I was first introduced to the world of musical theatre when I was around five years old. Back then my Aunt would make a weekend out of it and we’d watch the classics on VHS. When I was seven, we moved onto visiting the theatre to watch some of our favourites and so my love of everything theatre related was born. Almost twenty years later, I still love the Arts and frequently head to Sydney to see productions. So today I want to share with you some of my favourite productions and just what makes them so great. Having gone to so many over the years, I’m going to limit this list to my top five, otherwise we could be here all day!
5. Next To Normal. ( Original Broadway cast includes: Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer, Louis Hobson, Jennifer Damiano, and Aaron Tveit).
Like many productions, I first came across this musical when browsing iTunes one day. On a whim I purchased the album and it’s been one of my favourites ever since. The music is beautiful, and the lyrics surprising. Unlike many musicals, this is not a musical for the faint hearted. In fact it is a gritty take on mental health and how that can affect an entire family structure. It speaks about loss, and feeling neglected, about being drugged, and choosing drugs. It features a broken family who are struggling to survive and what they endure to try and ‘right’ themselves. Stand out tracks include: ‘Who’s Crazy/My Pharmacologist and I’ ; ‘Perfect For You’ ; ‘I Miss The Mountains’ ; ‘Super-boy And The Invisible Girl’ and ‘Maybe (Next To Normal).’
4. Avenue Q (2009, Sydney Australia).
One of my best friends recommended this musical to me. Having never heard of it before, I was intrigued by the idea of puppets and people together on stage and jumped at the opportunity to go see it in Sydney. The plan at the time was to see it blind, having never listened to the soundtrack. This didn’t quite eventuate though, as I cracked the day before we were meant to see it, and listened once to the songs. I’m glad I did, because although I’ve been to a few musicals without knowledge of the songs (Jersey Boys), I felt the prior knowledge allowed me to take in the full story better. Not to mention gave me a bit of warning for what I was in for too. This musical is not for kids folks, and I admit to being dumbfounded when we noticed a father and his young daughter (I’m talking about at least ten) in the audience. I can only imagine there were a lot of questions the following day! Stand out tracks include: ‘Purpose’ ; ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line’ ; ‘I Wish I could Go Back To Collage’ and ‘The Internet Is For Porn.’
3. Wicked (2010, Sydney Australia).
I first heard the songs from Wicked when I was in High School back in 2006 and I fell in love instantly. For close to a year, the soundtrack was blasted through my bedroom and my family in turn grew to know every single lyric. I hadn’t read the book at this stage and although I knew it was on Broadway, I’d never seen a clip or Youtube video of the performance. Thankfully, what I grasped from the soundtrack was somewhat close to the story line and I sat through the entire stage performance in awe. Although a bit sad that Sydney didn’t get the flying monkeys over the audience (Melbourne apparently were treated to this). This was the musical through which I was introduced to the extraordinary vocal talents of Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, both of whose career’s I have followed since discovering the soundtrack. Stand out Tracks Include: ‘Gravity’ ; ‘Thank Goodness’ ; ‘For Good’ ; ‘The Wizard and I’ and ‘One Short Day.’
2. The Lion King (2014, Sydney Australia).
I know this production toured some ten years back, but I missed out on seeing it then. And I’ve mourned that loss out loud for years. So naturally when I heard the production was returning to Australia late last year, I quickly secured tickets for early 2014 and waited eagerly to see the most talked about musical. The costuming in this production was simply astounding – and although I’d been warned off this, it’s something entirely different to see costumes first more. I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of my favourite Disney characters being brought to life, even despite the few narrative changes. Stand Out Tracks: ‘Circle Of Life’ ; ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ and ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight.’
1. Mary Poppins (2011, Sydney Australia).
I saw this production live in 2013 and was blown away by the talented cast. But what stood out for me even more was the incredibly unique and versatile set. You see, the Sydney production’s set was basically a house on stage that moved, with pieces attaching and detaching, opening and closing like a doll-house. I’ve never before seen something like it, and I expect I never will again. Also note worthy was Matt Lee’s performance, and his chimney sweep dance number on the streets roof tops. He even tapped upside down. The costuming was superb, and the songs and dance numbers uplifting. If it ever tours Australia again, I highly recommend you go see it. Stand Out Tracks: ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ ; ‘Step In Time’ ; ‘A Spoonful Of Sugar’ and ‘Suparcalifragilisticexpialidocious.’
So there you have it, my top five stage productions/musicals. I’m curious what would you include in your own list of favourite musicals/stage productions?
Guest reviewer Jess’ blog, The Never Ending Bookshelf, can be found here.