Editor's Letter: My Top 10 Big-Screen Musicals
'These are a few of my favorite things ...'
Twice within two recent days, songs from Fiddler on the Roof popped into my mind. Telling someone about my recent visit to Tradition Brewing, my mind began warbling, “Tradition! Tradition!” Later, talking about my affinity for eating out at Richmond’s many great dining destinations: “If I were a rich man, daidle, deedle, daidle, daidle daidle deedle daidle dumb.”
When quotes spring to my mind, they’re often from songs within musicals, especially those with stories that captured my mind and soul.
Ten of my favorite big-screen musicals, ones that have somehow influenced my life, are (in no particular order, with “musical” loosely defined):
Fiddler on the Roof, 1971
I saw headstrong Tevye contending with his equally headstrong daughters as they pursued love but rejected Jewish “Traditions” that he held dear. More importantly, I saw the evils of anti-Semitism. And now, I better understand the meaning behind “Sunrise, Sunset.”
Love, abuse, poverty, income inequality, virtue, dreams – Charles Dickens’ masterpiece is replete with meaning, but I mostly had eyes for the adorable, winsome Mark Lester. “Where? Where is love?”
Mary Poppins, 1964
When you have something distasteful to do, why, just remember: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” And I really do love to laugh.
Not a musical, though the music blends seamlessly with much of the action. Even now, I consider anyone who falls in love – especially in springtime – to be “twitterpated,” and I’ve tried to adopt Thumper’s father’s admonition: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
The Lion King, 1994
It’s the characters that endear this animated film to me: a regal, loving father, his lovable but flawed cub, a villainous uncle, a wise girl cub and two hilarious pals proclaiming “Hakuna Matata”! Honestly, though, pretty much any Disney film I saw with my kids is a favorite. Seeing delight through the eyes of your child more than doubles it.
The Sound of Music, 1965
I was too young to understand the courage and integrity of Captain von Trapp in fleeing with his family to Switzerland or to relate to the romances in the story. However, I found the scenery stunning and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s songs captivating and memorable. Every young person should be reminded to “Climb Every Mountain.”
The Jungle Book, 1967
What fun to grow up in the jungle, with animals as friends, enjoying the “Bare Necessities” of life!
Dirty Dancing, 1987
Also not a musical, but the music and dance were integral to the story. I respected Baby as she crossed cultural lines and stood up for what she believed was right, despite personal costs. As we all know, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
The Muppet Movie, 1979
As a fan of corny humor (I should’ve been a dad), I was a Muppets fan from Day One, so the dialogue and gags stick with me as much as the music: the fork in the road; if you’re lost, try Hare Krishna; the insults of Statler and Waldorf. But the final inspiration comes in a song: “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”
You didn’t think I would leave Annie off my list of favorites, did you?“Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow! You’re only a day away.”
Life is a story, with a plot that seems to speed up as the years pass. It’s only natural that musicals capture life’s moments, whether we’re dreaming an impossible dream or simply trying to remember that kind of September …