A little known fact about me is I love musicals! I’m fortunate enough to have watched shows in both the West End and Broadway, as well as performances in Canada and of course, Scotland. To me, musicals are a form of escapism like no other. They are the ultimate feel-good thing to enjoy, whether that be onstage or as La La Land has recently proved, on the big screen.
Inspired by the success of that very film, I wanted to share my top 10 musicals with you. I’ve seen the classics from Chicago to West Side Story, but I have to admit, they haven’t held a place in my heart like these ones. While you may not agree with many that made the cut, that’s what makes musical theatre so special – there’s something for everyone!
10) Shrek The Musical
While it’s no Les Misérables or Phantom of the Opera, I couldn’t help but put Shrek The Musical on this list. I laughed to the point of tears at the way they portray Lord Farquaad and Donkey was just as comical onstage. I would see it again in a heartbeat, which is enough to warrant a spot in my top 10!
9) Billy Elliot
I’ll always remember Billy Elliot as one of the first musicals I ever saw in London. It’s pretty astounding that a young boy can captivate an entire audience better than most adults. I can remember the lead dancing his heart out to “Electricity” by the show’s composer, Elton John, so vividly that it was probably the moment I fell in love with musicals.
8) Thriller – Live
I defy you not to want to jump onstage and join in when watching this! Regardless of your opinion on Michael Jackson, there is no denying his legacy. Thriller is jam-packed full of hit after hit with such an impressive cast of singers and dancers that make this show electrifying to watch. Unlike other musicals, there is no story woven between the songs; it simply celebrates the life of Michael Jackson and his greatest songs.
7) Mary Poppins
As my favourite live-action Disney movie, I was so excited to see the musical adaptation of Mary Poppins. The heart confetti that sprinkled over the crowd at the end was the only thing that could have made this experience more magical. I still get a lump in my throat every time I hear “Feed the Birds”, while “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” fills me with indescribable joy!
Undoubtedly, this is one the funniest musicals I’ve ever seen thanks to Tracy Turnblad’s loveable parents. It’s also one of the few musicals that translated well to the big screen, as John Travolta and Christopher Walken made an unexpectedly adorable couple. I’m a big fan of the upbeat Hairspray soundtrack and often find myself declaring “Good morning Baltimore!” spontaneously around the house.
5) Mamma Mia!
Speaking of upbeat soundtracks, Mamma Mia! never fails to put a smile on my face. I saw this musical for the first time in Toronto and, despite fearing for my life in the Gods, fell in love. From the songs to the story, I don’t have a bad word to say about this show. It’s also another musical that made the transition to film with ease, becoming one of the most successful of all time. I saw it no less than three times at the cinema!
4) The Book of Mormon
I can wholeheartedly say I’ve never seen a musical quite like The Book of Mormon. As you’d expect from the makers of South Park, this show is bizarre, crude and outrageous – but it’s one of the most hysterical musicals I’ve ever seen. Definitely not family-friendly, it takes a sensitive subject like religion and mocks it to the point of no return. The fact that this made it to the West End makes me so happy! The Book of Mormon proves there’s still some people who can take a joke out there.
3) The Lion King
There was no way I couldn’t include The Lion King in this list. I would even go so far as to say the musical adaptation is more powerful than the film. There’s just something about watching the incredible story come to life before your eyes that leaves you speechless. To get the full experience, I recommend sitting in the stalls if you can, as the animals take to the aisles upon their journey to Pride Rock.
2) Avenue Q
One word: puppets. Avenue Q will always hold a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the first musicals I ever saw with my best friend, Sam. With songs like “If You Were Gay”, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is for Porn”, it’s not for the easily offended! Think X-rated Muppets and you’re on the right track. Hysterically original, Avenue Q is undoubtedly one of my favourite musicals of all time.
1) Rock of Ages
Surprise! No, my favourite musical isn’t Wicked or Cats or Dreamgirls, it’s the 80s glam rock throwback, Rock of Ages. Combining humour with some of the greatest rock tracks ever written and a lot of cheese, it’s my idea of the perfect musical. There’s no original songs in Rock of Ages, which means you can sing along the very first time you see it. Featuring classics from Whitesnake, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Def Leppard and loads more, I defy you not to fist-pump at some point during the show. Rock of Ages also likes to break the fourth wall a lot, addressing the audience directly, which only adds to the humour. And yes, I LOVED the movie adaptation that got universally slated.
How could I possibly write about my favourite musicals without mentioning “Once More, With Feeling”, the groundbreaking musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? As the first of its kind, “Once More, With Feeling” has gone in history as one of the best Buffy episodes. With each cast member providing their own vocals, every song stays true to their character and injects the humour Buffy is known for throughout. My favourites include “I’ve Got a Theory”, as it features most of the cast and Anya’s epic bunny breakdown, as well as “Rest in Peace” for Spike’s husky vocals and a bizarre nighttime funeral.