I love about it.

If I only had a brain.....

9. Chicago
Chicago is one of the best musicals in regards to plot and music.  The film stars Richard Gere (one of the sexiest men alive), Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly are scene stealers throughout much of the film.

Aspiring singer Roxie Hart's affair with a smooth-talking furniture salesman ends in murder, and Roxie finds herself on murderess row alongside a plethora of women with anger management issues, including jazz singer Velma Kelly.  Enter Billy Flynn, smooth-talking lawyer.  Kelly and Hart fight for Flynn's attention, which in turn gets the attention of the press.

The film has great song and dance numbers galore, and a plus is Gere singing and dancing in his skivvies.  Rawr.

8. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
 Poor Charlie Bucket lives with his mom and grandparents in a tiny little hovel, working a paper route to help feed his family.  News of a worldwide contest  breaks out, with five lucky children winning access to the local factory of candy-maker Willy Wonka (portrayed brilliantly by Gene Wilder).  Charlie finds a golden ticket along with spoiled brat Veruca Salt, German boy Augustus Gloop, gum chewing Violet Beauregard and television-obsessed Mike TeeVee.  As they tour the factory with eccentric Wonka, they learn life lessons and are disqualified one by one for various offenses. (Am I the only one who missed the symbolism for the deadly sins until my mid-twenties?)

If this movie contained only one scene, and it was of Veruca Salt in the goose room, I'd still love this movie.  The film is visually impressive, as well as witty and fun.  A few songs are a little trippy (especially on the boat ride), but still good. 

Even as an adult, whenever I watch this movie, I feel an overwhelming desire to move into a candy factory.

7. The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews, I adore you.   Young nun Maria just can't seem to get into the swing of things at the convent, what with her daily frolicking through fields of wildflowers and singing about the hills being alive.  Fed up, the nuns suggest Maria go work as a governess (aka nanny) at the home of Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and his seven children.  Through patience and charm, Maria wins the affection of the children, and eventually, Captain Von Trapp.

This film is full of beautifully written, fantastic musical numbers, and the children are all adorable.  Plummer is also pretty charming as the grumpy, softy-at-heart Von Trapp.  And who doesn't love Julie Andrews?

6. Grease
(Note: I know I just wrote about this film a few days ago, but I can't NOT include Grease in the musicals post!)
It's 1958 and music rules for this mega-hit starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Rydell High School is all about being cool, and the leaders are gang the T-Birds and their girls, the Pink Ladies.  Danny Zuko, one of the head guys, runs into his summer love Sandy after her family moves from Australia.  Danny hurts Sandy's feelings by trying to be cool in front of his pals, then realizes his mistake and pursues her.  Heartbreak, singing and dancing ensues as Danny tries to re-win Sandy's affections.

Great music and a young John Travolta in tight clothes.  Win.  This movie also provides one of my most favorite movie quotes:  "A hickie from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card."  Love it.

5. Mary Poppins
Every kid loves this movie.  Even if Dick Van Dyke weren't so completely swoon-worthy back then, this film would still be great thanks to Julie Andrews.

Spoiled rich kids Jane and Michael have gone through every nanny in town, frustrating grumpy banker father Mr. Banks and women's rights activist mother Mrs. Banks.  The kids make a list of the qualities they wish for in a nanny, which Mr. Banks promptly rips up and throws in the fireplace.  Magically, the list flies into the air, repairs itself and lands in the hands of Mary Poppins.

Miss Poppins takes over as nanny - after much confusing of Mr. Banks - and takes the children on wonderful adventures with chimney sweep and street performer Bert (played by Van Dyke).   There's a little bit of animation mixed in with this live-action musical, but you get so wrapped up in the story that you almost forget to notice it.

4. White Christmas
 I didn't see this 1954 jewel until I met Hubs.  This film is his favorite musical, and his second-favorite Christmas movie, after Christmas Vacation (of course).

Singing post-war buddies Bob and Phil meet charming singing/dancing sisters Betty and Judy at a nightclub.  After Bob becomes smitten with Betty, boys follow girls to an inn in Vermont.  The inn is deserted, but after realizing the owner is Bob and Phil's old army general, the four stay to help the inn get business.

An entire show production, romance, communication mix-ups, a pretend engagement and a Christmas show all unfold amid great music and wintry backdrops.

3. Cry-Baby
One of the best John Waters films (my other favorite is actually number one on this list), Cry-Baby stars a young - and devilishly handsome - Johnny Depp.  Along with Depp are Ricki Lake,  Iggy Pop, Tracy Lord and Amy Locane.

Drape Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker has the hots for square Allison Vernon-Williams, much to the dismay of her wealthy grandmother and boyfriend Milton.   Cry-Baby's friends take Allison in and show her how to be a bad girl.  After a night of singing together, the drapes are attacked by the squares, sending Cry-Baby to a juvenile detention center and Allison back into the arms of Milton.  The drape crew plan hijinks to get Cry-Baby out of jail so he can win Allison's affections once again.

As with any John Waters film, this movie is hilarious and dirty.  The music is comical and wonderfully entertaining.

2. Little Shop of Horrors
Pitiful Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) lives a sad and pathetic life, staying in the basement of the flower shop where he works.  One day Seymour is plant shopping and happens upon a strange-looking plant, which turns out to be an alien.  He brings the plant back to the shop and names it Audrey II, after the abused blonde he works with and has a crush on.

Seymour learns that Audrey II prefers blood to water and sunlight, so he feeds it accordingly and it grows into a massive plant.  Business booms, and Seymour is suddenly famous.  Audrey II keeps getting more demanding, making it hard for Seymour to make a move on the now-interested Audrey.  A confrontation with Audrey's dentist boyfriend (played by Steve Martin) ends in murder, and Seymour finds himself on the brink of destruction.

The songs are ridiculous, but fun.  Steve Martin and Rick Moranis, while not the best singers, are delightful and amusing to watch.  Bonus: Bill Murray as a pain-obsessed dental patient of Martin.  Win.

1. Hairspray (1988 version)
 This film by John Waters is not just the best (in my opinion) musical ever made, it's one of the best movies ever made, as well.    Cast includes a young Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller and Divine.

Tracy Turnblad loves to dance, and she knows she's good at it despite her large size.  After attending a hop hosted by Corny Collins, Tracy is invited to be on The Corny Collins Show, which features teens dancing to the newest music.  Although her homebody mother (a hideous Divine) is against it, she gains support from her jokester father (Stiller) and joins the show.  She falls for hottie Link Larkin and becomes the enemy of the show's self-proclaimed star Amber von Tussle.

While race issues are the backdrop to this film, great music and old-school dancing take center stage.

Honorable mentions:  Annie,  Auntie Mame and The Rocky Horror Picture Show

1 comment:

  1. i have to say white christmas and grease are some of my favs as well. but i also like little shop of horrors and lion king (on broadway) and once.