Musicals for Beginners: A 5 Movie Guide for Grown-Ups
As chosen by Gareth Bradwick
It hurts my jazz hands every time I speak to someone who doesn't enjoy a musical. Movies and even entertainment as a whole are generally based on the idea of escapism; so what better way to escape the extreme world we live in than with a toe-tapping, show-stopping, musical extravaganza?
When we are children there is a constant feed of musical numbers from Disney especially, but once we grow up many of us lose the magic. With that in mind, I wanted to put together a small list for those people who would like to dip their toe and their vocal cords in to worlds where everything turns out okay, and you are left with that buzz of joy that only musicals can bring.
Before we get started though, it's worth explaining that this isn't your typical musicals list. You're not going to see your Mamma Mia's or West Side Story's here. This is about getting you in to musicals! So if those bigger names put you off, here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit | Disney+
Let's start with something that everyone can get on board with. One of the things that makes this genre great is the euphoria of that final number. The moment the end where everything comes together and is right with the world again. No final numbers more fun, rewarding or joyous than the finale of Sister Act 2. The song is great, the kids are having a blast, and Lauren Hill has just spent the last 90 minutes showing us what a unique talent she is. Sister Act 2 is a brilliant family film and is endlessly rewatchable. If you can enjoy this, you can enjoy any musical.
2. The Greatest Showman | Rent or Buy
You have most likely seen this already as it is by far the most accessible and successful movie musical of the 21st Century so far. Historical inaccuracies aside, this movie is pure joy from start to finish. It's no wonder that the soundtrack was in the UK album charts for so long with its Golden Globe winning song This is Me. The story itself is fairly simple: P.T Barnum (Hugh Jackman) finds people on the fringe of society to build his own "freak show" in the centre of town. It's a movie for anyone who's felt different, unwanted to pretty much anyone who wants a good night in with some popcorn.
3. Chicago | Rent or Buy
The story in this one is what gets it on to the list. If you're not fussed on musicals, Chicago has a good story to go along with it, and it was in fact the movie that made me realise what a good time you can have watching this kind of thing. It really is an all-star cast, with all of them at the height of their game. This must be one of Catherine Zeta-Jones' best performances, and Richard Gere is just Richard Gere right? It's moody, fun and is pure jazz hands by the end. Stick it on!
4. Singin' in the Rain | Rent or Buy
So we're four movies in now and it's time to turn things up a notch. I'm going in full musical with this. It's an all singing, all dancing showstopper with brilliant numbers, tongue-in-cheek plot points and just 103 minutes of fun. Best watched on a rainy weekend morning when there's nothing else to do. Get tucked in with the family and appreciate Donald O'Connor running up walls, Gene Kelly being as suave as you dare, and Debbie Reynolds having none of it (well, almost).
5. Moulin Rouge | Disney+, NowTV
We've come this far, so let's go knee-deep musical. Trust me, you'll have fun somewhere along the line and if you enjoy this, the sky is the limit. This movie is absolutely bananas. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor star as a couple who fall in love, with the infamous Moulin Rouge as the backdrop. It's pure cinema, with each number more show-stopping than the last. Halfway through my first watch of this I'd forgotten what day it was, and at others I had no idea what was going on. But it's wonderfully shot, great fun and something to stick on on a Friday night.
So there you have it, five movies to get you started. As always though, story is key. Without a good story, a musical isn't going to win a sceptic over easily. All of the movies here have a great story so do give them a go, my jazz hands are depending on it!
Episode 26: 'The Movie Musical' of the podcast 'talkabout with Ellis & Gwilym' is available now wherever you stream your pods.