If you follow me here at Tan’s Topics, you will know I am an avid theatre fan, especially musical theatre. For this year’s World Theatre Day (27th March annually), I have decided to rank all the musicals I have so far reviewed or mentioned in some capacity in this one post. As of now there are 15 full reviews, 1 written more as a more general critique, and 2 others in my previous World Theatre Day blog post with more to be added going forward. They all range from 3 stars to 5 stars. Some of the reviews have been given similar star ratings so I have then ranked them within themselves on the list, bar a few who are in different positions than you would expect based on ratings, as they will be explained. Are you excited and ready?
Here they are:
18) 101 Dalmatians (3.5)
At the bottom of the ladder (so far) is 101 Dalmatians, seen at the Open Air Theatre. Though a fun and feel-good show with a charismatic Cruella (Kate Fleetwood) leading the cast, the songs were largely basic and forgettable.
17) The Cher Show (3.5)
I didn’t know quite what to expect in a show retelling the long life of Cher, and whilst it would have made a great revue of the legend’s musical legacy, it baffled just as much as it entertained. It showcased her many hits, her diva personality everybody has come to be intrigued by and her penchant for avant garde fashion, but The Cher Show was ultimately more like a competition of “who can do the cringiest Cher impression?”
16) Beauty and the Beast (3.5)
There was not much to dislike about Beauty and the Beast, but there also wasn’t much to gush about either. A fine cast and of course iconic Disney songs, but as with most reincarnations of the original, it lacked anything to really make it stand out and shine.
15) Hairspray (3)
Hairspray is actually the worst-rated musical on this list, but it’s higher only because I know of its potential and the fact that at its core, it is indeed a fantastic musical. Sadly, the production I saw was very disappointing in a number of ways, but it didn’t detract from the great songs which do normally make it a top tier show.
14) Mrs. Doubtfire (4)
A controversial decision to turn this Robin Williams classic into a musical, but one that funnily enough actually wasn’t bad at all, Mrs. Doubtfire did its best to retell the story for the stage with a great cast. What lets it down and makes it the lowest ranking 4+ star musical on this list is its lack of memorable songs.
13) Frozen (4)
While I do not rate Frozen that highly when it comes to Disney Princess films, the musical is a dazzling delight with expectedly brilliant visuals and a very talented cast. And as I’ve said, it’s a good “starter” musical for young children before they grow up to watch bigger and better ones.
12) Legally Blonde the Musical (4)
Another musical seen at the Open Air Theatre, Legally Blonde is the definition of camp and sassy. Even though the songs are not all immediately memorable, at the time they are fun and funky and it is a truly laugh out loud show.
11) Back to the Future: The Musical (4)
Ranked 10th in my list of top 10 favourite theatre shows for World Theatre Day, Back to the Future just misses out on the top 10 this time. Reiterating what I said last time, the cast are top notch and certainly studied their characters well and some of the songs are catchy or sometimes downright bizarre, but it has many divided on whether it enhances the legacy of the film franchise or detriments it.
10) Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch (5)
A surprise show in general and especially on this list of well known and massive musicals, Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch was filthy, funny and fabulous. The small but multi-talented cast and the show itself were irreverent and bordering on the fine line between new and original, and expecting a lawsuit from the Walt Disney Company, all the while unbothered by the latter potentially happening.
9) Dear Evan Hansen (4)
Dear Evan Hansen is not your usual feel-good, carefree musical. If you’re wanting a show that you can laugh along to and escape reality, it definitely isn’t for you. If you want one that makes you question many sad realities of life, it is. However, despite the sadness it is still hopeful and its uniqueness helps it rank within the top 10.
8) Anything Goes (4.5)
The oldest musical on this list by decades, Anything Goes still remains relevant as an hilarious, toe-tapping one for all to enjoy, whether young or old. Although the lyrical songs are good, it’s the choreography-heavy or only numbers that really make it a standout show.
7) Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (4)
A show that’s come far from its early conception based on someone’s real life, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been a surprise success – not just in the UK but almost globally too after a run in the US. And while some touring productions can disappear for years on end before returning, it seems to be coming back by popular demand almost every year now.
6) Sister Act (5)
Even though it doesn’t have any songs from the film, Sister Act is a “Joyful, Joyful” musical that you just can’t help but get up and raise your hands to. This wonderful adaptation undoubtedly deserves praise in its own right without detracting from the much-loved Whoopi Goldberg classic.
5) Mamma Mia! (4)
I may have previously aired reservations about the lack of both a visually appealing stage setup and cast diversity, but Mamma Mia! is a musical that is just too full of fuzzy contentedness and ABBA hit after hit to not still be considered one of greatest and most popular musicals of all time. And to earn a spot within my top 5, the highest ranking but lowest rated on the list.
4) The Bodyguard (5)
As we have seen, turning classic films into hit musicals can be an unpopular decision and extremely tough to do, but if one musical shows it is possible, it’s The Bodyguard. I ranked this as my 6th favourite theatre show for World Theatre Day and because this list omits non-musicals, it sits in 4th place. And as I said before, although we may never get a proper musical about Whitney Houston herself, The Bodyguard still stands as an amazing ode to “The Voice”.
3) Dreamgirls (5)
Dreamgirls would get a high spot on this list purely for the fact that in order to pull off most of the songs you have to be a vocal beast. Productions of Hairspray could certainly learn a thing or two from it about living up to expectations if you’re more familiar with the successful film version of the musical before having the utmost pleasure of being able to watch it on stage and sit in awe doing so.
2) Wicked (5)
Who doesn’t love a classic “let’s turn a villain into a hero” storyline? Wicked has done that better than pretty much any adaptation of a story or character than anyone else. A visual and aural masterpiece of a musical, Wicked is not simultaneously the most recently released (2003) and highest-grossing musical of all time (2nd) as well as a record-breaking one for no reason.
1) The Lion King (5)
I’ve said it before and will say it again – rarely is there a musical based on a film that equals its predecessor in sheer brilliance. But The Lion King is absolutely probably the only one that does. It’s groundbreaking and record-breaking, very universally appealing and almost universally shown, with productions across nearly every continent on the planet and in almost 30 countries – no mean feat for any show that has to be translated – in either language or in any other way – to audiences around the world.
And that’s it – so far!
Do you agree with the list? Where would you rank some of these musicals? If you don’t agree…
I actually don’t agree with this list- for starter’s haven’t seen some of those, and others haven’t been in the US. By the way, Mrs. Doubtfire, I believe, is heading to my hometown in the upcoming season
When it comes to theatre, my main interest is musical theatre- ranking them is difficult (very difficult). Wicked and Les Mis are tied as my favorite musical (something I wasn’t expecting)