Discussion Post: What Are Your Favorite Non-Indian Musicals?

Movie or stage! No rules! It was Mother’s Day yesterday so I was thinking about my Mom and her love for musicals that she passed down to us, and all the non-Indian musicals I loved.

When my sister and I were 4-6, our parents got us to watch Singin’ in the Rain on a copy they rented from the library while we were visiting my maternal grandparents. And we LOVED it. We watched it 11 times in one month, which doesn’t sound that impressive except that we were only allowed to see 3 movies a week (2 on Friday night, and one of those rewatched Saturday morning before we had to return the VHS). So we must have doubled up on it and watched it back to back every single week, and then again on Saturday morning. We counted every watch that first month, and then the numbers got too high for us to count very very quickly. It’s just such a good movie! Great mish-mosh of songs, brilliant Gene Kelly film song concepts for all of them, and with Donald O’Conner, Gene finally had a dance partner up to his level. As a bonus, all those fabulous in jokes of film history. Ahhh. Perfection.

Stage musical-wise, Anything Goes! My sister and I got the cast album from the library when we were kids and listened to it over and over and over again. I’ve got the entire thing memorized. And then we actually got to see it live! At the outside summer theater in St. Louis when we were visiting my grandparents. It’s a funny show, because the live performance was awesome, but we loved it already just from the album. The Wodehouse-Cole Porter combo is just irresistible, all the songs are fun, and they are so perfect for their individual characters and situations that you can enjoy it as a full narrative just through a plot synopsis on the back of the record and listening to the songs. And anyway, can a modern stage performance ever equal Ethel Merman’s original?

Okay, what are your favorites? Sell me on post-1968 stage musicals! My interest reached Hello Dolly! and then stopped. Or, alternatively, post-1960 film musicals! All those weird ones that don’t have Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire in them.

31 thoughts on “Discussion Post: What Are Your Favorite Non-Indian Musicals?

  1. The greatest musical is of course my musical. Sadly my song is only available in Russian (?).

    But there are so many others! Smashing Time (1967 but I think it qualifies), Rocky Horror, Stardust, Oz, Peau d’ Ane, Earth Girls Are Easy, Velvet Goldmine. If it’s nutty and has songs, I’ve watched it and loved it.

    PS: my internet is screwy, please delete if this posts twice.

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    • Your musicals are WEIRD!!! I don’t know if I can handle them. I like nice musicals with period costumes and a happy little love story.

      What do you think about The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? Or Les Girls? I don’t really like either of them, but they are maybe where our tastes come closest to meeting.

      On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 11:08 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I watched them but they’re too artsy and serious. I can’t do with attempts to make musicals Auteur Art. I realise I just recced you Peau d’ Ane, but there we are. It has a 3 minute scene of people rolling down a hill while laughing so it can’t be art.

        Out of these, Smashing Time is pretty normal and fun. Haven’t you seen Rocky Horror? It’s fun just for the classic horror/adventure movie parodies. I don’t think you watch a lot of stupid 60s teen movies but if you did, you’d enjoy Earth Girls, too.

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        • I have watched every single stupid 1960s teen movie. It was our teen age rebellion watching. You know what’s a surprisingly good spoof? Return to the Beach! With Frankie and Annette in middle age. Anyway, I should probably watch Earth Girls.

          Here’s the thing with Rocky Horror. I have friends who are part of the Chicago Rocky Horror shadowcast. So for 10 years they’ve been saying “you should come to one of our shows! Come come come!” and I haven’t (because going out after dark, blech! I like my couch and my puppy and my blanket and my Murder She Wrote). But on the other hand, I feel like it would be disloyal to watch it not at one of their shows. So I am in Rocky Horror Limbo.

          On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 3:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Then you will DEFINITELY like Earth Girls Are Easy. Back to the Beach sounds great, I will try to find that.

            Ah yeah, with all that pressure it will never be fun. I watched it for the first time in the actual best circumstances, because I didn’t know what it was and assumed it was an actual classic horror movie.

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  2. Moulin Rouge is one of the reasons I got into Indian film. I read an interview with Baz Luhrmann about how he’d been inspired by Bollywood and I just knew it was worth checking out that whole industry. Elephant love medley – nough said. Well, and Kylie Minogue as the Absinthe fairy. And the narcoleptic Argentinian yodeling about the hills being alive with music. The can-can. The singing moon. Okay, I just really love Moulin Rouge.

    I definitely like Singing in the Rain too. Haven’t seen that many classic Hollywood musicals. Most of them were during my year as an exchange student in Alabama. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers probably stuck most. “Sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’”.

    Rocky Horror is a great choice, I agree. On film and on stage. So much nuttiness. Fond memories of the time my wife and I went to a live performance and danced on the roof of a car afterwards.

    When I was still living at home, my parents treated us to great seats for stage musicals a few times. We’ve seen most of the Andrew Lloyd Webber long-runners here in Germany: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express. My very favorite only ran for a few years, though: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I loved the silliness and the bright colors. I guess there’s also quite a mix of emotions in there. Perfect masala.

    And then Glee (does that count as sort of almost a musical?) introduced me to Wicked, and well, of course I have a slight thing for Gelphie.

    Oh, and if Glee should count, then Crazy Ex-Girlfriend definitely counts. So much fun, real original songs that are great spoofs of standard musical numbers, and characters that are sooo screwed up yet still likeable.

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    • I just finished a complete watch of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a few weeks ago! It really is good, spoof but also sincere, captures the sense of emotions that are too big to be contained except in song.

      If you haven’t seen it, you should also watch Band Wagon to complete your Hollywood classics education. A lovely little movie, with some fun spoofing of stage musicals in it.

      On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 2:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Oh boy, this is going to be a long one! As a musical geek obsessed with theatre this is going to be a laundry list of favourites. Prepare for a mini-essay on each of them.

    Movie musicals:

    Chicago and Evita were the first ones once I got into the musical case after seeing the Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom of the Opera (2004), which I later realised really is a bad movie on so many things, but those two above have stayed with me.

    Then there’s Some Like it Hot which was played on the regular at our house and is a favourite, not technically a musical, but it has songs in it and is just so great. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as well, and Jane Russell’s song ‘Ain’t there anyone here for love’ is a good song that deserves more love. I watched it recently and it definitely is nice eye candy as well as just 50s glamour mixed in with nice things you only understand when you’re older like the fact that ‘a girl needs diamonds to call a lawyer’.

    Disney, of course. Beauty and the Beast is my favourite, but I’ve come to just love hearing old songs I know well in different languages and have fallen in love with the Italian dubbing and singing for Disney moves. Anastasia, Road to El Dorado and the Prince of Egypt are there as well as my favourites since childhood.

    Stage Musicals (America):

    – A Light in the Piazza: I love it, the music, story and the whole simple operatic quality of it
    – Anastasia Broadway: as someone who wants to go study history this movie is full of inaccuracies, but the music is great, the story is a bit cliche, but it really works for me
    – Hadestown: my favourite of this year/last year, a great story and the songs are just phenomenal!

    Stage Musicals (Britain):

    – Six: pop score, but good hits all of them and the rhymes are very good
    – Les Miserables: even if it’s a sad story, it is a cathartic one for me and I love it to bits. it made me read the book, which certainly is an accomplishment since it is so long
    – The Phantom of the Opera: Always a joy to watch, seen it twice on the West End and even have the 25th anniversary DVD and saw it on the big screen

    Stage Musicals (Europe and others):

    – Notre Dame de Paris (France originally, then Italy, Spain etc.): Based on the book it makes the themes of the book come to life, minimal staging and big songs make it a musical unlike anything else. It’s been a huge hit in Italy since it premiered and has almost never been out of touring for more than a year there. Also, just the most successful French musical (or just non-English) in the world! The Italian version is my favourite, but the French one has a special place in my heart. It is especially loved in China where there has been a lot of tours going there to perform.

    – Romeo et Juliette (French) / Romeo e Giulietta (Italy) / Romeo es Julia (Hungary): This is a VERY popular musical in Europe as well as in Asia. It has different versions depending on the country it is in like the Hungarians went all gothic and dark with the story and it is completely its own thing compared to the sweet pink and rosy one of the original French version that was copied in Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Mexico and other places. Italian is again a favourite because they use actual Shakespeare dialogue from the play (in Italian) in the musical and was even performed in Verona, but the Hungarian one is my absolute hands-down best version for me since they made it so original and it is completely their own and Hungary also has a massive musical culture, so them making the effort to change it to reflect themselves and their history in the dark gothic tone of the story is a bold move, but it is a good production.

    – Elisabeth (Austrian/German): Kinda the first one I fell in love with. Again, a tragedy, but it just completely burns away the Romy Schneider movies with their princess story and tell the truth of the matter. Dark, but cathartic in it, and a good summary of what was happening to the Habsburg Dynasty and the Austrian Empire as a whole a fall, which was a long time coming. Also, just the “romance” between Der Tod (Death) and Elisabeth is interesting, because it can be interpreted in so many ways. Like Phantom and Christine, but with the set up of Evita on a grander scale. It is also very successful in Japan and Korea where they love it a lot, especially the Takarazuka troupe.

    – Don Quixote (Lebanon): I haven’t seen the play except in song bits, but it has my favourite singer Hiba Tawaji (who is the current Esmeralda in the French Language Tours) in one of her early works. It seems on the political side, with Quixote coming to Lebanon and all about power etc. with even an early 2000s rap song in Lebanese Arabic thrown in, but the score is very good and Hiba has an amazing voice!

    Sorry this was so long, but it was like trying to choose a favourite movie or a child. I can’t! I have like over 10 favourites out of a list of 100 things I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is crazy, I have heard of almost none of these!

      But I can tell you that both Chicago and Evita, I cannot enjoy the movie version because I knew the cast albums from the stage versions so very very well. My parents got to see the original cast of Chicago live and it blew them away. Weirdly, they were able to get tickets because the show Chicago did not actually play very well in the city Chicago.

      Love Some Like it Hot, and it is a travesty that Salman and Govinda never remade it. A Gentleman Prefer Blondes, I like the movie well enough, like the original cast album slightly better, and really really love the book. You should read it if you haven’t yet!

      I’ve at least heard of Les Miserable and Phantom, but I haven’t even heard of the others!

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      • Living in Europe, not seeing any original cast of these musicals is hard unless one knows where to find bootlegs or it is made in Finland, so the movies are really the first and only way we know of the well-known musicals from America at all.

        I will try to find the book! And I should have added the Mamma Mia’s to the list as well, but forgot.

        And if you want to check any of these out, there are professionally filmed productions (though there are some bootlegs as well) of these productions from Europe with English subtitles easily available on YouTube.

        I know that Romeo et Juliette (original 2001 French production), Romeo es Julia (Hungary), Romeo et Juliette (Russian) are easily found with English subtitles. Once you’ve seen the original production with subtitles then it’s easy to see the 2010 production which has no subtitles, but is on there, since the dialogue hasn’t changed much and it’s easy to get the gist of the conversation.

        And Notre Dame de Paris is easily found in different languages with English subtitles, but it’s easy to just see the translated songs of different songs and then just going through the list.

        Elisabeth Das Musical is easily found with English subtitles on with both the 2002 Essen production and 2005 Vienna production being on YouTube as of writing this.

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      • Again, I forgot!

        There are multilanguage videos of Romeo and Juliet musical, as well as Elisabeth around. If you want to see a quick peek into how different the productions are.

        Here are just the videos of the first song of both musicals in multilanguage:

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    • Darn, I forgot Les Miserables. My best friend is never going to forgive me. And it’s such a great show, too. Just legitimately good, the kind of thing you’d suggest to someone who’s dismissing musicals as just frivolous fun.

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      • It is so great! And for a book that is over a 1000 pages long the musical does a good thing in condensing the story, yet still telling it completely — minus, of course, Hugo’s rambling long winding essays, but it was the fashion at the time.

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        • I definitely could have done without those pages and pages of battlefield description.

          There are few adaptations that I prefer to the original, but Les Miserables is definitely one of them.

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  4. This is hard because there are so many. My tastes are – as kids would call it these days – “basic” with these and I am okay with that. I like fun musicals with happy endings. Stage: Mamma Mia (I love everything about it), Wicked (Idina Menzel is queen!), Kinky Boots, and recently Alladin. Movies: anything with Doris Day, Zootopia, Moana, Greatest Showman, Frozen, and Tangeled.

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  5. Like with you it was through my mother I started to love “musicals”, only that they were called “operetta” or “musical comedies”. I’ve grown up with them through radio & records first than later through theatre first, then movies.
    I remember that the first musical I watched on stage that wasn’t an operetta, was “My Fair Lady” which some years later was also the first musical I went to watch in a movie theatre. Maybe that’s why I have a slightly bigger affinity for British musicals.
    It was only when we got a TV (end of the 60ies) that I got to know more about American musicals.

    There are simply too many musicals I like very much and could watch or listen to again and again, many of them already named here.. I think, I’ve become a musical fan independent of the time and/or country:)

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    • When we went through our little My Fair Lady phase, our mother passed on the wisdom that Rex Harrison doesn’t actually sing. He just sort of talk-patters his way through a song. It’s the strangest thing and you don’t even notice it.

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      • Maybe knowing that, too, I never had any qualms with the playback singing in Indian movies…I genuinely enjoy the art of faking when it comes to movies or acting in general 🙂

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  6. Animated: tie between Mulan and Beauty and the Beast
    Live action movie (adaptation): West Side Story
    Stage musical: The Secret Garden, because my man Mandy Patinkin was one of the original cast
    Silly popcorn choices: Mama Mia and Xanadu, the glorious garbage fires that they are.

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  7. As the child of the blog, my favorite movie and stage musicals include High School Musical and Hamilton. And also Wicked.

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    • Obviously every likes High School Musical. My sister and I saw High School Musical: The Musical in the old Schubert theater in downtown Chicago and it was one of the greatest live theater experiences of my life. I saw Hamilton there last year, same theater and almost same seats I think (the cheap seats), and I have to say that High School Musical: The Musical was more fun of an overall experience.

      On Sun, May 17, 2020 at 3:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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