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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top Ten Broadway Musicals


My wife and my favorite hobby during our working years (1960-2002) was attending Broadway musicals and shows/movies. We must have attended more than 30 Broadway shows/movies since 1960. Among our favorites ( not listed in the top ten below) were, The Sound of Music, Chorus Line, West Side Story, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie, Miss Saigon, Show Boat, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Evita, Flower Drum Song, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Hair, Kiss Me Kate, Man of La Mancha, The Music Man, Oliver and The King and I. Miss Saigon we saw in London. West Side Story and Rent in New York. Mama Mia in Las Vegas, Phantom of the Opera( the old movie version)/ at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the rest either in Kansas City, Chicago or San Francisco.

To see a Broadway play or musical is to step into a world that envelops you with an experience you cannot find anywhere else. Theatre has been around since ancient times and for good reason. There is absolutely nothing like watching the actors, hearing the live musical scores and going on a journey with fellow theatre-goers. It makes movies seem like flimsy comic books in comparison. Fortunately, today there are many excellent shows on Broadway and in major cities across North America.

The following list is the top ten best musical shows( 2007) you might consider attending with a date or a friend. Each one of these must-see shows delivers an experience you won't soon forget.

Broadway's Best:

1. One of the most popular mega-hits of Broadway is Wicked. Wicked is a musical taking the witches from the Wizard of Oz and recasting them to reverse the loyalties the audience feels in the movie. The play follows the women from school to their eventual fates. The emerald skinned Elphaba, studious and misunderstood, and the beautiful and ambitious Glinda, as they move from unlikely friends to the classic opponents of the movie. The magic lies in the witty recasting of the backstory of the Wizard of Oz, to challenge assumptions and present a tale of friendship and love. And now Wicked is touring the U.S., so there's a good chance it's showing in a city near you.

2. A relatively new show called Tarzan, is a musical about a baby raised by gorillas as he encounters humans, and Jane, forcing him to choose between his two heritages. Tarzan is very popular, with many theatergoers looking forward to seeing the Disney version brought to stage. A show for all ages, the search for where one belongs in the world is a weighty subject for such a deceptively light show. Phil Collins extended his musical score from the Disney movie into a complete theatrical score.

3. The Lion King is a musical about Simba the lion cub and his journey to adulthood and acceptance as King. A play for all ages, the story of a youth growing to accept responsibility and duty is one of the most enduring themes in fiction. The animal puppetry is nothing less than brilliant. If you're looking to instill a little culture in your child, this may be just the ticket. And again, The Lion King is showing in many cities.

4. A disfigured musical genius haunts a theatre and exerts a mysterious control over a young singer. The Phantom of the Opera is a modern classic musical, long-standing show and one of the most well known Broadway plays of the era. The classic music of the show is one of the main draws, with more than one piece from this show recognizable to almost any adult. This is the longest running play in Broadway history, and made Andrew Lloyd Webber a household name. Phantom of the Opera has played in 22 countries, 113 cities and to a combined audience of 10 million.

5. Les Miserables is a musical based on the classic novel of the same name, in which the obsessed policeman Javert pursues the prison escapee Jean Valjean over decades in Revolutionary France. A classic tale of obsession and redemption, this play investigates the big questions like right and wrong, vengeance and justice, and what it takes to achieve redemption, while putting a human face on the issues. Les Miserable originally ran on Broadway for sixteen years, and is back with a fresh cast to renew the magic.

6. Spamalot is based on the legendary Monty Python and the Holy Grail, featuring King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as they face such dangers as the dreaded bunny rabbit. The occasionally eccentric Monty Python sense of humor is in full fury in this tale, with jabs at politics, religion, chivalry, bravery, intelligence and the French. There are limbless knights, men in tights and a chorus line of dancing divas. Spamalot is a favorite of audiences and critics alike, and won the 2005 Tony for Best Musical. If you liked the Monty Python's TV show and movies, then this musical will sure to please.

7. Chicago the Musical is another famous musical, in this case about a murder trial. The Fosse choreography is iconic. While the music isn't as iconic as some others, the odds are that most will recognize several pieces they've heard before, such as "Razzle-Dazzle" and "All that Jazz." Chicago returns us to the time of Vaudeville, satirizes the justice system and shows us what great theater is all about. Definitely check this show out of you liked the movie starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere.

8. Rags to rock to riches, Jersey Boys is the musical story of four blue-collar boys who become the Four Tops. It follows them from their start in the Hood to their apotheosis as one of the greatest music groups of all time, with emphasis on the characters involved. This show has really taken off and become unexpectedly popular on Broadway. Now the Jersey Boys is touring America.

9. Mamma Mia! is a musical built around Abba staples of the seventies, dealing with a single mother whose daughter is about to get married on a Greek island. The daughter invites three of her mother's old boyfriends to visit, hoping to find out which one her father is. The play is built around Abba music, but is an engaging story in its own right and is advanced by the music rather than providing an excuse for it. This is a play where almost everyone attending knows the music.

10. Rent is a musical that explores poverty, disease, and drugs in New York City. It's a modern rock version of the 19th century Italian opera "La Boheme," and is set in New York City's East Village. It is a moving musical where young people strive to make it in a difficult world.


In the above top ten list, we have seen only four as a live show, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Rent and Mama Mia
We saw Chicago and Les Miserables as movies. Lion King we saw in Sacramento, Mama Mia and Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas and Rent in New York City. We missed attending musicals and plays in our retirement years. However, I have a DVD collections of more than 50 Broadway musical and plays that I could watch anytime.

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