Raindrops on Roses, Whiskers on Kittens...blah blah blahApr 13, 2001 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Singing, Dancing, people making fools of themselves...that's what life is all about, right?
Unfortunately for me, these ARE a few of my favorite things. Not the raindrops on roses (I live in a freaking DESERT) or the whiskers on kittens (when I was a pup, I *cringe* CUT MY CAT'S WHISKERS OFF!!!)(sorry, Fritz!), but musicals themselves. Probably as a result of my twisted upbringing where we only listened to classical music, with the occasional exception of some Peter Paul & Mary or Simon & Garfunkel.
And musicals. My mom loves musicals, and then my older sister did, and I sort of got schmooed along for the ride, having no independent thought or taste of my own. Turns out some of them are pretty good.
I'll never forget (and goodness knows I try) a road trip across Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado in 1981 where the only non-classical cassette tape we had was "The Sound Of Music". I know every word, every note, ever little lilt in the freaking Von Trapp family's voices. All of this has the unfortunate side effect of being permanently imprinted on my brain. ForEVER.
Add to that my love of Muppets and my grudging acceptance of some Disney movies, and my brain is a musical waiting to happen. I EXPECT people to burst into song at the drop of a hat. Any hat. (Ironically, at work, some of my peons do--when they do, I tell them to shut the h@!! up.)
Anyway, I happen to like some musicals. There are a lot I don't like, but since this list is about my Top Ten, and not the ones that I'd rather be buried in Army Ants and honey than ever submit to again, I'll keep those out of it (Carousel) (Oklahoma) (Chess) (The King and I)....
Here's the list:
1) West Side Story (1961) Adapted from Romeo and Juliet, this one obviously has first-rate source material, and add to that Leonard Bernstein's unforgettable and groundbreaking music, Robert Wise's direction, Jerome Robbins' choreography, and a honey called Natalie Wood, spiced up with Rita Moreno, and you've got yerself a nice li'l movie. COMPLETELY unbelievable to have street gangs dancing around and singing as they knife each other, but somehow it all comes together to create a colorful and undeniably moving film.
2) The Sound Of Music (1965) I think my first crush was on Fraulein Maria. She embodied the fun of childhood with the grrrrowr attraction of adulthood, and I had these twisted fantasies about her dressing me in curtain-fabric-made lederhosen...anyway. That really shouldn't even be discussed in the darkest recesses of my mind, let alone here in cyberspace. Even though this movie is INCREDIBLY long (and most of the ones on this list run about three hours), this is an incredibly fulfilling movie. We see Maria (Julie Andrews) grow from a girl into a woman, and see the family she stays with grow and change with her. Very fun songs that (like I already said) have been seared into my mind (and probably all of yours) by the yearly showings on TV, this movie is not only appropriate for the entire family, but may prompt real discussions about why the Von Trapps had to leave Austria, why the Nazis were mad at them, etc. Excellent film by any standards. Even the Lonely Goatherd Marionetting.
3) The Wizard of Oz (1939) Another one burned into the American Consciousness by interminable television broadcasts, this is another perfect film. Despite what you may hear about munchkin hangings in the forest, and the witch being horribly burned by those explosions, this remains a beautiful film. From beginning to end, we see the growth of Dorothy Gale into a young woman, and everyone knows all of the songs by heart. From "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" to "If I Only Had A Brain", these are true Classics. My favorite has become the Lion's "If I Were King Of The Forest", just because it's fun to do his growl in the shower when I sing it. Don't know if you want to read too much more into that.
4) My Fair Lady (1964) Lerner and Loewe's masterpiece, this is acted by THE Henry Higgins, Rex Harrison, and an achingly beautiful Audrey Hepburn in her prime. Great music like "The Rain in Spain", "Wouldn't It Be Loverly", and "I Could Have Danced All Night" were dubbed by Marni Nixon (Same as Maria's in West Side Story), and at times you can TELL it was dubbed, but I don't care. The best telling of Shaw's classic "Pygmalion", the costumes, acting, and sets push this one over the top. On a side note, the DVD has a few tracks that have Audrey Hepburn singing the songs herself, and she's really pretty good. It's a great film, and is occasionally at the top of this list.
5) Mary Poppins (1964) One of Disney's Greatest, this brings Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews into a technicolor explosion that combines animation, live action, dancing, singing, and exploding chimneys....it's a visual and musical masterpiece that every child should see. From the incredibly hyper "Step In Time" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous" to the more somber, haunting "Feed The Birds", these songs are very well crafted, and are fun for any age. When I was in First Grade, the entire grade learned all of the songs and did a program (probably violating every copyright ever made)...I got to sing "Let's Go Fly A Kite" while waving a kite on a stick. We were seated on chairs perched on top of tables, and I went flying BACKWARDS off of the table and onto the cement floor. On my head. Undaunted, I climbed back UP THE BACK of the tables and THEN proceeded to SCREAM my little lungs out. It's still a tale told at embarrassing functions when I meet up with certain friends of the family.
6) Fiddler On The Roof (1971) A more serious film that is about the expulsion of the Russian Jews, but has a lot of fun moments in it. You can read it as a text on the suffering of the Jews, or the trials of a single family--either way, it's good stuff. Topol's performance as Tevye is unforgettable, and songs like "Matchmaker" and "If I were a Rich Man" have become part of our lives. Wonderful music, great story, and a different kind of musical than the others on this list. It was also my only other foray into Musical Theatre on my own (after that Mary Poppins Incident), as I played "Motel Kamzoil" when I was a senior in high school. He's the poor scrawny tailor who marries the oldest daughter, Tzeitel, and who sings (unfortunately) "Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles". And gosh, well, I just can't sing. Or dance. Or act. Anyway, the movie version is an excellent one, and highly recommended.
7) Camelot (1967) Another Lerner and Loewe favorite, this one stars Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave, and is my favorite telling of the King Arthur story. Even more than Monty Python. Lags a bit in the middle when Lancelot falls in love with Guenevere--a little too much soul searching and pain there...but picks up again at the end. If I'm ever going to burn anyone at the stake (in Utah, a distinct possibility), I'm going to make sure the "Guenevere" song from the end of the film is there. A very 1967 film, with the costumes and makeup being a bit too obviously costumes and makeup...but a fine film nonetheless that celebrates the rise and fall of Camelot.
8) The Muppet Movie (1979) This may seem out of place to some of you, but, well, I don't need to make any of you HAPPY. This is my list. This movie follows the sort of "Wizard of Oz" format that many musicals do of having a dream for a better place, picking up friends along the way, and eventually finding a happy ending. The music in this is remarkable, from "The Rainbow Connection" and "Movin' Right Along" to my personal favorite, Gonzo singing "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday", a rare moment of depth for one of the silliest characters ever made. Great movie + great songs = great musical.
9) Little Shop of Horrors (1986) I know a lot of people don't like this movie. I say, what is there not to like? Rick Moranis IS Seymour Krelbourne, a hopeless geek. Ellen Greene IS Audrey, airhead, victim, and sort of a babe. And then there's Audrey II....that's one bad plant. Introduced and backed by the Greek Chorus Trio of Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronette, this Frank Oz-directed film has songs by the writers of "The Little Mermaid", and has some wonderful moments, including "Feed Me", "Suddenly Seymour", and "Be A Dentist". A fun movie to watch, if you don't mind musicals where people get butchered and eaten.
10) (speaking of which...) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) say what you will about the tastelessness of this flick, but after you've seen it a hundred times, the music is infectious and fun. When the Time Warp comes on, you DO the Time Warp. When Tim Curry comes down in that steel-caged elevator, you're just waiting for the Sweet Transvestite, regardless of your genderly orientation. And no other musical has the immortal phrase "Dammit, Janet...I love you!" Even though the movie makes little sense, and is the ultimate cult film, it's also a good musical. And a lot of fun to boot.
In closing, I think it's sad that for the first time in the last sixty years, it seems like there aren't any musicals being made anymore. There was Evita a few years ago (which uh, I haven't seen yet), and I hear that "Phantom of the Opera" is in the works, but they aren't the event movies they used to be. They seem to have been replaced by Disney films, which just aren't the same thing. I'd like to see a rebirth of the form, but I'll have to hang around for a while to get that, I suppose. Top of my list I'd like to see made into films (if they're done right):
The Secret Garden
Into the Woods
Once Upon a Mattress
Phantom of the Opera
Man of La Mancha
Some of these have already been made into films (but Man of La Mancha REALLY sucked) or have videos out with the stage versions on them, but it would be nice to see some of these GREAT stories and scores in the theatres. I don't know if Americans would still enjoy them or not, but I'd like to see them.
Or maybe I had one too many road trips with my mom and dad.
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