I like musicals. There I said it. It is a dirty little secret many of us carry around and eventually, it slips out. I can't take it back so we might as well all just accept it and move on. However it seems I might not be alone in this as musical numbers are showing up all over the place on television and in film lately. Broadway itself is targeting the geek community with the recent, albeit problematic, opening of the Spider Man musical, the most expensive ever produced.
This week I wanted to dive into that genre myself and look at the most successful mergings of film and music. While I tried to stick exclusively to film, there are two entries on the list that come from other areas but I could not make this list without them.
So with that I present you with the countdown, and if you do start humming along or tapping your feet as you read the entries, don't worry, I won't tell anyone.
10. Little Shop of Horrors
When a giant man-eating plant decides it wants to sing, you go along with it. I am not sure if this has ever happened since, but when it did the first time we were gifted with the musical that is Little Shop of Horrors. You may recognize some of its scenes as they have been replicated to hilarious effect by shows like Family Guy, cue "Somewhere That's Green." The true highlight of this movie for me is the frenetic and frantic performance of Steve Martin as the dentist that takes things a little too far and has a private love of laughing gas.
Forget bird, because for those who are really in the know, Grease is the word. The original, and far superior, high school musical, Grease captures the spirit of the 50s greaser era and brought to us the talents of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Music permeates this tale of star crossed lovers and brings along a lot of laughter. The movie's theme may be never change who you really are, but by the end you'll want to get yourself a leather jacket with a sweet popped collar. Or maybe not.
8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
I can't even lie, these little orange fuckers scare the shit out of me.
Here we have the film that's musical numbers have long had children in the US wondering, "What the heck is a Bean Feast!?" Willy Wonka is a musical wrapped up in a dark twisted tale and dipped in the richest chocolate you can imagine. From the cautionary songs of the Oompa Loompas to bedridden Grandpa leaping to his feet with a song in his heart, Wonka is a classic.
The first three entries on this list feature over the top production numbers and vibrant color palates that leap from the screen. Once takes a different, more subtle track using haunting music to convey the story of two people with pasts they must lay bare, and a future love that may develop together. This really is one you cannot miss. The music is offbeat and leaves a lasting impression.
6. Jesus Christ Superstar
If you haven't seen this video, you need to. Right now.
I am not just highlight this one because it premiered the year I was born but because it is a musical that truly rocks. Wait, it is more than a musical, JCS is a rock opera with every line sung as they tell the story of the last week of Jesus' life. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's music presents this 6 days through the eyes of Judas, giving him some of the film's most moving and powerful moments.
5. Rocky Horror Picture Show
4. Once More With Feeling
Let's get it out of the way up front, the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer does not have the best voices over all but the one thing they did clearly have when this special episode of the series premiered is heart. They each commit 100% to the music and the wacky circumstances surrounding its appearance. The highlight numbers for me are Anya & Xander's take on relationships, "I'll Never Tell" and Spike's rock number where he confronts his feelings for Buffy, "Let Me Rest in Peace." This episode had been a dream of Joss Whedon's since he began the series and he delivers a great gift to the show's fans in this creative spin on the monster of the week trope.
I first saw this musical in 8th grade, when our music teacher, a tyed-died in the wool hippy himself, decided we needed some culture. I am not sure if it was the most appropriate film to share with us because it sure as heck blew our minds. Imagine a classroom of 13 year olds watching Tina Turner's insane turn as the Acid Queen. Yep, that happened. When I finally got to re-watch Tommy years later I realized how fantastic a piece of cinema it is weaving some classic rock music into a psychedelic tale. The fusion of music and story in Tommy make it a most memorable movie.
2. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
Here we have a film that really shocked me the first time I saw it, and it was not from discovering that Satan's lover was Saddam Hussein. The true revelation comes when you realize that this film completely works as a musical. The songs are great, the story is epic, and it still feels true to its roots. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut achieves something magical when it gets you singing along to songs like "Uncle Fucker" and "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"
1. Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog
Yep, the other "non-film" entry on this list is also from Camp Whedon. This "video blog" began as a word of mouth internet offering and quickly became a must see spectacular. The story is one you know, boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loses girl to cooler guy, but the twist this time around is that the first boy is a supervillain scheming to make his way into a league of evil doers and the other boy is his superhero nemesis. A supervillain who sings? Seems like it would not work but it really does. And the story strays off the beaten path with a dark turn towards the end that nails home the emotion behind the lyrics. What happens when you get everything you've ever wanted but it comes at a cost too high to pay? You learn the answer to this question when you "eavesdrop" on the blog of one Dr. Horrible.
Have at it, ONTD! I'll join you after my shower.