Why I Love Musicals

Anyone who knows me personally, or via my twitter account, knows that I am a huge fan of musical theater and my dream is to one day be a critic for Broadway shows. But not everyone knows how I became interested in musicals or why I love them so much.

Growing up, I watched a ton of Disney movies, but I also watched “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady.” While these films were, and still are, my all time favorites, my love for musicals did not begin until I saw something that, in my opinion, was entirely different.

When I was around six-years-old my mom and stepdad (who at the time was my mom’s boyfriend), recorded the musical “CATS” when it was on television one night and my mom decided to introduce me to it. She only showed me a few scenes on the VHS tape, but that was enough to get me hooked. Next thing I knew I was watching the entire film while dancing to it, especially when Rum Tum Tugger came on the screen. Love him!

That’s right. It was not Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett or even Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry I danced to. It was John Partridge and his awesome shoulder shake.

I saw my first live musical with my grandparents when I was about eight. The show was “Beauty and the Beast.” I remember we were in the high seats and I had to use binoculars to see the what was happening, but I did not use them most of the time.

“Beauty and the Beast” was good, but at eight-years-old I did not really think about it or the cast. I remember wondering about the song “Human Again” because it was not in the Disney cartoon, so I was a little confused, but I went with it.

Another wonderful thing happened when I was eight-years-old. I discovered the music from “The Phantom of the Opera” on a Andrew Lloyd Webber CD in my mom’s car. There were only three songs from the musical on the album, but that is all it took for me to become obsessed with yet another one of Webber’s works. Needless to say the title song, “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You” were on repeat every time I was in the car. Sorry mom.

Two years later I had the opportunity to see “The Phantom of the Opera” on stage. The show was on tour and me, my mom and our family friend went to go see it. I remember the auctioneer was creepy, the cast was great and the thing that boggled my mind the most was the Phantom was the “bad guy.” You can imagine my confusion when the audience started cheering for him at curtain call. I did not fully grasp the meaning of the musical and it’s characters until I was in high school, but until that time I loved the music.

When I was 14, I got to see “The Phantom of the Opera” in New York. It was the first show I got the chance to see on Broadway and to this day I am still happy about it. This show has a special place in my heart and will always be my favorite musical.

“CATS” was not only the show that got my passion started, but when I was watching the DVD in high school I began to realize how much work was involved behind the scenes, mainly, the costumes, makeup, choreography, etc. That was when I really started to appreciate what goes into making a musical.

Fast forward. I was 19, in college and oh, my gosh! The stage recording of the “Phantom” 25th anniversary was going to be on DVD! My mom bought it for me after I asked and I spent my Valentine’s Day watching it. Who needs a date when you have “Phantom?”

Once again, I had a epiphany. Thanks to the close ups on the DVD I was able to see the orchestra and I was suddenly hit with appreciation for them, because I never gave much thought to the people who play the music. I was in awe of everything. Ramin’s “Music of the Night” made me recognize acting abilities and Sierra’s “Wishing” and “Wandering Child” made me think about vocals and range. Hadley Fraser was a joy to watch because of his facial expressions, powerful voice and charming smile.

Because of two actors who were involved in “Phantom” 25, I wanted to watch the hit musical, “Les Misérables,” which was filmed as a concert recording and had been released on DVD two years prior.

A bit of history. My mom tried to get me to listen to the “Les Misérables” soundtrack when I was at least 10. She saw it in London with my stepdad and thought I would like it. I looked it up, but it did not appeal to me and the title made it sound miserable.

Looking back now, I can honestly say I am glad I was older when I discovered the”Les Misérables.” As I was watching the 25th anniversary on DVD, I fell in love with it. The music was astonishing, the story was phenomenal and the actors, with the exception of Nick Jonas, blew me away. I also fell in love with the characters and was introduced to more actors.

I saw “Les Misérables” live for the first time in 2012 and I was very excited. It was on tour and the film version was set to be released later that year. Perfect timing! The musical was even more beautiful in person and the cast was amazing. A couple of years later I was able to see the the revival on Broadway and got the chance to meet Ramin Karimloo.

As my college years went by I saw more shows and my love for theater grew. I bought albums by actors and cast recordings. I paid attention to Broadway and touring group news, got more DVDs and read more books that musicals and plays were based on. Some were for class, others for enjoyment. My bedroom walls are now covered with posters and a few have not been framed yet.

When I started to learn more about musicals and actors in college, my family told me I should do something with my passion, but I did not know what and shrugged them off.  It was not until later I decided I wanted to be a critic.

Once I changed my major to journalism and my minor to theater, everyone I knew thought it was a better fit for me. It was a long process (or so it seemed), but I finally graduated in December of 2015.

I graduated college with a higher respect for the arts because of classes I took, productions I helped with (I was always on crew) and my love for musicals intact. I can now say I do not just appreciate theater, but rather all forms of art.

Here is a reflection of what I have learned:

Writers pour out their souls and artists make theirs visible. Photographers capture moments and must choose several perfect photos out of the hundreds they take. Musicians work hard as they continue to play, read, write music and/or sing. No matter what form it is in, the arts matter.

Why do I love musicals? Because they tell a story, they inspire people and they are a joy to watch. The cast and crew work hard and I have learned to appreciate them. I fell in love with musical theater at a young age and it just grew from there. Eventually, it was something I had a passion for and wanted to critique. It all started with “CATS” and “Phantom.”


My Top 10 Favorite Musicals


*Note- These are not all of my programs*

I have seen many musicals live over the years and loved them all, well most of them. As 2015 comes to an end, I decided to rate my top ten favorites so far. I hope to see more new shows in 2016.

1)  The Phantom of the Opera

Anyone who knows me personally or on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can tell you “Phantom of the Opera” is my number one musical.

The story is about a disfigured man who haunts the Paris opera house and is in love with singer, Christine Daae, who believes him to be the Angel of Music her deceased father sent. Along the way she reconciles with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul de Chagny.

Jealousy ensures, chandeliers fall and the wrath of a madman is faced. A timeless love triangle for all ages with beautiful music and songs that will get stuck in your head.

My first experience with this musical was the music on an Andrew Lloyd IMG_7424Webber CD that was in my mother’s car when I was eight years-old. Since then I have received the 2004 movie and live recording of the 25th anniversary on DVD. I have seen the show live six times, including on Broadway in New York.

I have seen both the original set and the 2014 tour set, which is very different. The sets may be dissimilar, but the story remains the same.

2) Les Misérables

This was a show I was introduced to by watching the 25th anniversary on DVD when I was 19. I wanted to watch it because one of the actors from “Phantom 25,” Ramin Karimloo, was in it. The first time I watched it, I fell in love with the musical. My mom tried to get me to listen to the music after she saw it in London when I was younger, but the title was discouraging.

The story revolves around multiple characters, the main one being Jean IMG_3453Valjean, a man who is on the run from Inspector Javert. As time goes on he gives his life to God and adopts a young girl named Cosette after promising her dying mother he would protect the child.

Years pass and Cosette falls in love with one of the revolutionary boys, Marius, who returns her love. Unknowest to him, his best friend, Eponine, is in love with him.

The revolution rages and Jean Valjean joins in order to protect Marius after learning of his love for Cosette.

Since watching the 25th, I got the 10th anniversary on DVD for my 20th birthday and have the 2012 movie. I have seen the musical live twice, once on Broadway in 2014.

I have several different CD recordings and many versions of one of the biggest numbers, “Bring Him Home,” on my iPod.

3) Cats

This, I believe, is the most underrated, or misunderstood, show Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has created. I feel as if half the people who have seen it do not like it and the other half do. Unfortunately, my college roommate/best friend was in the “don’t like it” category.

The musical is about cats who all want to go to the Heavyside Layer to be reborn. One of the major characters, Grizabella, is an outcast amongst the rest of them who sings about her time when she was younger.

I grew up with this musical, like I did with “Phantom.” My mom had recorded the movie version of it one evening when I was about six years-old and I have loved it ever since. I have it on DVD and have seen it live twice.

This is a show that I have come to love even more over time because I learned to appreciate the dancing, music, costumes and singing, not just in this musical, but others as well. “Cats” was just the beginning for me.

4) Wicked

I cannot tell you how much my college roommate and I related to thisIMG_8920 musical, or how many references we made for that matter.

This is the untold story about the witches of “The Wizard of Oz,” the green witch, Elphaba, and the good witch, Glinda.

Both witches were roommates and very dissimilar. Glinda was the popular girl and Elphaba was the outcast, but also very powerful. It is a story of friendship, love and gives the message that it is okay to be different.

I have seen this show live twice and I will probably never get tired of it. The music, costumes and story are great.

It has been rumored that there will be a movie based on the musical in 2016, but we shall see. All I can say is, Hollywood better not mess it up.

5) Once

I have only seen this musical one time, but I loved every second of it. This show became a favorite before the first act ended.

IIMG_5777 bought the CD during intermission and put it on my iPod when I got back to my apartment. Since then I have downloaded several versions of the Grammy winning song, “Falling Slowly.”

Based off the movie of the same name, this musical is about a musician who wants to get his ex-girlfriend back. Along the way he meets another woman who helps him with his mission and music. Along the way, the two fall for each other, but are unable to be together.

6) The Lion King

I have seen this show twice and the last time I saw it I was in high school and my stepmom took my sisters and I to see it.

Based off the Disney movie of the same name, this is the story of a young lion cub named Simba, who is heir to the throne and cannot wait to be king.

After witnessing a devastating event, he runs away from it and makes new friends along the way. Years pass and the lion must fulfill his destiny by taking his place as the true king.

Recently, I have thought back and remembered how majestic the musical was. The costumes were phenomenal, as well as the music, cast and crew. I grew up with the Disney movie, so it is no surprise this is one of my favorites.

7) Mamma Mia

This is one of the funniest musicals I have ever seen. The first time I saw it, I was in high school and it was an amazing show. The tour is coming to my state in 2016, so fingers crossed I can see it for a second time.

In this musical, a bride invites her father to give her away. The problem: she has three possible fathers.

As she tries to figure out which man is her real father, her mother finds out they are all there. Chaos ensures and the meaning of family takes a new turn.

I received the DVD for Christmas one year and while it is not as good as the live show, it is still pretty decent. Sadly, it was one of the musicals Hollywood messed up by casting big names, some of whom could not sing. Pierce Brosnan, I’m looking at you.

8) Book of Mormon

Another hilarious musical that lived up to it’s expectation. I had heard about the show before and that it was really good, but I did not have10891904_919527818059064_4628597789392523562_n an opinion until I saw it.

This musical is not about the Book of Mormon itself, but rather two missionaries who are sent to Africa. On their mission they try to convert the atheist African tribe to Mormonism.

When I finally saw the musical, I kept an open mind since I am a Christian and I heard the show had to do with making fun of Mormons and Christianity.  Much to my surprise, it was hilarious and the entire audience was cracking up.

Some of the Mormon jokes I understood because I have a best friend who is of that religion, so while I was laughing at a number that involved coffee (Mormons don’t drink coffee) my parents were a bit confused. It is a funny musical, you just need to be open minded and understand the show is not to be taken seriously.


9) Aladdin

I saw this musical on Broadway with the original cast in 2014. It is a great show with excellent music and a magic carpet that will enchant anyone.

Based off the Disney movie of the same name, this musical is about a street rat, Aladdin, who falls in love with a princess named Jasmine. In order to try and win her affections, Aladdin makes a wish to a genie to become a prince.

I grew up watching the Disney movie as a kid and it is still one of my favorites, so seeing the musical live and with the original cast was an experience I will never forget.

10) Annie

Another movie I grew up with. When I was a kid, I would watch the 1982 version all the time. To this day I still believe it is the best of all three movies.

The first time I saw it live, was a performance at my church and it was pretty good. It was not until later I saw it performed by professional actors when it was on tour. It had more humor and an amazing cast.

The story is about a young orphan named Annie who is waiting for her parents to find her. She is sent to billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, and turns his world upside down.