Monday, November 2, 2015

Ranking Musicals: 1990s

  This week I came up with exactly ten titles for my Ranking Musicals series.  I know some of these titles better than others, so that affects the order. As always, this list reflects my personal opinions. I had an incredibly hard time arranging this list because I love so many of the musicals here.

10. Phantom (1990)

 This is the less popular musical based on The Phantom of the Opera. It is also the musical that seems to have created the popularity of the name Erik for the Phantom. Where the more popular musical is a pop opera, Phantom is more classical in style. The songs remind me of an actual opera. If you really listen to it, the music is lovely. There was a mini-series that goes hand in hand with this. 

9. Footloose (1998)

 I'm not that much of a fan of this show (based on a film of the same name starring Kevin Bacon). However, I saw it live once and it was great. They took the song I Need a Hero and turned it into a superhero/villain showdown. Good times. If you like dancing, you'll probably love this musical. For the most part, that's what this show is: dance. There are some pretty fun parts too, but I don't enjoy it nearly as much as others on this list.

8. Honk! (1993)

 Honk! is a cute musical for all ages. If you are a fan of the old Ugly Duckling story, it might hit you right in the nostalgia. The songs are catchy, the story is actually quite riveting, and there are plenty of themes that can be played upon. I saw this show live and loved it. If someone near you is doing Honk, treat some kids you know and go see it. 

7. Aida (1998)

 If you watched the above clip you can probably already tell why I love this musical. It is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet in a way. It tells the story of an Egyptian soldier and a princess from Nubia, the country Egypt is trying to conquer. Of course they fall in love, which brings consequences and all kinds of good stuff. Or bad, depending on how you're looking at it. The music is kind of rocky, so it is an acquired taste, but the story is kind of beautiful. Aida is one of my favorite musicals to use for audition pieces because of the raw power of some of songs. I'm not a huge fan of some of the plot aspects, but I encourage you to look deeper into this. It has so many lovely songs and Heather Headley (a star from another show that will be featured on this list) knocks it out of the park as the titular Aida

6. Jekyll and Hyde (1997)

 I'm not the most familiar with this musical, but it has some great pieces of music. My brother and I tried finding a suitable version of the song "Confrontation," but came up empty. If you're at all familiar with the classic novel, you probably already know the basic story line. This guy named Jekyll decides to make a potion for good, but instead unleashes his evil second identity. This second identity, Hyde, decides to try to take over for good, bringing mayhem in the process. I do recommend looking up "Confrontation," but try listening to the Broadway soundtrack of it once you understand just what in the world is going on in the song. The above video is a song set just before Jekyll tries his potion, when he thinks good things will come of it. Poor Jekyll. 

5. The Lion King (1997)

 Many people love the Disney film, The Lion King. It isn't my favorite, but no one can deny the unique and exciting use of puppetry put to use in the musical version. The video from above is actually an Australian version, but Heather Headley (from Aida) is Nala in the original Broadway cast. In the musical there are added songs that bring a lot to the story like Shadowlands sung by Nala and others. If you like The Lion King or want to see some breathtaking visuals, this might be the show for you. It's pretty amazing. 

4. Beauty and the Beast (1994)

 Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies and it is my absolute favorite Disney stage musical. I love the added songs and story line. This beautiful story about inner beauty is a true classic for Disney fans and anyone. If you haven't heard them yet be sure to look up the new songs in this show, "Me," (a stupendous song Gaston sings about himself) "Home," "No Matter What," "If I Can't Love Her," "Human Again," and "A Change In Me." They are beautiful or fun or both. Fun fact: Susan Egan, the original Broadway Belle, would later play Megara in the Disney film Hercules

3. A Christmas Carol (1994)

 I'd had about my fill of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol when I suddenly found myself performing in this show. After that I was hooked into this beautiful musical with music by Alan Menkin. It has become my favorite show to perform in. There are just so many beautiful numbers and parts to play. I was incredibly busy during this production and had six costumes! That's quite a few. Next time you want to watch a Christmas classic, I recommend the musical version of this film. Right now, the film based off of this musical is on Youtube in full starring Kelsey Grammer. This is my favorite adaption of this story. It's powerful.

I could share so many great pictures from our production, but I'll keep it to a minimum and hope it makes you want to see this great show. The cover photo of this post is me in a really big dress with interesting headgear, and here is another great image of the show from the song featured above.

2. Ragtime (1998)

This musical is almost to epic proportions. The story is a compelling narrative on the social restrictions that bind us, keeping one class separated from the other. The story focuses on three groups of people: Upper class white Americans, the African-Americans of the Harlem Renaissance, and immigrants to America. These three groups of people are represented by Mother--a housewife, Coalhouse Walker--a musician, and Tateh--a Latvian immigrant of Jewish descent. The story shows how their paths collide and the evolution of their characters through the production. This musical deals with some pretty serious stuff. There is death, there is anger, there is murder. But there is also hope, and that is the most important discovery of this story. As it takes place in the era of ragtime music, that is the type of melody that underscores much of the show, giving it its title. Fun Fact: Audra McDonald, featured in the video above as Coalhouse Walker's love, Sarah, won a Tony for her performance.

1. The Secret Garden (1991)

There are many, many, many reasons I love this show. The music is absolutely gorgeous. It is another classic story about a little girl who comes to live with her distant uncle, Archibald Craven, after her parents die. She discovered an overgrown garden and the secrets buried there. In case you can't tell from the above video, Mandy Patinkin (famous for being Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride) plays Archibald Craven. If you look up some of his beautiful solos (and duets) from this musical you will be amazed. This musical also features the purest soprano voice I have ever heard and so many amazing songs. This is one of my favorite things to listen to. You should look up "Lily's Eyes" right now and enjoy it. You're welcome. Also, Daisy Egan won a Tony for playing the young Mary Lennox. I have to share her acceptance speech because it is the most adorable thing ever. To avoid clouding up this post more, here is the link. Trust me on this one. This musical is worth your time. 

  And there you have it! That's my list for the 1990s. This was a strong decade for musicals. There were so many more that I haven't listed and many that I have to look at myself. This was a popular decade for remaking classics and for some really powerful musical. Next we shall see what the '80s have to offer. 

Are you familiar with any musicals from my list? What are your favorite musicals from this decade?


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