While there are plenty of musicals coming out now, the 21st century is very young and it never hurts to check out what has been successful in the past. The 20th century was the highlight in the era of musicals because, in a way, the movie versions were created in the 20th century, and during the early part of the last hundred years, musicals were quite popular.
Here are a few musicals that were released in the 20th century we thought would be fun to talk about.
1. The Good Companions
One of the 20th century musicals on our list was based on the 1929 J. B. Priestley novel. When a group of performers find, themselves broke because their manager steals their profits they become stuck. While touring, they meet Jess, who abandons his bride to become their newest member.
They find financial support from Elizabeth, another new member, who was left a good sum of money and uses it to support their tour. She does this because she finds her life boring.
Her Majesty’s Theatre in London was the first place this musical was seen premiering in July of 1974. It went on to perform almost 300 shows with a cast including Ray C. Davis, John Mills, Dame Judi Dench, Marti Webb, and Christopher Gable.
While there was talk this musical never did make its way to Broadway only because another adaptation, without music, was shown on Broadway and it failed because the audience couldn’t grasp the idea of “concert party”, which is what the touring group in the story represents.
2. The Sound of Music
One of the most popular 20th century musicals on our list, this story began on the stage and made its way to the silver screen, and our hearts, as an all-time favorite of many. It is the sweet story of Maria and her original quest to be a nun. Maria is sent to take care of the seven Von Trapp children who have been going through governesses like water since their mother passed away.
The children don’t realize that Maria isn’t scared easily and is rather unorthodox in every way. Her brash personality clashes with the Captain and by all accounts one would think he disliked her greatly. Also, the children are playing all types of tricks to drive her out of their home. Little does their father realize their acting out is their way of reaching out for his attention.
Maria is sensitive to the children’s plight of not only losing a mother but enduring a distance and absent father, and she makes her opinions on the subject well known to the Captain, who does not appreciate her feedback. Yet, it is this quality in Maria, her fiery nature and purity, that makes the Captain fall in love with her from the start.
When she realizes, she loves him too, Maria finds she isn’t bulletproof and she runs away hoping to hide at the abbey. The Reverend Mother guides her through her doubts and Maria returns to the Von Trapps and becomes a part of the family she was meant to.
3. Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story
The first jukebox musical on our list, this story is based on the life of one of the most iconic rock and roll musicians of all time. Buddy Holly, along with the Big Bopper and Richie Valens, died in a plane crash in a snow storm at the height of their careers. While the music of Buddy Holly is used in this show, which is why it is dubbed a jukebox musical, Alan Janes wrote the book.
Buddy premiered in October of 1989 in London at the Victoria Palace Theater and ran for more than five thousand shows lasting for six years before closing. After leaving London, Buddy opened in Toronto for a time and then moved its way to New York and Broadway.
Awards won by this 20th century musical include a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical while the original production won two Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Musical and Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actor in a Musical.
4. Top Hat
Our last musical falls under the category of comedy and stars the dancing duo of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and has some of the most recognizable scenes and songs in musical history. “Cheek to Cheek” is iconic not only to the stars of early movie musicals, it is synonymous with the entire genre of musical and what they represent in American culture. This song has been referenced in many other films solidifying its place in Hollywood history. Some include The Green Mile and The Purple Rose of Cairo.
Jerry Travers, played by Astaire, is an American dancer spending time in London. He gets a job and meets his neighbor Dale, played by Rogers. Falling in love with her, Travers tries his best to win her over. He even goes to the point of following her to Venice, yet this where the screw-ups and mistaken identities begin to entangle things.
Still, in the spirit of these early musicals and their themes, everyone loves a happy ending and we find that Jess and Dale get theirs.
5. The Pirate Movie
Starring 1970s icons Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins, this 20th century musical did horribly at the box office and with the critics. It was based on The Pirates of Penzance with new music by Mike Brady and Peter Sullivan. The plot follows Mabel, played by McNichol, who lives in Australia along the ocean.
When attending a celebration, she meets a man, played by Atkins, who asks her to take a boat ride with him. Yet, her sisters get in the way and she doesn’t make the launch on time. So, Mabel rents a boat to catch up and is swept off her boat. She wakes up in a past world where the young man she met is a pirate.
In this new world Mabel finds that she is more assertive and stands up for herself. Frederic, the young man, wants to marry Mabel but she is unable to marry because it is custom that older sister marry first. More pirates come and Mabel’s sisters are taken hostage. Their father, a Major, gets them back but still, Mabel is not allowed to marry Frederic.
So, she contrives a plan to rob the pirates of their belongings that were stolen from their family long ago. Mable hopes by doing so, her father will approve of her marrying Frederic. Mabel finds out though, that the treasure she is trying to steal back has been sunken and the only map to the location is on the back of the Pirate King.
Mabel tricks the Pirate King in taking off his shirt and Frederic copies the map. When they find the treasure, and return it to Mabel’s father he doesn’t care believing the pirates will only come after it once again.
Check out these musicals that you will easily rock the karaoke mic!