Musicals to discover & rediscover
The Greatest Showman remains entertaining despite repeated viewings.
STAR/ File

Musicals to discover & rediscover

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

My bad. My bad. Some diehard Hugh Jackman fans scolded me for failing to include The Greatest Showman in my list of my favorite movie musicals. I have to admit that they are right. The movie is truly one great musical and it originated on film, not on stage, which makes it quite special. Just like Mary Poppins or Singing in the Rain, which were movies first before they went to Broadway.

The Greatest Showman from 2017 is a fictionalized rendering of the life of P.T. Barnum, said to be the man who invented the museum of strange things, the circus as a spectacle and showbusiness as we knew it in pre-pandemic times. It stars Jackman in an impressive performance in the lead role, plus Zach Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya and others.

Aside from fantastic figures at the box-office, over $450M, which is not usual for a musical, The Greatest Showman also produced several big-selling songs in its soundtrack by songwriters Pasek and Paul that I am sure that you recall and you can still sing. This is Me, The Greatest Show, A Million Dreams, Never Enough, From Now On, Rewrite the Stars, all of which everybody was singing only a few years ago.

Evita is a true gem with a compelling performance from Madonna.

Make sure you catch this one again. It remains entertaining despite repeated viewings.

I cannot say the same of Phantom of the Opera starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson or of Cats with Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, James Corden and others. The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is truly unforgettable. Think Music of the Night and Memory. But he has not had much luck with the movie versions of those musicals. Maybe they were just too stunning on stage that any other version would pale in comparison.

However, I do like Jesus Christ Superstar, which never fails to fascinate with its take on Jesus Christ as both God and Man and on Judas Iscariot’s point of view of the Passion. And who can argue with music like Gethsemane and I Don’t Know How To Love Him.

Also, a true gem is Evita, with compelling performances from Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce, plus Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, You Must Love Me. These provide my Andrew Lloyd Webber fix while I am waiting for the big screen adaptations of Sunset Boulevard, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Starlight Express.

Also providing wonderful entertainment are musical dramas like Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta with the Bee Gees on the soundtrack, plus Disco Inferno; Footloose with Kevin Bacon in the lead and songs by Kenny Loggins, Almost Paradise, plus Let’s Hear It for the Boy and other hits; and Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze and the lovely theme The Time of My Life. I still think I could have made that final leap into Swayze’s arms. Those three leading men could really dance up a storm.

Although just as sexy, Kevin Costner does not dance in Bodyguard but he has a sensual chemistry with Whitney Houston, who sings I’ll Always Love You, I Have Nothing and other hits. That is more than enough. So is the Beatles soundtrack performed by the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Critics panned the picture but the frothy fantasy has proven timeless and I still like it.

Other musicals to discover or rediscover but most of all to enjoy are Victor, Victoria where Julie Andrews is a woman masquerading as a man impersonating a woman with James Garner and Broadway legend Robert Preston. Preston is also excellent as a con-man singing Seventy-six Trombones in The Music Man with Shirley Jones. Did you know that the Beatles hit Till There Was You is from The Music Man?

If you love Natalie Wood in West Side Story, you should watch her other musicals. Gypsy where she is a stripper who sings Let Me Entertain You and Inside Daisy Clover with a very young Robert Redford and the song, You’re Gonna Hear from Me. Remember “Move over star and give me some sky…”

And not to forget, Mary Poppins is not Dick Van Dyke’s only musical. He is an inventor with a flying car in the musical Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang with songs like You Too, Truly Scrumptious and Hush-a-bye Mountain. He is also in Bye Bye Birdie with Janet Leigh, Ann Margret and Bobby Rydell and songs like One Last Kiss and A Lot of Living to Do.

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