Thank goodness it’s October, amirite! As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a good portion of September avoiding the world and hiding under blankets. During that time, and especially during rounds of yarn crafting, musicals tended to occupy my ears. When I’m knitting or crocheting, my musical preferences tends towards stuff that is fluffy, lively, yet not terribly distracting. Those parameters eliminate a sizable portion of my usual catalog of music. But most musicals, from traditional fare like The Sound of Music to the modern thrummings of Phantom of the Opera, fit the bill perfectly. They keep my mind awake and help me concentrate on my work. Plus, there’s something about the ebb and flow of a good musical that help my brain relax into a wonderful zen-like state.
Most of the musical soundtracks in my collection come from movies; a few I’ve had the privilege of seeing staged or actually working on (in my past theatre life). And they fall into two distinct periods: the golden era and the modern era. However the theatre history books might define the “Golden Era” of musicals, in my mind, this covers the classic Porter and Coward, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Lerner and Lowe musicals of the 1930s to the early 1960s. You can probably name a few of these without much thought – Oklahoma! quickly comes to mind. But I’m betting that you can probably name more from the modern era, which for me covers from the 1960s to present day. Names like Sondheim and Prince, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Tim Rice come to mind. Grease, Les Miserables, and Wicked, and countless others fall into this period.
For this post, as you’ve no doubt surmised, I’ll be focusing on a few favorites from the the golden era – bright, colorful, quirky, and grandiose affairs replete with lots of dance numbers and dream sequences. They are as follows, in no particular order. (Also, please leave your favorites on the comments — all music welcome!)
South Pacific (stage, 1949; film, 1958)
My love affair with musical theatre began in high school. Each year, the music department and any number of theatrically-inclined students would get together and make magic happen on our little stage. And sometimes, that magic got a little…weird. Fun, but weird. Like that one year when we all got together for South Pacific. I was a senior working wardrobe, and I’ll never forget the lengths to which we went to help our standard white folk look quasi-Asian. Besides that un-PC mess, I quickly fell for this unusually charged musical (much of which deals with racism) with all of its marvelously memorable tunes.
The Music Man (stage, 1957; film, 1962)
The Music Man starts out with the same story as South Pacific: high school, only this time I was a junior. Again, I was on wardrobe crew , and I got to work with two very talented seniors in the lead roles of Marian and Harold Hill. (And I had a ridiculous crush on the guy who played Hill. This despite the fact that he was a total, but talented ass.) Anywaaaay, The Music Man is brilliant and unforgettable fun from start to finish. The movie version with Robert Preston is, hands down, THE best version of any musical, any where, throughout all space and time. Yes, ALL OF IT. Also…holy moly…isn’t Robert Preston just the best? (Answer, the only answer: YES.)
My Fair Lady (stage, 1956; film, 1964)
I can’t quite put into words just how infatuated I once was with this musical. (And it’s still an all-time favorite.) 1989 marked the 25th anniversary of the movie version, and for a time it appeared regularly on cable. And I watched it any and every chance I got. I l-o-v-e-d Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle and her voice was simply divine. (It wasn’t actually hers, but I didn’t know that then.) My Fair Lady was probably the first movie with which I became utterly enamored, all fairy tale-like, sweeping and emotional, full of agony and triumph.
Camelot (stage, 1960; film 1967)
Camelot holds a number of very special places in my heart, not the least of which is that it’s one of the first musicals I worked on in a professional setting. I was a costumer back then, and I had the privelege of making some very pretty items for that production. The show also brought together me and my husband [sappy sappy gag]…shut up. Just…shut it and listen to a bit from Camelot instead. It’s make you forget all about life, in a good way.
Guys and Dolls (stage 1950; film 1955)
Guys and Dolls is a about as joyful and as perfect as a musical can get. It’s high-spirited with a decent story and a set of incredible sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs songs. Now, I do have to say that the movie version with Sinatra and Brando isn’t tops on my list. It’s good, but it almost borders on farce in spots, which isn’t fitting for this beast of a production. It’s meant to be on a stage, a large stage in a room with monumentally high ceilings. And even spaces like that can barely contain it.
Like what you’ve just read? Cary posts to Geek Force Network every Friday; and you can also find more words that she put together in paragraphs at Recollections of Play, United We Game, and 8bit Kitchen.