Musicals mean a great deal to us lovers of the art form. Yet, as adults, it is quite a different experience from seeing them for the first time as a child. As a child, when seeing Oliver! for the first time, we wished to be part of the gang of pick pockets the title character gets involved with. As an adult, we watch and feel pity for those children and living in the streets of London in the mid 1800’s doesn’t look the least bit attractive.
Yet, the songs and stories pull us in at any age. So we wanted to take a look at some movie musicals that are adored equally by children and adults alike.
1. The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews stars in this first adored musical as a would-be nun who falls in love with an Austrian Naval Captain. Maria is hired by the VonTrapp family to be a governess for the Captain’s seven children. The children have become difficult since their mother passed away.
At first, Maria and the Captain seem like oil and water but they soon fall in love. They marry and to the children’s delight, the only governess ever able to handle them is now their mother. They are a musical family but the Captain does not approve of his children singing in public, that is until the Nazi’s take over Austria and try to force the Captain to leave his family and serve the Third Reich, a political party the Captain despises.
This is when they utilize an Austrian Music Festival to sing as a family and ultimately escape through Maria’s former abbey with the help of some rebellious nuns. Songs from this movie musical that tend to be favored are My Favorite Things, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, and the song for which this movie musical is named, The Sound of Music.
2. The Wiz
This movie musical released in 1978 stars the King of Pop himself Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, queen of Motown. This is a hipper, more urban twist on the classic Wizard of Oz. Dorothy lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in New York. They urge her to find her own place so she can start meeting new people and maybe get married. Dorothy is afraid of change.
While chasing Toto into a snowstorm, the pair are swept away to OZ where they encounter Evilene, the Wicked Witch of the West. Of course, with the help of her friends Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, and Glinda the Good, Dorothy returns home, but not before singing Ease On Down, You Can’t Win, and No Bad News.
The songs are brilliant and the urban setting is appealing to viewers of every age, and just like its predecessor, there is a fantasy element that delights everyone.
In this fantastic movie musical our heroine, Tracy Turnblad, is a chubby, outrageous teenager who dreams of being a dancer on the Corny Collins show. She convinces her friend Penny to ditch school for auditions and Tracy’s confidence and positive attitude earn her a coveted spot on the popular program. Amber VonTussle and her mother Velma don’t like the idea of Tracy and the changes she wants to bring to Baltimore television dances.
On the other side, Tracy and Penny protest and stand up for the rights of all African American teens in Baltimore and insist that the Corny Collins show be integrated. Tracy finds love with Link Larkin and Penny find interracial bliss with Seaweed. These were all very hot topic in the 60’s and some of them are even relevant today.
In this brilliant musical, not only are we swept away by the humor and light-heartedness that illustrates the mood of that era, it also gets deep and dark with the moral question it proposes. Hairspray is an education about the Civil Rights movement as well as an insight into the pressures put on women regarding their physical appearance.
Although the story was written back in the 1980’s, these issues are still relevant today. Still, it’s the infectious tunes and hilarious story line that makes this musical with the powerful message a favorite of folks at any age.
4. Mary Poppins
Who didn’t grow up loving Mary Poppins? Well, I’m sure there are some people who didn’t but the majority of children and adults who have witnessed Julie Andrews and Dick VanDyke as working class Brits are enthralled with the story of this special nanny.
Mary is hired to take care of Jane and Michael who are the offspring of Mr. and Mrs. Banks, a banker and a suffragette fighting for the rights of woman. Mary, with the help of chimney sweep Burt, take the children on amazing adventures with dancing penguins and worlds beyond chalk drawings.
We can almost bet, as you read this, the melodies for Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Spoonful of Sugar, and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious flooded your brain. There is no denying the attraction this particular musical has on the youthful. So what is it about this film that keeps us watching, far beyond any years where we care to fly a kite?
Could it be the reminder it gives us of what it is like to be a child? Or maybe it’s the look on the children’s’ faces that are watching it with us. Mary Poppins is a timeless classic that will surely be dazzling new viewers for centuries to come.
Grease is the word that takes us on a journey through Rydell High, a 1950’s school where the greasers were cool and everyone else isn’t. A young girl, Sandy, and a young greaser, Danny, met the summer before but were separated because, at the time they believed she was moving back to Australia. A few days after school began for the year, the duo are “accidentally” reunited at a pep rally. Sandy loves Danny but he is afraid of shedding his bad boy/womanizer persona to show his true feelings.
In turn he snubs her and she storms off broken hearted. Of course, he instantly regrets it and tries to win her back. She stands her ground but, because of his bad boy past and her pristine persona, it seems that the two are destined to break up. In the end though, they both make changes to fit into the other’s world and true love triumphs.
Children love to sing along with many very popular tunes that have come out of this musical but they aren’t the only ones. Even in recent years, songs from Grease like “Summer Lovin’” and “Greased Lightning” have been in the regular rotation of radio stations that cater to adults. Luckily the children somehow see past the sexual innuendo thrown at us at every curve.
6. The Music Man
This 1962 movie musical stars Robert Preston as Harold Hill a traveling salesman who is really a con man. He rolls into Iowa and entices the good people of River City that their new pool table will corrupt their youth. What they needed, according to Hill, is a boy band and he was just the man to get them the instruments and teach them.
Yet, the instruments are taking a great deal of time to arrive, and Hill is educating them through his own method, which requires pretending to have an instrument. The town rallies behind the charming man even though Marian the librarian suspects he is up to something all along.
Once she finally gets proof that Harold Hill is truly a swindler it is too late, her younger brother Winthrop who has struggled socially for so long is finally breaking out of his shell all with the help of Harold Hill. Besides, she has fallen in love with him and she is spinster after all.
The musical numbers this brings to the table are classics and the concept is sweet and wholesome enough that this is a great watch for the whole family.
Have you read about the few musicals Off-Broadway that are coming strong this year? Read more here.