For those who love their musicals, there are plenty to watch. But which ones are really must-see? Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon selects ten of her particular favourites…
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: it is hard to imagine that there is anyone who hasn’t seen this lovely gem of a musical – but if you haven’t there are plenty of reasons why you should. Not least because of the excellent songs written by Richard and Robert Sherman, excellent performances from Robert Helpmann as the terrifying Childcatcher and Lionel Jefferies as the eccentric Grandpa Potts. But equally impressive are the dance routines – in particular ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ which showcases just how wonderful of a dancer Dick Van Dyke really is.
Thoroughly Modern Millie: gleefully chaotic and filled with misunderstandings, this film features some wonderful performances from the cast which not only includes Julie Andrews as the youthful and exuberant Millie but also Carol Channing as Muzzy, James Fox as Jimmy and John Gavin as Trevor. Yes there are some elements in particular with the way in which Mrs Meers is portrayed that are perhaps slightly uncomfortable to watch these days. However, this aside it is a wonderfully hilarious and joyful musical to watch.
Moulin Rouge: lavish, exciting and passionate, Moulin Rouge is one of those musicals that manages to take your breath away and dazzle every time you sit and watch it. As probably one of the more memorable musicals in (fairly) recent years, I love the way in which it uses contemporary music and dramatises each song further to offer new perspective on the lyrics. But the film’s other strength lies in the utterly compelling way in which the story unfolds to increasingly dramatic effect to keep you gripped until the very end.
Walking on Sunshine: corny and cheesy? Yes. Filled with hits from the 1980’s? Yes. While this 2014 film didn’t really go down well with the critics who basically accused it of trying to be the next Mamma Mia! I have a strong affection for this film which impressively managed to fit quite a few songs from a variety of artists. No it isn’t a film to be taken too seriously but is still immensely enjoyable and entertaining for what it is. Quite frankly it is the film we all need right now to take our minds off things.
Funny Face: directed by Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain), this charming and gentle musical film not only predominantly shows off Paris to full effect but features such a lovely range of George and Ira Gershwin songs including ‘S’Wonderful’ and ‘How Long Has This Been Going On’. While the plot is majorly different from the Broadway musical of the same name and based more on another Broadway musical, Wedding Bells it is still worth a watch.
Guys and Dolls: while it would be fair that perhaps Marlon Brando didn’t have the strongest of singing voices, I still love this musical film very much and the way it was brought to life. Not only are there some really brilliant characterisations such as Stubby Kaye as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Sheldon Leonard as Harry the Horse and Vivian Blaine as Miss Adelaide, but all the musical numbers were presented brilliantly.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe are just wonderful in this musical comedy as two women setting off to Paris together – but with plenty of trouble along the way. As well as featuring the iconic ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, there are some other lovely musical numbers to be enjoyed such as ‘When Love Goes Wrong’ and ‘Bye Bye Baby’.
My Fair Lady: what a lavish spectacle this film is! Every detail is so wonderfully thought out and the cast is absolutely spot on. It is just a shame that it was decided not to use Audrey Hepburn’s voice (on the DVD special features you can hear how it would have sounded if she had been allowed to sing). Aside from this, it is a film that just shows how wonderful the music and story for this musical really is.
Chicago: this is probably one of the rare instances that I prefer the film version to the stage version. Slick and sharp from start to finish, Chicago is not only superbly choreographed, but also it feels as though the story translates better on screen than it does on stage in some regards – particularly when dealing with the conflicting relationship between Roxy and Velma.
Mamma Mia!: lets face it who doesn’t love a musical that ultimately makes you feel good? Released in 2008, this big screen adaptation of the popular stage show is filled with warmth, humour and has the ability to put a smile on your face whether you want to or not. Featuring the songs of ABBA, it is very difficult not to get up and sing along!