I love musicals, both the stage and movie varieties. And while musicals in general have a polarizing effect on people (you either love them or hate them), even those who do like musicals have a few that they are embarrassed to admit they actually enjoy. While there are some movie musicals that are universally recognized as quality films (West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz, Chicago), there are many more that fall into the “guilty pleasure” category for various reasons, like personal embarrassment or for being…let’s just say “less than quality” (Bye Bye Birdie, Paint Your Wagon, Grease 2). Here are my top 5 movie musicals I’ll never admit to liking:
5. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999) – Yes, this musical is primarily geared toward children, so a certain amount of silliness is expected in any production of Joseph… But the 1999 straight-to-video version takes things to a whole new level of ridiculousness. For starters, it stars Donny Osmond, which should say enough. The fact that he’s shirtless for most of the show says the rest. The whole production is cheesy and campy and absolutely ludicrous. It’s also a lot of fun. The songs are bouncy and catchy, the acting is so over-the-top, and the scenery is straight from a Sunday School production of the show. I imagine the producers didn’t intend for it to be quite as hilarious as it is, but what they don’t know can’t hurt them, and heaven knows it entertains me.
4. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – Most of the movie musicals that came out of the 1950s and ‘60s dialed the campiness to 11. But Seven Brides… isn’t just goofy, it’s insulting! A burly guy who lives in an isolated mountain cabin with his wild brothers goes into town with the sole purpose of finding a wife to come take care of them all. So he finds her, but neglects to mention she’ll be more of a house slave than anything else, then drops her in their mess of a house to fend for herself. Luckily she turns out to be a pretty tough broad, who can more than hold her own among a bunch of rough guys with limited social skills, eventually whipping them into shape and taking them into town to find brides of their own. It’s almost shameful to enjoy this musical, so whenever it’s on I have to turn off my 21st century feminist switch and take it at face value. Plus there’s the amazing barn-raising dance number, with the brothers performing like Olympic athletes and wearing color-coordinated outfits. How else would we keep track of which bride goes with which brother?
3. The Sound of Music (1965) – Quite possibly the cheesiest movie that features Nazis. Well, besides “The Producers,” but that was meant to be a comedy, which I’m 99.9% certain The Sound of Music was not. There are so many laughable elements in The Sound of Music: Julie Andrews whirling on a mountaintop, the Von Trapp children singing good-night to party guests, the “evil” baroness (and her eyebrows), the marionette number that comes out of nowhere, Christopher Plummer singing…I could go on and on. But somehow it all works, and I love it, and whenever it comes on TV and no-one is around, I watch it and sing along with all the songs, which I know by heart. Yes, that includes the puppet show song.
2. The Music Man (1962) – Ah, The Music Man…it contains a ridiculous premise and what is generally acknowledged as one of the worst show tunes ever written (“Shipoopi”). Oh, and an incredibly young Ron Howard lisps, dances, and sings poorly throughout the movie. But thanks to the charisma of Robert Preston, the voice of Shirley Jones, and their chemistry together, what could easily be a disaster of a musical (see the 2003 TV version starring Matthew Broderick) turns into an endearing and highly entertaining experience. But I still fast forward through the “Shipoopi” number. It’s truly that awful.
1. Funny Girl (1968) – My mother is, was, and will always be a Barbra Streisand fan. And I do, have, and will always enjoy being the occasional thorn in my mother’s side. Funny Girl is one of her favorite movies, so naturally that meant I had to grow up mocking it; doing poor impressions of Streisand’s voice, laughing at Omar Sharif’s lack of singing talent, and generally declaring it to be a bad movie. Which of course it’s not. Streisand is at her best in the role of Fanny Brice, the songs are beautiful, the story both funny and touching, and oh god, the costumes! But it is true that Sharif can’t sing, so there!
So there they are; the top 5 movie musicals I would never admit to liking, as it could possibly destroy my street cred as an educated musicals fan if this information got out. Not to mention my mother’s smug satisfaction at learning I don’t now, nor never have, think that Barbra Streisand is “the suck,” as I’ve so often claimed. So I’ll just continue to keep this information to myself and pray that none of my fellow musical geeks learn my shameful secret.