There have been many fabulous musical productions on the West End and Broadway that it is really hard to pick which one is possibly the best ever. In a recent survey by a UK radio station, the listeners voted Les Miserables as their favorite musical of all time, but in this blog, we thought we would highlight other great contenders for the title.
Wicked is the prequel to the immensely popular film the Wizard of Oz. A hit spectacle in New York it is the archetypal Broadway musical. The story is about good and wicked witches, one green skinned and perfect for disliking and the other is a glamorous blonde.
The lyrics by Stephen Schwartz keep the plot ticking over nicely, almost Dickensian in some parts, evoking a world of Boz and not Oz. Appearances from the Tin Man and Scarecrow pop up in the production, along with the blockbuster song It’s good to see me, isn’t it.
One of the most famous musicals ever, it opened in London 1986 and has never stopped being performed since, with 9,500 shows under its belt. The Phantom has been performed across the world in twenty-five countries and one hundred and forty-nine cities. The recording of the Phantom of the Opera exceeded forty million pounds sterling in profit and it was the first soundtrack ever in the British charts to enter at number one. The show won three Olivier awards in London, and it became Broadway’s longest running production, receiving no less than seven Tony awards.
Written by the excellent Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd is a dark masterpiece that has been adapted from a 19th Century melodrama. Today’s production is relayed by a 20th Century chorus of the working class to portray the life of the infamous demon barber.
The story of a barber with a major grievance is exceptional, as he gradually turns into a demonic serial killer. The performances are bold to suit the topic, and the introduction of the famous Mrs. Lovett adds some black humor with her notorious meat pies.
The current production of Rent is more like a pop concert than an actual musical that it was originally written as. In 1996 on Broadway, this musical was a massive success, and was nicknamed the Hair of its day. Rent features the story of Roger and Mimi and their rather unconventional friends.
The new production, currently being shown in London, has stayed true to the songs and roughly the plot, but it seems to have lost a great deal of what the original production had. The characters are not as strong, and the musical accompaniment is by a four-piece orchestra unlike the original.
We continue our search for the best ever musical in part two of our blog, where we look at great productions such as A Chorus Line, Into the Woods, and West Side Story. It is hard to imagine life without musicals, they have been part of our heritage since the first operas where performed and they are still going strong.