One, singular sensation! That’s right folks, I am back with final 5 of my top 10 musicals of Broadway. This is all leading up to number One! Without further adieu, let’s start with number 5.
5. Fiddler on the Roof-Jerry Brock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein
One cannot have a list of the best musicals of Broadway without this little number. It is probably one of the most popular musicals of all time. It was made into a movie which became one of the most successful movie-musicals of all time. It’s songs are played at weddings and bar and bat-mitzvahs all over the world. The story is old, but it still resonates today with all that is happening in the world and all the hate and violence toward others. Fiddler on the Roof is one of the most endearing musicals of all time. It is performed in high schools and community theaters all around the country. It is beloved for the simple story of a man and his family and the love they share. It is a story about traditions and of moving forward but keeping hold of your past. Tevye is the “every father”. He tries to keep a balance “without breaking his neck.” The Fiddler are his traditions and his beliefs. The story shows how one can move forward without losing who you are and “what God expects [you] him to be.”
Here is another ground-breaking musical. The writers of this show were a “dream team” of American Theater. A young, Stephen Sondheim, Jules Styne and Arthur Laurents. These three men came together and what they produced was nothing short of magic. One of the most endearing musicals, having been revived 4 times, each with an amazing lead. Ethel Merman originated the role and it was then played by; Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and most recently Patti LuPone. Of course I am talking about Gypsy! The role of Mama Rose has also been played by Rosiland Russell and Bette Midler on film. This musical oozes emotion from the moment the overture starts to the final exit of the main characters. It is one of the musicals that could only work as a musical. Every single song comes straight from the heart and the gut. You feel for these characters and the songs are extensions of those emotions. Some shows put songs in because the writers just think it’s a good place for one. In Gypsy, the songs are there because they need to be.
3. Into the Woods-Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine
Into the Woods is probably my favorite Sondheim show. I personally believe it encapsulates a lifetime of work into one show. The music is both haunting and comforting. It tells a story that many can relate to; from parents mistakes to children who have lost parents, to making amends. There are so many themes in this show to mention. But for me, it comes down to one song…No More. This song is sung by the Baker’s father and hits home. If life is difficult, do you run away or do you stay and fight? The choice you make may seem like the easy one now, but what about later? What we have to deal with in our lives is because of the mistakes our parents made. But, mistakes, if they are learned from, are not a bad thing. It’s only when someone does not learn from his or her mistakes does that person encounter a problem. There is so much rich material in the show I would need a whole other post just to analyze it.
And now, the final two. This was a very difficult decision to make. Each of the shows I was considering for the top two were ground-breaking in their own right. However, which order to place them in. In all honesty, I have left several shows off the top ten list; not because they were not worthy, but because they did not fit what I was looking for in choosing. My final two shows, there was about 5 I was considering. Of those were: Ragtime, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line, Miss Saigon and Oklahoma. Each one of these shows were amazing in their own right. Each one of these shows represents a time in American history where we were at a crossroads. Ultimately, I had to leave three off of the list entirely. So, here we go.
Les Miserables has been around for over 25 years. Although it played on Broadway for a mere 15 years, it has had a life all of its own. This musical has had productions all over the world, been translated into various languages and won critical acclaim where ever it goes. Why is the story, about a man (a thief) who turns his life around so important? The book is over a thousand pages in length, but is thought to be one of the best works of literature in the past five hundred years. The musical, which clocks in with a running time of over three hours is one of the longest musicals in history. But, people go back to see it, time and time again. What is the magic behind this phenomenon? I do not have an exact answer to this question. But, I can say the story of this mans redemption and the life he tries to lead is a classic tale going back to the Ancient Greeks. One I can attest to is the music in this show is fantastic. It stays with you for days, weeks, even years. Ultimately, is that not what the point of a musical is?
The only thing I have to say about this musical…. One, singular sensation!! Just as Oklahoma redefined what a musical was, A Chorus Line redefined the theater going experience. There were real people and real stories on that stage. If you went to NYC, you saw this show. It defined a generation of actors and actresses and it is still influencing people to this day. That is why it is number ONE!