Give my regards to Broadway et al

Savoyards’ production of “Oliver” was my first time reviewing the coming-of-age stage musical. It was one of few classic musicals I am probably yet to see. (“Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Music Man” are also up there). Indeed, I have been privileged enough to experience many shows of the genre and while it remains a difficult field to define, the ability of musicals to transport their audiences in a way that a play cannot, means that they represent many of my top theatre memories.

So what are my faves and otherwise?

I’ll keep coming back for more….

Rent

While it may now be dated, “Rent” has been my favourite ever musical since seeing the original production on Broadway during my first New York visit in 1996. Not only is it a celebration of diversity and acceptance, but its soundtrack is catchy. If only ‘La Vi Boheme’ featured as a karaoke option because I could rock any Life Café with word-perfect patter-song celebration of how Bohemia is not dead.

Dear Evan Hansen

My most recent Broadway homage to see “Hamilton” and “Hadestown” et al, also provided opportunity to be captivated by “Dean Evan Hansen”. While it is not an easy-going show given its focus on teen suicide, loneliness and depression, its narrative is surprisingly nuanced and its songs are as catchy as ever.  

The Book of Mormon

I first saw “The Book of Mormon” shortly after it opened in London. I paid a ridiculous amount of money to do so and I would have done so again the very next night too, such is its (especially-then) revolutionary blur of genre boundaries and clever commentary in tell of thecoming-of-age story of two likeable Mormons on their mission to spread the Lord’s word.

Cats

A contentious choice, but one of my favourites since first seeing the ground-breaking mega musical it in London 25 years ago. To be sitting in the stalls with performers climbing over audience members, was like being part of its art and while there is no real narrative, it is pure theatre razzle dazzle dance and music.

My yet-to-be-convinced list also features some contentious choices:

Les Miserables

It’s a miserable saga of a story that takes too long to get to its redemption. Every emotion is melodramatically amplified, which makes its experience an act of endurance.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 

Stephen Sondheim’s macabre Victorian horror thriller is another bleakly dark one and thus, though acclaimed, will not be to everyone’s liking. It’s a disturbing and dark vision of humanity at its worst and its eponymous maniacal barber has few redeeming characteristics.

Matilda

I don’t like stories of precocious children, even if they are surrounded by monstrous adults. “Annie” would be on my list too if it weren’t for Mrs Hannigan and Rooster’s ‘Easy Street’ silliness.

Mary Poppins

The saccharine “Mary Poppins” is full of sweet, smiling lovey-doveyness, but no real engaging conflict. Its quintessentially proper titular character is regarded as a sort of goddess, in ignorance of her character flaws.

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