Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Ten Favorite Musicals

I love musicals, though I'm partial to the kind where the songs advance the plot, not where people just sing for a while because they can.  In fact, you won't find a single "we're putting on a show!" musical on this list (Though Singin' in the Rain does have a few numbers like that, which are not my favorites).  I discovered, while making this, that I really love musicals from the '50s -- six of these are from that decade, and three are from a single year!  There are also three starring the same person:  Gene Kelly.  He's absolutely my favorite dancer.  Ever.  The end.

1.  Guys and Dolls (1955)

Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) bets Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) that he can't get social reformer Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) to go on a date with him.  This movie made me fall in love with the stories and writing style of Damon Runyon, which the musical is based on.  Personally (and that means in person), I adore the odd patter the characters speak.

2.  An American in Paris (1951)

An ex-GI painter (Gene Kelly) falls in love with a girl (Leslie Caron), not knowing she's engaged to his night club singer friend (Georges Guetary).  The whole movie is an excuse to sing and dance to Gershwin tunes, which is one of the best reasons for making a musical I've ever heard.

3.  White Christmas (1954)

A team of showbiz stars (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) try to rescue a retired general (Dean Jagger) from bankruptcy by staging a show at his ski lodge.  Why yes, this heads up my list of favorite Christmas movies too.

4.  State Fair (1945)

A family spends a week at the Iowa state fair, where the daughter (Jeanne Crain) falls in love with a newspaper man (Dana Andrews), the son falls in love with an entertainer, and the parents take home prizes for their mincemeat and hog.  There's a 1960s remake that stars Bobby Darin in the Dana Andrews role, but aside from dearest Bobby, that version lacks the charm of this one.

5.  West Side Story (1961)

A modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1960s NYC, with rival street gangs taking the place of rival families.  So heartbreaking and beautiful, with some of the coolest dancing ever -- I much prefer it to Romeo and Juliet.  The soundtrack was one of the first CDs I ever bought, and I know all the words to every song.

6.  Brigadoon (1954)

Two hunters (Gene Kelly and Van Johnson) stumble on an enchanted Scottish village that only exists one day out of every hundred years.  I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.  This is another soundtrack I love to bits and know every song on.

7.  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

A man (Howard Keel) comes down out of the mountains to find a bride (Jane Powell), but doesn't tell her he has six brothers back home, and she throws a snit fit when she finds out and won't let any of them live in the house for a while.  Funnier than it sounds.  Also has gobs and gobs of awesome dancing.

8.  Singin' in the Rain (1952)

While the movie business scrambles to convert from silents to talkies, an actor (Gene Kelly) falls in love with a straight-talking girl (Debbie Reynolds), but his onscreen romantic partner (Jean Hagen) schemes to keep them apart. There is a reason this is so famous:  it's amazing.

9.  Oklahoma! (1999)

A cowboy (Hugh Jackman) tries to win the heart of a girl who claims she hates him.  Yes, you read that correctly:  Hugh Jackman.  This is the London stage version, not the famous Hollywood one, and I prefer it because, well, Hugh Jackman.  Totally available on DVD, and the soundtrack is out on CD.

10.  Evita (1996)

The fictionalized story of how Eva Peron (Madonna) married dictator-to-be Juan Peron (Jonathon Pryce) and helped him take over Argentina, as told by the coolest narrator ever (Antonio Banderas).  Another one with a soundtrack I know forward and backward.

How about you?  Are any of your favorites on this list?  What musicals do you love that I don't have listed here?  Maybe you can introduce me to some I haven't seen yet!


  1. I haven't seen many of this list; but the one I want to watch the first is 'State Fair.' I absolutely LOVE Jeanne Crain and I've fallen head-over-heels in love with her wardrobe.
    My favourite three musicals as Sound of Music (always and forever), Mary Poppins (yup, know it by heart, that one) and 'The Fiddler on the Roof.' Have you heard of the latter? It's really, really amazing. It's my mother's favourite movie!

    ~ Naomi

    1. I really love The Sound of Music too -- that one and It's Always Fair Weather would be my #s 11 and 12. Mary Poppins will be showing up on another list in the future :-) As for Fiddler on the Roof, I do know that one, and have seen it probably 4 or 5 times. It's too sad for my taste, but I like some of the songs.

  2. Hamlette,
    Brigadoon!!! I can never explain exactly why it is, but "Brigadoon" is my heart-musical (hope that does not sound too strange. :) ) And you love it, too? Be aware that you have now become one of my very favorite people. :) It is one of the few movies that makes me cry every single time I see it from the complete sweetness of it. And the soundtrack! Yes, I love that to pieces too! And the dancing? Some of the most romantic and sigh worthy stuff ever seen on screen!

    Oh! I really want to see that "Oklahoma"! My mother likes to sing the song every once in a while and though I haven't been interested in seeing the old version, you have now convinced me I should see this one, because I can picture Hugh Jackman looking amazing as a cowboy!

    I have only seen "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" once, but it was certainly a lot of fun.

    And now for some of my other favorite musicals: the classic "Sound of Music" (of course. :) ), "Royal Wedding" (never tire of seeing it) and the 2003 "The Music Man" (love that one too. :))

    1. Isn't Brigadoon utterly charming? "The Heather on the Hill" has been one of my favorite songs ever since I was a little girl. And oh, the ending. The ending! So beautiful.

      I do actually really like the MacRae/Jones film version of Oklahoma! too. But I like this one better. Jackman has more fire, an almost dangerous edge to him. And he makes a wonderful cowboy :-D

      I do love The Sound of Music. I've probably seen it more often than any other movie ever. When I was a kid, it was the only movie we owned until I was like 11 or 12.

      Royal Wedding is lots of fun! I've only seen it once, but I'd like to see it again. I haven't seen the 2003 version of The Music Man, but I really love the 1962 version.

  3. Seven Brides for Seven Brother, Singin' In The Rain, and Oklahoma! (1999) are some of my favorite musicals, too.

    1. All three are such exuberant fun :-) And hooray for someone else who's seen the 1999 Oklahoma!

    2. I saw 1999 Oklahoma! After seeing Hugh Jackman in X-Men and I just couldn't believe it was the same guy!!

    3. Hee! Yeah, when he got cast as Valjean in Les Mis and people were all going, "What, Wolverine can sing???" I was always like, "Um, yes. Go watch this version of Oklahoma! and you'll understand."

  4. Rather different set for me.

    Les Miserables (2012)
    Annie (1982)
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
    Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
    Scrooge (1970)

    There's others that I'm fond of and ones where I love particular songs, but the above are the ones I love through and through.

    1. I really like Les Miserables! And Annie is great fun. Have you seen the new one? I wanted to, but then I just kept going to see The Battle of the Five Armies instead whenever I had a chance to go to the theater. I haven't seen the other three, but I'd really like to see Scrooge some time.

    2. I didn't see the new one. After doing some research on it, it didn't sound that appealing to me. Plus, I was seeing The Battle of Five Armies. ;)

  5. Oooh yay! Most of these are favorites for me too!
    American in Paris is okay. Some of the longer dance scenes are a little boring.
    White Christmas is the best!!!! Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby!!!
    State Fair was pretty good. I definitely recommend the older version! And the songs are catchy!
    West Side Story was an interesting watch. The gang members doing ballet was awesome! My favorite song is America!
    I have to see Brigadoon! I've watched the Come Home with Bonny Jean scene multiple times!
    Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an amazing movie! I love almost all the songs! Gideon's my favorite brother, and I'm pretty sure he's in West Side Story?
    Singin in the Rain is awesome! The dancing!!! *drools*
    I've yet to see Oklahoma, but I might be seeing it in the next few months!
    Awesome post!

    1. Yup, Gideon is played by Russ Tamblyn, who plays Riff in West Side Story. I'm a total fan of his -- I've seen him in several non-musicals too, mostly westerns, and he's always lots of fun.

      I hope you like Oklahoma! when you see it :-)

  6. Oklahoma! Is the best to play in!!! :D

    1. Oooooh, that does sound fun! What part did you have?

  7. Musicals? *Emma perks up* Did someone say musicals?

    I think it's common knowledge that I'm a complete musical theatre freak. ;-P Actually, I haven't seen most of these; I've heard Guys and Dolls is really funny, and I feel like I need to watch West Side Story just because....well, it's West Side Story, that's all. :-)

    White Christmas is awesome. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are EPIC together. :-)

    I watched Brigadoon for the first time a few months ago, and actually, I thought it was really super weird. The music wasn't catchy and the dancing actually kind, bored me. It was a sweet story, it just didn't do it for me. But I know lots of people adore it, so I won't say anything mean!

    I saw State Fair eons ago....I remember loving "It's a Grand Night For Singing". And "It Must Be Spring." Ohhhh, and I LOVE Seven Brides For Seven Brothers!!!! That's one of my oldest favorites. Jane Powell is gorgeous in that movie. The music is so much fun-- oh, I just love it. :-)

    I've never been a huge fan of Singin' in the Rain, but some of the songs are good. Although I am a huge fan of Debbie Reynolds. Have you seen The Unsinkable Molly Brown? She's pretty awesome in that, although she doesn't do much actual singing. But Harve Presnell does, and boy, can that fella sing! Ohmygoodness.

    I need to watch Oklahoma again...I only remember the weirdest parts of the old movie, and then when I saw a high school production it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. I should totally check out this Hugh Jackman version. :-)

    Okay, here's my top ten favorite musicals. Just because I can't resist. :-)

    #1 Les Miserables (ALL THE WAY)
    #2 Meet Me In St. Louis
    #3 Hello Dolly
    #4 Wicked
    #5 1776
    #6 The Scarlet Pimpernel
    #7 Shenandoah
    #8 The Phantom of the Opera
    #9 The Music Man
    #10 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

    I could go on and on....but I'll stop. Fun post!


    1. Oh, Guys and Dolls is hilarious!!! I love it dearly. Do try to see it. And yes, West Side Story must be seen.

      I've seen The Unsinkable Molly Brown three times, but that was long ago. I really liked it, but didn't love it.

      Love your list! Meet Me in St. Louis is my daughters' favorite movie right now. We watch it at least once a month, and they run around pretending they're Esther and Tootie all the time. In fact, I refer to my youngest as Tootie here on my blog because she really behaves strikingly like that character.

      Hello, Dolly! and The Music Man are two more I really love. Wonderful, wonderful songs.

      I haven't seen Wicked or The Scarlet Pimpernel or Shenandoah, alas. I know a bit about each, but they haven't crossed my path yet, and I haven't been curious enough to seek them out. But if they should pop up on Hulu or at the library, etc, I'll give them a try!

  8. I love musicals. I also like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, American in Paris, White Christmas, and Singin' in the Rain. The ones that I'm dying to see are West Side Story and Brigadoon. I also love My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, the King and I, Cinderella (1965), Easter Parade, Barkleys of Broadway, and I feel like I could go on forever. :)

    1. I've seen all those you mentioned except Barkleys of Broadway -- what's it about?

    2. It's the last movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The story is about this theater duo, and they separate because of their resentment of each other Ginger Rogers wants to become a serious actress, and Fred Astaire teaches her without her knowing. It's kind of complicated, but it's full of nice music, and of course has a happy ending.

    3. That sounds cool! I'll keep an eye out for it.

  9. Yes!! I lovelovelove Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (it might be my favorite). I also love Singin' in the Rain and Evita:D

    Have you ever seen Calamity Jane? It stars Howard Keel, which was the reason I watched it, and I ended up really enjoying it. The characters are rather shallow, but it's funny:D

    1. Yup, I have seen "Calamity Jane," though I tend to get it confused with "Annie Get Your Gun," hee. Have you seen "Show Boat" or "Kiss Me, Kate," if you like Howard Keel? One is sad and one is fun.

  10. Forgot to mention that even though they aren't my favorite musicals, I still have a soft spot for The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz. Growing up when there were only about four TV channels, Sound & Wizard were on practically every year & my family would always watch them.

    I've never seen Showboat, but I love "Ol Man River."

    Also, has anyone seen Finian's Rainbow? I started watching it one time but just didn't get into it. Just wondering if I truly missed something there.

    1. The Sound of Music was the only VHS we had for years and years, and I have probably seen it more often than any movie. So I also love it, but I have no great need to see it very often because I know it so so so so well.

      Showboat is kind of uneven, in that lots of it is sad, but then some of it is kind of floofy. But I love "Ol' Man River" too. And "Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine."

      I've never seen Finian's Rainbow, so I hope someone else chimes in here with a report on it.

  11. The Sound of Music is still one of my favorites. As well as My Fair Lady. And Hello Dolly! And The Music Man! (Wow. There's lots that I like. I'd forgotten how many until I started listing.) And now I have soooo many more to add to my watch list! :)

    1. There are just so many good musicals, aren't there? I love all of those too, especially "Hello, Dolly!" and "The Music Man." I sing Dolly's "Goodbye" song to my kids whenever they're being melodramatic and stomping up the stairs saying they're never coming back down for a hundred years, etc :-)


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