Hugh Jackman may have endearingly declared at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009 that “the musical is back!” thanks to the success of Mamma Mia!, which mainly did well overseas, but big-screen musicals haven’t had a lot of luck during the past decade. Moulin Rouge! in 2001 and Chicago in 2002 had studio executives believing the genre was ripe for the picking, but despite some moderate successes (Dreamgirls, 2006), most musicals have fallen flat — from The Phantom of the Opera in 2004 to Nine in 2009. So the release of Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of the stage hit Les Misérables on Dec. 14 has much riding on it.
Fans of the epic, which debuted in London in 1985, are generally nothing short of diehard; if you know one lyric, you know them all. Taylor Swift may have been blessedly booted from the casting list, but the cast is filled with stars not necessarily know for their singing abilities (Jackman, who stars as Jean Valjean, excluded). Aside from wondering if the movie will capture the spirit of the production, the more important question is, will it capture us? That’s what musicals do, in an almost spell-binding way; they capture viewers in their world of song and dance. It can be hard to define what sets some musicals apart from the rest, and that is especially true in film adaptations. Hits on the stage aren’t necessarily hits on the screen; sometimes, the magic gets lost in translation.
I asked several friends from around these parts to name some of their favorite moments from movie musicals, and the list we came up with is eclectic to say the least. All the numbers come from shows filled with equally impressive numbers, but these stood out. Maybe the songs come from the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein fare we grew up with, or perhaps they come from shows with harder edges and tougher messages. From Gene Kelly to Tim Curry, there’s something for every musical lover.
These are some of our favorite numbers, in no particular order. What are yours?
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
West Side Story (1961)
The Sound of Music (1965)
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My Fair Lady (1964)
Funny Girl (1968)
Blue Skies (1946)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Hello, Dolly! (1969)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
The Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
UPDATED: How could I have forgotten The Music Man? My father would be ashamed.
The Music Man (1962)