I am a sucker for musicals. To be fair, I’m not to blame, my mother was showing me films like Calamity Jane and Bugsy Malone whilst I was practically still in the womb. In our house, anyone who doesn’t get at least a little joy from singing, dancing, and elaborately sequined costumes is not be trusted. So, here’s some musicals I love (that can be watched as films) and seeing as they’ve all ended up being American, I’ve arranged them into a neat little timeline so I can kid myself into thinking that this is educational in some way.
1870s (ish) – Calamity Jane
Ah Calamity Jane, so upbeat and cheery yet so wildly problematic when watched in 2017. Calamity Jane was released in 1953 and boy can you tell. Although it features a woman gunslinging and drinking with the men, you can’t help but cringe inside when they start talking about those darned ‘Injuns’ who are for some reason very angry (spoiler alert: white people stole all their land). 50s prejudices aside, I love this musical. It may just be because it was one of the first I saw when I was young so I’ve got a bit of a sentimental attachment to it, but gosh darn do I love Doris Day singing and stomping around in cowboy boots.
1920s – Bugsy Malone
Mobsters, boxers, singers, down-and-outs, and a ladies’ man. The twist, the whole cast is made up of children. Set in the roaring 20s is a weird world of ‘splurge guns’, pedal cars and gangsters whose voices haven’t broken yet. Somehow this film manages to mix an adult plot with a child cast and yet it really works. With a whole host of great songs and gorgeous 20s outfits that put my whole wardrobe to shame, this was one of the main musicals of my childhood and I still love it.
1930s – Chicago
I spent my childhood listening to this soundtrack over and over again at my best friend’s house, long before I ever watched the film. It’s a story of murder, corruption and jazz, so well staged that every single scene captures that theatre “wow” feeling. Cell Block Tango is also one of my favourite musical numbers of all time with iconically quotable lines such as “You know some guys just can’t hold their arsenic.”
1960s – Hairspray
Somehow this film really manages to cover all bases. An abundance of singing and dancing, check. Serious themes of discrimination and seeking self-acceptance, check. Zac Efron, check. It’s colourful and fun, and yet it makes me cry every single time I watch it (although I will cry at almost anything).
2010s – La La Land
I went into the cinema, sat down to watch La La Land, and for the first 15 minutes was thoroughly underwhelmed. Was this really the film that everyone had been making such a fuss about? Although I stand by my feelings that the opening number is mediocre at best, the further I got into the film the more I found myself falling in love with it. The vocals are no way near as good as other musicals on this list and it’s ‘hungry artist’ plot line is beyond cliché, but something about this film really got to me. I really can’t sum it up, the best I can explain it is it made me feel a sense of nostalgia, and like I was wrapped up in a soft duvet. There’s something intangible about it that draws you in and provides a feeling of home-ness (really not a word) probably due to the clever use of colour and visual references to old Hollywood classics. After 128 minutes I left the cinema feeling like I’d gained something, some cryptic emotion that I couldn’t explain but definitely wanted to hold onto. This is perhaps one of the sappyest paragraphs I’ve ever written but I truly can’t sum it up any other way.
It is now just past 10 and I am back to the joyous school-day wake up time of 6.15, so it’s time for me to go to bed. I hope you’ve discovered a musical you haven’t seen before or been reminded of one you already know and love. Give someone a hug, drink lots of water and watch a musical (preferably whilst wrapped up in a nice blanket with a cuppa). Take care of yourself x
– Image from Wikimedia Commons –