Getting to Know You

 

After much debate internal, and many brainstorms, I have decided to follow up my introductory post (“Give Me Your Hands, If We Be Friends…”) by pursuing a path of minimal resistance: that of further exposition.

Several months ago, while serving as a fill-in host for The Sub-Beacon podcast, John Podhoretz was asked (by Jonathan Last, if I recall correctly) to provide a ranking of the five superlative Broadway musicals.  As I mentioned in my first post, musical theatre is one of my main points of interest; in fact, it is a major element of my background.  As such, I would like to offer my own list of musicals which have earned my hearty recommendation.

I will stipulate that this list is, by no means, intended to be exhaustive.  Additionally, I do not presume that my list should be considered to be a ranking based on any objective metric(s), but merely as a window into my own personal preferences.  I will resist the temptation to justify my choices at present; the comments section and future postings will provide ample opportunity for elaboration.  Finally, I am not observing any numerical limitations, and I present my entries in no particular order.

-Sweeney Todd; the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979; music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler)

-Man of La Mancha (1965; music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, book by Dale Wasserman)

-1776 (1969; music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, book by Peter Stone)

-The Most Happy Fella (1956; book, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser)

-Shenandoah (1974; music by Gary Geld, lyrics by Peter Udell, book by Udell, Philip Rose and James Lee Barrett)

-On the Twentieth Century (1978; music by Cy Coleman, book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green)

-Kean (1961; music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, book by Peter Stone)

Having bared a little bit of my soul, I now invite my fellow Ricochetti to comment with suggestions of musicals worthy of similar attention.  I wish to gauge the tastes of my fellow members, and it is not unlikely that I will attempt to tailor future conversations based on responses that I receive.

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  1. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Saw it three times … and it slayed me every time!

    • #1
  2. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    My one and only that I have ever watched is Paint Your Wagon. Watched it about a week ago.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    It’s an unusual list, without the Forties-Sixties warhorses that always get remembered (admittedly, for the right reasons; they were good shows). I saw Man of La Mancha in June 1969, and agree it’s one of the best. Richard Kiley was great. 

    But I’d add Fiddler on the Roof. Somehow, a story about a poor milkman with three daughters became the emblematic story of an entire people. Fiddler’s Broadway contemporaries were not too shabby–A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Funny Girl, How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying–and each has a great song or two. But Fiddler’s got lots of great songs. 

    • #3
  4. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

     My favorite is Annie, though I like the movie even better. 

    • #4
  5. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Saw it three times … and it slayed me every time!

    I have never seen it myself, but I do own the cast recording and I find it delightful.  As a fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I felt a sense of pride seeing them conquer Broadway.

    • #5
  6. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    My one and only that I have ever watched is Paint Your Wagon. Watched it about a week ago.

    I have yet to see it, on stage or screen, but the original cast album is fantastic.  My understanding is that the film departs greatly from the original stage show.  I am, of course, familiar with Lee Marvin’s surprise hit rendition of “Wandrin’ Star.”

    • #6
  7. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    It’s an unusual list, without the Forties-Sixties warhorses that always get remembered (admittedly, for the right reasons; they were good shows). I saw Man of La Mancha in June 1969, and agree it’s one of the best. Richard Kiley was great.

    But I’d add Fiddler on the Roof. Somehow, a story about a poor milkman with three daughters became the emblematic story of an entire people. Fiddler’s Broadway contemporaries were not too shabby–A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Funny Girl, How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying–and each has a great song or two. But Fiddler’s got lots of great songs.

    It is, admittedly, an unusual list, but I would never claim the mantle of “usual.”

    The “warhorses” to which you refer are, indeed, worthy of their popularity.  Few penetrate the upper echelon of my absolute favorites, but they do occupy a special place in my heart.  

    Fiddler on the Roof played a seminal role in my own exploration of the musical theatre canon, and it enjoys a universal appeal.  I recall one of my college professors sharing that numerous peoples believe the show to be, subliminally, about them.

    And yes, Richard Kiley was, truly, great.  Broadway has long since stopped molding leading men like him.

    • #7
  8. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Xeno (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    My one and only that I have ever watched is Paint Your Wagon. Watched it about a week ago.

    I have yet to see it, on stage or screen, but the original cast album is fantastic. My understanding is that the film departs greatly from the original stage show. I am, of course, familiar with Lee Marvin’s surprise hit rendition of “Wandrin’ Star.”

    Lee was a great actor . He could even act that he could sing.

    • #8
  9. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    My favorite is Annie, though I like the movie even better.

    My one complaint is that I find the hagiographic representation of FDR and the New Deal to be heavy-handed and off-putting.  But if one can get past that, there is plenty to find appealing.

    • #9
  10. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    I enjoy the music of Leonard Bernstein, in West Side Story. I know it is basically Romeo & Juliet redux, but when I heard his or Copland’s stuff on the radio, it can get me to stop what I am doing just to enjoy their oeuvre . 

    • #10
  11. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Xeno (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    My favorite is Annie, though I like the movie even better.

    My one complaint is that I find the hagiographic representation of FDR and the New Deal to be heavy-handed and off-putting. But if one can get past that, there is plenty to find appealing.

    Zeno, what’s odd is that Annie’s cartoonist, Harold Gray, was a conservative whose politics sometimes showed up in his strip.  For instance, the millionaire, Daddy Warbucks, is one of the heroes of the strip.  Gray hated Roosevelt’s New Deal. 

    • #11
  12. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    I’m glad to see 1776 on this list. The movie version is great, and I love any work that gives some attention (and fair hearing) to John Adams. Ben Franklin’s characterization is a charming addition, and all of the musical pieces really stand up.

    The Jazz Singer, which is adapted from a 1925 Broadway Play, is also a favorite of mine. (The Singing Kid, from 1936, which is a drama that pokes fun at Jolson’s stage persona, is a fun watch, particularly because of Cab Calloway and his musical contributions).

    • #12
  13. Dr. Jimmy Carter Member
    Dr. Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    The Best Little Whorehouse In TEXAS.

     

    Prostitutes, Football, and TEXAS in song. What more can You need?

    • #13
  14. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    A list is just not a list without My Fair Lady.

    • #14
  15. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I find it a bit cloying in parts, but somebody should mention The Sound of Music considering the post title

    • #15
  16. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I find it a bit cloying in parts, but somebody should mention The Sound of Music considering the post title

    I agree that Sound of Music is worthy of mention.  However, I would suggest that the title of the original post is more of an endorsement of The King & I.

    • #16
  17. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Xeno (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I find it a bit cloying in parts, but somebody should mention The Sound of Music considering the post title

    I agree that Sound of Music is worthy of mention. However, I would suggest that the title of the original post is more of an endorsement of The King & I.

    Embarrassed. At my age, I should look this stuff up.

    Nonetheless, maybe we can shift the song to The Sound of Music (it has that Rogers and Hammerstein lilt) when The King & I is cancelled.

    I will let the post stand as a sign of penance.

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Xeno (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    My favorite is Annie, though I like the movie even better.

    My one complaint is that I find the hagiographic representation of FDR and the New Deal to be heavy-handed and off-putting. But if one can get past that, there is plenty to find appealing.

    Zeno, what’s odd is that Annie’s cartoonist, Harold Gray, was a conservative whose politics sometimes showed up in his strip. For instance, the millionaire, Daddy Warbucks, is one of the heroes of the strip. Gray hated Roosevelt’s New Deal.

    • #18
  19. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Xeno (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    My favorite is Annie, though I like the movie even better.

    My one complaint is that I find the hagiographic representation of FDR and the New Deal to be heavy-handed and off-putting. But if one can get past that, there is plenty to find appealing.

    Zeno, what’s odd is that Annie’s cartoonist, Harold Gray, was a conservative whose politics sometimes showed up in his strip. For instance, the millionaire, Daddy Warbucks, is one of the heroes of the strip. Gray hated Roosevelt’s New Deal.

    This is most interesting.  Does the musical push an agenda incongruent with Gray’s ideology, or does my assessment betray an excess of sensitivity?

    Warbucks is my hero in the show.  I wish I had had a chance to portray the role myself, if only for the opportunity to declaim:

    “Yes, I know he’s a Democrat, but he’s a human being too…”

    • #19
  20. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    “John Podhoretz was asked (by Jonathan Last, if I recall correctly) to provide a ranking of the five superlative Broadway musicals.”

    No one has done that yet.  You guys are all cowards.

    Here’s my ranking, in order as was stipulated.

    West Side Story

    Music Man

    Les Miserables

    Showboat

    Fiddler on the Roof

    West Side Story and Music Man both opened in 1957. West Side Story was composed by Leonard Bernstein, soon to become conductor of the NY Philharmonic. Music Man was composed by Meredith Wilson, who had played flute in the Philharmonic for a decade before turning to Broadway.

    • #20
  21. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Xeno (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I find it a bit cloying in parts, but somebody should mention The Sound of Music considering the post title

    I agree that Sound of Music is worthy of mention. However, I would suggest that the title of the original post is more of an endorsement of The King & I.

    Yes, and when I saw your title that song flashed into my mind.  How unfortunate that your post makes no reference to The King and I, a wonderful musical indeed.  You missed your own set-up.

    Xeno

          “I wish to gauge the tastes of my fellow members, and it is not unlikely that I will attempt to tailor future conversations based on responses that I receive.”

    Write better, and be less self-important.  You write “I” as much as Mr Obama did.

    • #21
  22. Xeno Coolidge
    Xeno
    @Xeno

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Write better, and be less self-important. You write “I” as much as Mr Obama did.

    Coming Soon:  My Memoirs, Volume I of XVII

    • #22
  23. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    “John Podhoretz was asked (by Jonathan Last, if I recall correctly) to provide a ranking of the five superlative Broadway musicals.”

    No one has done that yet. You guys are all cowards.

    Here’s my ranking, in order as was stipulated.

    West Side Story

    Music Man

    Les Miserables

    Showboat

    Fiddler on the Roof

    West Side Story and Music Man both opened in 1957. West Side Story was composed by Leonard Bernstein, soon to become conductor of the NY Philharmonic. Music Man was composed by Meredith Wilson, who had played flute in the Philharmonic for a decade before turning to Broadway.

    I agree about Music Man. I would probably put Oklahoma at the top of my list. Great music and choreography along with a post-war viewpoint about doing what had to be done to protect the community.  

    • #23
  24. cqness Inactive
    cqness
    @cqness

    ‘Damn Yankees’, usually overlooked when lists of the greats are compiled.  Perhaps it is only near-great for most, but it did have a Broadway revival in the 90’s.  I saw a pre-Broadway tryout featuring Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith of Cheers and Frasier) presented at the Old Globe in Balboa Park (San Diego).  The clip below is from the 1958 film starring Tab Hunter, Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon as Lola (none of whom appear in this) with choreography by Bob Fosse.

    • #24
  25. cqness Inactive
    cqness
    @cqness

    An addendum for ‘Damn Yankees’ – it seemed given the state of things these days that ‘You Gotta Have Heart’ was the clip to post but I really like the Bob Fosse choreography in ‘Shoeless Joe’.  The clip is, again, from the movie and with none of the main stars though it does have Rae Allen who plays the female sports reporter in an important supporting role…talk about being ahead of its time.

    • #25
  26. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Seems like @kelsurprise might be interested in this thread.

    • #26
  27. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    Hair.  Into the Woods. 

    oh . . . and Spamalot.

    • #27
  28. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    I am unable to comment intelligently, as I am unfamiliar with the genre.  Here is what I have seen on film (F) and stage (S). I have seen Le Misrables (F&S), Sound of Music (F), My Fair Lady (F&S), Rent (S), Grease (F&S), Fiddler on the Roof (F – as a pre teen).

    The only one I wanted to see and never did was Chess, although I have had a copy of the soundtrack in my possession in one form or another for 40 years.

    In order

    Grease

    Sound of Music

    My Fair Lady

    Le Misrables – almost below Fiddler due to the idiot uprising.

    Fiddler

     

     

    Rent doesn’t even bear mentioning.

    • #28
  29. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Noticing that Hamilton hasn’t become a Ricochet Classic yet.

    • #29
  30. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Noticing that Hamilton hasn’t become a Ricochet Classic yet.

    I noticed that too.

    I thought it was great. Maybe it didn’t quite live up to the hype (how could it possibly??) but really entertaining and clever, and way better than some of the shows already mentioned… :-)

    • #30