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In the earlier years of Hollywood, glitzy musical numbers were par for the course and the Julie Andrews classic manages to be full of sunshine and yodel-aye-he-he-ing despite the Nazis (spoiler alert).
If you want some classic golden age musical films like ‘The Sound of Music’, these are a few of my favourite things…
Probably the most similar movie in terms of plot, and another production I starred in at school, but as ‘Peasant no.56’. It’s the story of a Victorian English widow who takes up residence with the King of Siam to educate his huge brood. Another Rodgers and Hammerstein production, it also has a gaggle of kids and a strict father, but if you want something a bit more fantastical look no further.
The King of Siam’s icy countenance and arrogance is often played for laughs rather than to add to a budding romance like that of Maria and Captain Von Trapp. Victorian ladies don’t go in for that sort of thing, plus the King already has like 10 wives. This works as both a culture clash comedy and a story of an unusual friendship, and of course the score has everything to make it another musical classic from R&H.
The big screen adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical features loveable cowboys fightin’ for the love of a good woman, barn dance numbers and once starred Hugh Jackman as Curly in a televised Broadway performance I saw on TV this one time. The songs are great and will also teach you how to spell ‘Oklahoma’. ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ was also referenced in Silence Of The Lambs if that comes up in a pub quiz anytime soon…
This sunshiney, sing-songy musical is a perfect ‘Sunday afternoon’ film. It’s a cowboy caper that exudes positivity, except maybe when it come to poor Judd… The central romances make for most of the plot and there’s plenty of gags and colour to bounce off the screen. The score is another classic Rodgers and Hammerstein one, and features some great chorus numbers and sweeping romantic interludes. Check out the original movie or watch Wolverine showing off his pipes in a happy musical for a change.
The story of a Jewish father in pre-revolutionary Russia, struggling with the traditions he has always known and his daughters’ happiness when the time comes to marry them off. The tunes are catchy and fun and the story is another tale of young love and tradition amongst growing political turmoil.
Featuring a dream sequence with ghosts that terrified me as a kid, this musical has some terrific chorus numbers about life (‘To Life’), family (‘Sunrise, Sunset’) and love (‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’). Also Gwen Stefani sampled one of the songs, if you need another reason to watch it. Patriarch Tevye talks us through his life, his troubles and his plans to make sure his daughters are as happy as possible even if it means going against the all-important traditions that he has always known.
There’s enough to make you laugh, cry, and do that Russian dancing thing where you kick your legs out…
Movie musicals have experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity recently, but these days they tend to prefer going down the Fosse/Sondheim route with darker themes that distance them from their earlier years.
However, if you want a modern musical that still has the happy go lucky feel of the old days, here are some colourful movies that aren’t in Technicolour.
This musical featuring an all Abba score was a huge hit when it came out and I thought Pierce Brosnan was pretty good in it, thank you very much. Jukebox musicals are popular precisely because the audience already knows the songs, and they don’t come much more crowd-pleasing than disco Eurovison darlings like Abba. This was very successful as a sing-along screening too, except, apparently, at the screening I went to where no one sang along and I couldn’t as it would have been embarrassing…
Coming from that class of Musicals With An Exclaimation Mark In The Title, you know it’s gonna be sunshine and rainbows rather than demon barbers and murderous flapper girls. The film featured another great performance from Meryl Streep and Colin Firth in disco flares, so its popularity came as no surprise. Bjorn and the other bloke even wrote new songs for the show and the rest of them are already pop staples.
The story is of a bride-to-be living in a run-down hotel on a Greek island, who invites her three potential fathers to her wedding in hopes of finding out which one is, in fact, the daddy. It’s poppy, fun and inoffensive, perfect when you’re in the mood for some pure positivity.
Based on John Waters’ least seedy film, this 60’s bouffant musical is surprisingly successful despite its remake status and lack of famous drag queen Divine. The musical numbers have the perfect amount of 60’s swing and the plot carries a well delivered message about racism at the time.
‘Pleasantly Plump’ teenager Tina Turnblad dreams of winning a place on the Corny Collins show, the no.1 place for music and dance for Baltimore teens. With her beehive and somewhat scandalous dance moves she wins a place on the show and the heart of Link Larkin, much to the displeasure of skinny rival Amber Von Tussle (mother played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Debbie Harris in the original).
From her new influential position she stands up against segregation and lack of plus size fashions, with the help of her mother, who is clearly John Travolta in a dress, and Queen Latifah. The songs are catchy and reminiscent of 60’s pop, rock ‘n’ roll and protest songs and the film has a message of progress and the power of dance.
Musicals are often known for their positivity, despite the tragedy that is often present in modern day fare. Both sides of the coin have plenty to offer, but sometimes you just wanna hear that the sun’ll come out tomorrow! (Damn, why didn’t I recommend Annie?!)
What musical extravaganzas make you happy?
Tell us in the comments!
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