1978’s high school musical Grease saw John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John take on the iconic roles of Danny and Sandy. Set in the heart of the 1950s, Rock n’ Roll, teenage rebellion and hair gel was at its height and Travolta’s character epitomised this perfectly. The film tells the story of two high school gangs, the T Birds headed by Danny, and the Pink Ladies which Sandy joins. Ultimately, It’s a love story between these two characters even with Danny struggling to get past his public image and bad boy status. But there’s a lot of depth to all the characters and some relatable themes, as we’ve all been young, rebellious, naive and have experienced not quite knowing where our future’s headed. Grease is full of entertaining, off the wall moments, and it has a great soundtrack to go with it – nothing beats a bit of summer loving.
- West Side Story
New York City is the backdrop, and again the 1950s is the decade. West Side Story is inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as the musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks: the film’s equivalent of the Montagues and Capulets; and much like the iconic Shakespeare play, two youngsters from the rival gangs fall in love and must find a way to make it work, but consequently tensions between their respective friends build towards tragedy. This movie would not be what it is without its great song and dance numbers, and this is thanks to the genius composer Leonard Bernstein and director Robert Wise. Music and choreography at its finest.
- The Wizard of Oz
In 1939, a young Judy Garland took the world by storm as she portrayed Dorothy in Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz. It’s a fantasy tale, as Dorothy is swept away to the magical land of Oz, and then must find the wizard to help her return back home and escape from the Wicked Witch of the West. Along her journey, she comes across the likes of a yellow brick road, a pair of ruby slippers, and some rather quirky characters such as the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion – oh and did we mention the munchkins? Must not forget the munchkins. The movie broke ground at the time with its use of technicolour, but ultimately it’s the special atmosphere and enchantment that has kept it in the hearts of so many throughout the years. The film was named the most-viewed motion picture on television, a feat that justifies its inclusion on our list. And no one will ever match the soothing sounds and pure innocence of Judy Garland as she performs her most famous number to perfection.
- The Sound of Music
What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Nope false alarm, it’s a just a joyful nun, and so we think you know exactly which musical takes our 2nd spot. Set in Austria during World War 2, The Sound of Music is based on the true story of the Von Trapp family. Maria, played by Julie Andrews, leaves the sisterhood to become a governess for the widowed Austrian naval captain’s seven children. At first, she’s not too popular amongst the household, but her kind nature and more laid-back approach wins the children over. The captain, played by Christopher Plummer, takes more persuading though, which makes for some uneasy but eventually heartfelt moments. Its incredible collection of songs help to put this movie in such high-regard, with the likes of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, “My Favourite Things”, “Edelweiss” and “Do-Re-Mi” – the list is endless. But it’s not just the music that makes this movie so special. With two standout performances from Andrews and Plummer, the audience are gripped to the very end as we root for Maria and the family as they must escape from the Nazis. We’d love to go on about this movie but it’s getting rather late and so it’s goodbye and so long, farewell from our second placed musical.
- Singin’ in the Rain
Now this was one of our hardest lists to make, as so many great musicals missed out. The likes of Guys and Dolls, Oliver, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were all incredibly unlucky to get bypassed. But there could only be one winner, and there was no doubt in our minds what that would be. All hail Gene Kelly, what a performance as both actor in and director of Singin’ in the Rain. It’s his charm and charisma that entice you in, but it’s not just Kelly that makes this movie: it has an absorbing story as we see Hollywood in the late ’20s, with three stars portraying performers caught up in the transition from silent films to “talkies.” The three stars: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, set this movie alight, and are all at the heart of some superb song and dance routines. There are some great moments in the film but we must go back to that iconic scene of Kelly singing in the rain: it’s impossible to watch without bringing a smile to your face and it’s not just a scene that you associate with this movie, it’s a scene that you associate with cinema and it’s history in general.