I love a good musical. (Sometimes, I even love a mediocre musical.) There is something about this format that makes it that little bit better than most things: fantastic stories, larger-than-life characters, talented performers, live bands and a good old song and dance all combine to make the musical one of the best forms of entertainment there is.
Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre, London
I had seen the UK tour of Phantom before, but it was brilliant to see the musical at its home in Her Majesty’s Theatre. In some ways, I actually preferred the set of the touring production. However, our Phantom was Gerónimo Rauch, who we had loved as Jean Valjean. He was equally amazing at this role. For people who aren’t particular musical theatre fans, this is a fairly intense one to introduce them with, but for me this is one of the best.
Here is a little trailer for the musical:
Once, Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York
Once doesn’t have the hype of some of the older or jukebox-type musicals, but it is easily on a par with them. If you need a brilliant plot or outlandish theatrical numbers like those in Hairspray, then you won’t find them here. It is a low-key musical, with a simple yet moving story. It is fairly important to like (or not dislike) folk music, as there is a very traditional feel to the songs. No need for an orchestra as the incredibly talented cast play their own instruments, which made it feel a bit like a concert. This wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but I was completely blown away by it.
Music video by the outstanding cast I saw:
Matilda, Shubert Theatre, New York
Matilda had never been top of my list of musicals to see, but we were wandering around Times Square when we saw that there was a matinée starting in half an hour, and we decided to get tickets. I didn’t have great expectations for the show, but I actually loved it. The music by Tim Minchin was smart and funny, the actors – particularly the guy playing Miss Trunchbull – were brilliant, and we all left smiling. Everyone would probably find something to like about this show.
This clip is from the Royal Variety Performance (UK cast), so you can skip the first 45 seconds of David Walliams:
Billy Elliot, Victoria Palace Theatre, London
Again, most people will find something to like here. Guys who pretend they hate musicals would probably find the amount of swearing here – particularly by young kids – funny. For most, it’s going to be the plot line of the miners’ strike, the beautiful ballet or one of the adorable kids playing Billy that is most striking. As for the music, Electricity is quite simply one of the best moments in theatre.
Somewhat ridiculously, there is no decent video of Electricity on YouTube, so you’ll have to settle for the song here, and go and see it for yourself!
Jersey Boys, Playhouse, Edinburgh
I know this shouldn’t be the first thing I mention, but the UK touring cast of the Jersey Boys are a seriously attractive lot. And they can sing! The guy rehearsing Frankie Valli’s role in the very first workshop actually damaged his voice, it requires such a range. This musical has a slightly different set-up than many I’ve seen, where the characters talk to the audience as we’re led through their story, but I think it worked. The songs are brilliant, of course, and again, many moments felt more like a concert. Perhaps because of the tipsy women in the audience who were up dancing and screaming for the guy playing Nick Massi.
I couldn’t find any videos with the cast I saw, but here is the trailer:
Wicked, Playhouse, Edinburgh
This was the third time I saw Wicked, and it never gets old. The untold story of the witches of Oz is clever – I love when stories present a new perspective on an old one – with an unbelievable score from Stephen Schwartz. It is both uplifting and heartbreaking and I think it is one of the best musicals ever written.
An obvious choice of tune would be Defying Gravity, but it’s another of those epic moments you can only achieve in the theatre. So let’s hear a bit of Popular, sung by the utterly charming (and original and best Glinda) Kristin Chenoweth:
What a brilliant year! They better bring out some great new musicals soon, because I’m running out of things to see. Of course, I would go back to see any of these any day!
Have you seen any musicals this year? Which is your favourite?