Greatest Movie Musicals


Les Miserables (currently showing in theaters) has laid claim to be the “Greatest Movie Musical of All Time”. I had the opportunity to see it recently. It certainly is one of the BIGGEST (in scope, in score, in emotion)…but GREATEST?? Well, hold on there…

When I think of a great movie musical it’s not necessarily about BOMBAST. Les Mis might be the greatest theatrical musical of all time, but it loses something in the translation to screen. It’s not a failure by any means, but it seems a rush to judgement to put it at the top. For one thing, there was the decision to cast actors who sing, not musical performers from the stage. While not quite as unfortunate a decision as casting a too young and untrained Jake Lloyd as the youthful Darth Vader…”that was tense!”…it somehow harmed my overall enjoyment of the picture.

Here are what I would consider the GREATS…

10) Jesus Christ Superstar…the music, oh man! It hasn’t aged very well, but it still ranks near the top.

9) The Sound of Music…maudlin, yes. But impossible not to get caught up in it.

8) Oliver!…won many awards including Best Picture. Classic story never disappoints, music impeccable and memorable.

7) Mary Poppins…Walt Disney’s finest hour. Watch it again as an adult and you’ll see what I mean.

6) Singin’ In The Rain…the best of the old style movie musicals. Never gets old.

5) The Rocky Horror Picture Show…must see list for anyone. Subversive yet, oddly, mainstream entertainment.

4) The Music Man…or the Robert Preston show. In many ways the perfect musical.

3) Cabaret…wow!

2) Fiddler On The Roof…just an all out pleasing and moving motion picture experience. I highly recommend it.

1) Grease…never before (and maybe never again) will a musical phenomenon happen like it. Best transfer from stage to screen ever…in my opinion.  M


Little Shop of Horrors…Alternate Ending


Sometimes the best endings really are the original ones…the ones that don’t make it past the early audience test screenings. Such is the case with Little Shop, a flawed but enjoyable romp of 50’s style doowop music brought to life my Ashman and Menken…of Little Mermaid fame. The original ending, which was just released as The Director’s Cut (Frank Oz), is a dark one…the man-eating plant from outer space actually wins, eats our 2 lovers/heroes, and having been spliced and sold across the country, destroys and takes over the planet a-la a 50’s B monster/alien flick. Now that’s a refreshing change of pace for sure. But it seems audiences of the 80’s couldn’t be convinced to give up their happy ending, so it was left on the cutting floor.

Nicely restored, the original ending is a blast of 80’s style special effects…no digital stuff here. It’s kinda cool to see 50’s America and its mass consumerism and cookie cutter ways get a comeuppance. It must have been a killer for the special effects crew to see all that footage go to waste. Now it finally gets its due, and a once passable time killer has been converted into what it should have been all along…a cult classic musical of a cult classic movie.  M