“Being true to yourself never goes out of style.” - Legally Blonde
From Broadway in New York City to the West End in London, musical theatre is hugely popular and there are musicals for all moods. Whether you watch them to laugh, cry, or sing along, musicals are great and here at Superprof, we love them.
For many, there aren't that many opportunities to see them live. However, the best musicals are often adapted into films or movies or for the production to be filmed so that you and the whole family can watch them at home.
With that in mind, here are our 10 favourite musicals (from both film and theatre). Of course, if you prefer any others, let us know in the comments!
West Side Story
West Side Story debuted in 1957 and was inspired by Romeo and Juliet. First and foremost, this is a Broadway musical but it was made into a film in 1961. The film won 10 Oscars. A second movie adaptation is being made and directed by Steven Spielberg.
Two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are fighting for control of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Jets are young, white, and working-class. They consider themselves the “true” Americans even though they’re mainly of Irish, Swedish, and Polish descent. The Sharks are from Puerto Rico. Tony, the friend of the Jets’ leader, falls in love with Maria, the sister of the Sharks’ leader.
- Something’s Coming
It was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical but lost out to The Music Man.
With Chicago, we get cabaret. This play was based on a 1926 play of the same name that covered trials in 1924 during the prohibition. In 2002, it was adapted into a musical film. It won the Oscar for best film.
In Chicago in the 1920s, Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are seeking fame to avoid the death penalty for murder with the help of their lawyer Billy Finn.
- All That Jazz
- When You’re Good to Mamma
- The Cell Block Tango
- I Can’t Do It Alone
- Love Is a Crime
It’s a fantastic show and even better when seen on Broadway or the West End.
Would you like singing lessons?
La La Land
La La Land is a 2016 musical film with Emma Stone playing Mia Dolan and Ryan Gosling playing Sebastian Wilder. The director Damien Chazelle wrote the script in 2010 aged just 25! He couldn’t find funding for the project but after Whiplash was a success, he got the green light for La La Land.
La La Land is a neighbourhood in Los Angeles but also the idea of having your head in the clouds. The film was critically acclaimed and won several awards.
The story mostly takes place in Los Angeles. Mia Dolan dreams of becoming an actress and juggles working as a waitress and attending auditions. Sebastian Wilder dreams of becoming a jazz pianist. The film tells the love story between the two.
- City of Stars
- A Lovely Night
- Audition (The Fools Who Dream)
The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers is a successful 1980 American film featuring several famous actors and songs. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and even Steven Spielberg.
The film tells the story of the Blues Brothers who head across the United States to get their band back together. They face various challenges on the way which are often punctuated with musical numbers.
- Shake a Tail Feather
- Everybody Needs Somebody to Love
- Sweet Home Chicago
- Jailhouse Rock
Mamma Mia! is a musical based on the songs of ABBA and was created by members of the group. The show has earned over 4 billion dollars and been seen by over 65 million people.
A film was made in 2008 starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, and Pierce Brosnan. A sequel was released in 2018.
It’s the story of Sophie and her mother Donna. Sophie is about to get married and wants her father at the wedding. The problem is she doesn’t know which of her mother’s 3 ex-lovers is her father.
- Money, Money, Money
- Mamma Mia
- Dancing Queen
- Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
Released in 1964, Mary Poppins is the musical film adaptation of Pamela L. Travers’ book. It was produced by Disney and mixed traditional film with animation. It was one of Disney’s most warmly received films. It even won 5 Oscars including a Best Actress Academy Award for Julie Andrews.
In 1910, a magical nanny, Mary Poppins, is hired by the Banks family to look after their children Jane and Michael. The three of them head off on adventures with Bert, a chimney sweep, in his street painting. They participate in various enjoyable activities before the rain washes away the street art and they’re returned to London.
- Chim Chim Cher-ee
- Jolly Holiday
- Stay Awake
- Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)
- Step in Time
While this isn't a musical in the traditional sense, a lot of the film is set to music and every song is excellent. The movie was also later adapted into a musical which was performed in London's West End and on Broadway, New York City.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 1979 musical based on the 1973 play of the same name. It was later adapted into a film and directed by Tim Burton.
The film tells the tale of Sweeney Todd, a barber and serial kill who, with the help of Mrs Lovett, puts his victims into meat buys. The character of Sweeney Todd originated in Victorian “penny dreadfuls” and would have been familiar to most Victorians.
- A Little Priest
- My Friends
- Worst Pies in London
- Not While I’m Around
- Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir
When Sweeney Todd was first on Broadway in 1979, it won a large number of Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score.
Grease is a musical from 1971 that debuted in Chicago and appeared on Broadway the following year. There were over 3,300 performances until 1980 making it one of the longest-running Broadway shows. It then went to London and back to Broadway from 1994 to 2007.
In 1978, a film adaptation was made starring Olivie Newton-John and John Travolta in the leading roles.
The story takes place in 1959 at Rydell High School. Sandy, the new girl, falls in love with Danny, who’s initially more interested in his popularity than her.
- You’re The One That I Want (which is from the film and wasn’t added to the musical until 2007)
- Summer Nights
- Shakin’ at the High School Hop
- We Go Together
Hamilton is a musical based on Alexander Hamilton, one of the United States of America’s founding fathers.
The story follows a young Hamilton through his arrival in the colonies through the American revolutionary war to his death at the hands of Aaron Burr in a pistol duel following a storied an impressive political career in the young USA.
- My Shot
- You’ll Be Back
- Alexander Hamilton
Moulin Rouge is a romantic musical film that came out in 2001 featuring Nicole Kidman playing the lead. It won two Oscars: Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It was the first musical to be nominated for best picture since Beauty and the Beast in 1991.
The film tells the story of Christian, a British writer, and Satine, a cabaret dancer in Paris’ Montmartre area at the famous Moulin Rouge. It appears to be heavily influenced by Alexandre Dumas’ “La Dame aux Camélias”, but the director has never confirmed this.
- Lady Marmelade
- Sparkling Diamonds
- El Tango de Roxanne
Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list and there are plenty of others we could have mentioned: Singin’ in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lion King, and many others.
Which is your favourite musical?
If you'd like to learn more about musicals, drama, acting, singing, dancing, or the dramatic arts in general, you may want to get in touch with a private tutor on Superprof. Whether you want to star in a musical, opera, or are just intrigued at the prospect of taking to the stage, a tutor can teach you necessary skills and help you navigate the challenges faced by those cast in musicals.