The Twenty Greatest Musicals

September 20, 2016

The musical gave a whole lot of folks employment-singers, dancers, choreographers, etc.  It also lifted people’s spirits during the Great Depression.  But, the film musical has all but disappeared.  My brother rejected the genre early on for its more fantastic elements.   Where, I, on the other hand, would love to break into a song at just about any moment.  Perhaps we’ve become too cynical for its simple charms.  Whatever the reasons, when the musicals were good, they were fabulous.  So, with that, I give  you “The twenty Greatest Musicals”.

In no particular order…

1.”Cabaret” (1972) Bob Fosse.  Fosse singlehandedly re-imagined the film musical.

2.”Singing in the Rain”  (1952)  Gene Kelley and Stanley Donen.  Pure joy captured brilliantly on celluloid.

3.”42nd Street”  (1933)  Lloyd Bacon.  The ultimate backstage musical.

4.”The Gold Diggers of 1933″  (1933)  Busby Berkeley, Mervyn LeRoy.  Depression inspired musical with eye=popping kaleidoscope Busby Berkeley stuff- a milestone of the genre.

5. “The Pajama Game” (1957)  George Abbott and Stanley Donen.  A pro-union musical that also benefits from the contributions of a young choreographer named Bob Fosse.

6.”Phantom of the Paradise” (1974)  Brian De Palma.  Faustian rock musical has recently garnished the attention it always deserved.  Great score by Paul Williams.

7.”Swing Time” (1936)   George Stevens.  The  plots weren’t particularly important in these Astaire-Rogers films.  But, the dancing and the songs were amazing.

8.”Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944)  Vincent Minnelli.  This is lyrical Americana,, put together by people who knew how to make things like this work.

9.”West Side Story” (1061) Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.  Sure, the leads suck, and the Jets come off as a poor man’s Bowery Boys, but the score is magnificent as is the dancing.

10.”Wizard of Oz” (1939) Victor Fleming.  Not only is this one of the great children films, it is also one of the screen’s great film musicals.  What a score!

11.”Top Hat” (1935) Mark Sandrich.  An Art Deco treasure served by that great Astaire-Rogers team- maybe their best!

12.”Footlight Parade” (1933) Busby Berkeley, Lloyd Bacon.  Exuberant Warner Bros. extravaganza-with Cagney and Keeler hoofing it up big time.

13.”Oliver” (1968) Carol Reed.  Child abuse as a musical?  Dickens classic gracefully mounted by Reed and Company.

14.”Bye Bye Birdie” (1963)  George Sidney.  This film is everything “Grease” was supposed to be.  Bright and colorful.

15.”An American in Paris”.  (1951)  Vincent Minnelli.  The twenty minute ballet scene is absolutely mesmerizing.

16.”All That Jazz”.  (1979)  Bob Fosse.  It’s a semi-autobiographical death-laden musical extravaganza-wow!

17.”The Music Man” (1962)  Morton DaCosta.  Reprising his Broadway role-Preston created one of the screen’s great con man.

18.”Pennies From Heaven”  (1981)  Herbert Ross.  The last, great film musical.

19.”Cabin in the Sky”  (1943)  Vincent Minnelli.  Faustian folktale with an inspirational group of wonderful African-American performers.

20.”King of Jazz”  (1930)  John Murray Anderson.  An imaginative variety show?  Well, that’s what this film is.  Look for a young Bing Crosby!