Musicals: A Grand American Invention

My girls asked for a little “cleaning music” earlier this week, and I was happy to oblige with my Pandora Broadway musical station. They didn’t exactly have to twist my arm, of course. Broadway shows are one of the very best things about living in America. I mean, freedom of religion and freedom of speech aren’t America’s only benefits. We are the author and perfector of one of the most enjoyable forms of theater ever put on a stage. Am I right?

Birmingham has a fabulous Broadway series in town, and because of it I’ve been able to see many shows over the years. Add in the fact that Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre is only a couple of hours away (plus one trip to NYC), and you can see why my fascination with musicals has only grown over the years. I have a few favorites, and I bet you do, too. I’d love to hear which shows you’ve loved and which you wish you’d stayed away from.

I’ll get us started. My list of favorites in no particular order is:

The Lion King: Saw it in Birmingham, and the music and puppetry were unbelievably imaginative. Who doesn’t love a good Elton John anthem? While the story line is a lot like the Disney movie (also one of my favorites of all time!), the way the stage production is done is totally different. If you haven’t seen the Lion King on stage, you are missing out! I would easily see this show again. Anybody wanna go?


The Who’s Tommy: While I’m a few years too young to remember the original release of The Who’s album that this show is based on, it’s a classic that has woven itself into the fabric of American rock music. My friend Felton and I sang along to every word. It’s not that the story line is all that great. It’s a really weird plot actually, and the whole fantastical world of pinball stardom was lost on me. But the music is so, so fun. It’s definitely a good show to see with your girlfriends.

Grease: Have y’all seen the stage production of Grease? I was so excited because of how much I loved the movie. However, I felt like the set was more like a high school production than a Broadway show. It was a bit lackluster for me. The music was still good, and the story was pretty much the same as the movie. I will say that Sally Struthers as Miss Lynch was a hoot! She is just silly and wobbly and bobbly and spacey enough to be perfect in the role. She was the redeeming factor in this show.


West Side Story: I took my new boyfriend, who is now my husband, to see this with friends when it was in Birmingham. I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the Broadway show, as evidenced by his comments about West Side Story. I thought it was a beautiful production of a classic story.

Mamma Mia: This is the one and only show I’ve actually seen on Broadway. I grew up with the music of ABBA, and when the music is familiar the show is a lot of fun to sing along to. I thought Catherine Johnson did a really great job with the story line as well. It can’t be easy to come up with a story that ties together songs from an album that weren’t written to tell a story. But Mamma Mia was a ton of fun and a really cute plot.

Les Miserable: Les Mis was a fabulous production, however it’s one that I wish I’d read the book beforehand. I feel like I missed the message of the writing because I had a hard time following the story. Every single word of this show is sung, and while that’s really awesome, it does mean you miss a lot of what is said is you don’t know the plot ahead of time. I feel like this book and musical has such a rich message that I’d really like to see it again now that I know what it’s about. I do remember that it had a huge cast and that the costumery was a huge part of the show. Has anyone seen the movie and the stage production? I’d love to know how they compare.

Sound of Music: This has been one of my favorite movies of all time, so I understandably loved the stage production just as much. And guess who played the part of Maria. MARIE OSMOND!!! She was so great! She put a different spin on the character than you’d think was even possible, but she rocked it. Of course, her singing was like fine crystal, but her acting was superb as well. She was the real deal!


Phantom of the Opera: Phantom was another of the fabulous Birmingham Broadway productions. What’s not to love about Phantom? It’s the longest running musical on Broadway, and it’s just a classic. The music is more stunning live than in the best recording you’ve heard.

Miss Saigon: My girlfriends and I drove to the Fox Theater to see Miss Saigon, and we had high hopes for it. While the production itself was incredible, I didn’t love the storyline of Miss Saigon. It was really hard to watch with my friend whose mom had taken her own life several years earlier (the main character commits suicide in the end). Wish we’d known how it ended before going, as we might have chosen another show. However, I do believe the show was well produced, as are all productions at the Fox.

Cats: Y’all, I don’t get why Cats is the second longest running show on Broadway. What the heck is it about? All the cats! I just don’t know.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but that’s all I can remember right now. I’d still love to see Wicked, Newsies, and Chicago. They are on my short list. I do know that Rock of Ages is playing right now in Birmingham, and Jersey Boys is coming in September. Has anyone seen those? They both look interesting to me.

Alrighty, its your turn. I’ve been waiting to hear your take on some of these. Do we have a difference of opinion about any of them? Are there others you would recommend? Which soundtracks do you have on your playlist? Can’t wait to hear from you!

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