Time to announce my top ten favourite musicals of all-time. Congratulations to all who made the list, please step forward to collect your award when you hear your name announced xoxo
Okay, but seriously. I’m no big theatre blogger or important stagey person, and my opinion doesn’t count for much. But each one of the musicals below has touched my life in some way. Before we get started, let me just say that by no means is every good musical I’ve ever seen on here. Surprisingly, a couple of the shows I saw on the West End have been bumped down so far by other incredible shows outside of London, that they actually didn’t make the top ten. Also bear in mind that this list is exclusively for musicals; I haven’t included ballet or other shows/productions, but let me know if that’s something you’d like to see in the future!
Right. Lets get crackalacking.
1. Wicked (London, 2008; Leeds, 2014; Bradford, 2016).
I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to those who know me that Wicked is my number one. Being the first West End musical I ever saw at the age of 12, Wicked not only sparked my musical theatre addiction but also changed my life. I discovered and fell in love with the soundtrack before I had any notion of going to see the show myself, and I distinctly remember sitting in the audience and just feeling… almost overwhelmed, as the overture began and the Dragon’s head began thrashing about… I’m not gonna lie, past Pippa found it a little bit scary the first time she saw it. I also vividly remember hearing songs I’d only heard individually on the soundtrack piece themselves together, and walking out of the theatre feeling like the Buddha upon reaching enlightenment. Not that I’m exaggerating or anything. But I swear, every time I’ve watched or listened to or even thought about Wicked over the last decade, I’ve found constant new ways to interpret the story like it’s something of relevance for my life in that moment (if that makes any sense at all), and for so long the love I had for it almost felt too personal to talk about with other people.
Anyway, I’ve been very lucky to see Wicked three times: once on the West End, once on the UK Tour and once on the International Tour. I’d love to see it on Broadway for the sake of completing the set, but I’d love even more to see the show on the West End next year with the heavenly new casting that’s just been announced. I’ll likely dedicate a whole blog post to Wicked in the future because GAH, I could talk about it forever.
|The ticket that started the collection, almost a decade ago…|
1. Kinky Boots (London, 2016)
The observant readers among you will have noticed that I’m the annoying type of person who includes two number ones in their top 10. I’m not even sorry; Wicked was a game-changer but since seeing Kinky Boots last November, my little stagey mind has been very much unsettled. Everybody knows that for me to hold Kinky Boots to the same prestige as I hold Wicked, it must be pretty bloody special. Let me tell you, I had what I thought were unrealistically high expectations going into that theatre and yet somehow they were still exceeded. I did a full review of the show here (my first ever review, I’ve improved a LOT since then!), but hear me when I say this: it’s been seven months since I saw Kinky Boots, and I genuinely still think about it every single day. I stand by my belief that if everybody watched the story of Price & Son shoe factory just once, the world today would be a much better place. I heartily recommend that you book yourselves tickets for this one and whilst you’re at it, book one for me too… yes?
2. Blood Brothers (Sheffield 2009-2013)
Blood Brothers remains the production that I’ve seen more times than any other, five times to date. Apparently this is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘excessive’, but I prefer to call it artistic dedication. I don’t know if it’s just that Blood Brothers has never seemed to have the public credit it deserves or if it just touches something in me, but the… unexpected ending had me jumping out of my seat the first time, bursting into tears the second time, and hugging myself tightly in the build up to it because I knew it was coming and had no power to stop it, the third, fourth and fifth times. My best friend Izzy who has had to accompany me to this musical 3 out of the 5 times also enjoys it, but stands by her official statement of ‘oh for God’s sake Pippa, I’m not going again’. Pffffft.
3. Matilda (London, 2016)
Tickets to Matilda were my 21st birthday present from my parents. After a truly rough time with chronic illness which left me musically-deprived for around two years prior to this trip, I really think this was the show that cemented just how much I love and need the theatre in my life. If you ask anybody their favourite song from this soundtrack, they’re likely to mention ‘Naughty’ or ‘When I Grow Up’. And whilst these (and ALL the songs in this musical) are absolute bangers, ‘The Smell Of Rebellion’ is my absolute go-to for when I’m feeling miserable. Matilda is hilariously well-written and utterly heart-warming, and I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that by the final scene where Matilda and Miss Honey cartwheel off into the sunset, I was blubbing like a small child who’d been left in the Chokey.
4. Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (Broadway, 2012)
Not too many people can say they’ve experienced New York with their bestie, and this entire trip away with my family when we were 16 is still one of my favourite holidays to look back on. I could say that we were dedicated theatre fans and stood in the massive Broadway/Times Square box office queue to get our cheap tickets to Priscilla, but I would be lying. My poor parents kindly stood in that queue whilst we spent three hours in the Disney store. See what I mean? New York + Disney + Broadway show = what dreams are made of. Priscilla was gloriously glittery, undeniably uplifting and completely outrageous, and dayumnn, those drag queens could dance better in stilettos than I can walk in flats. I like to think that I’ll get to go back to Broadway some day, but for now you can read a *slightly* more down to Earth review of an am-dram production of Priscilla in Sheffield here.
5. Little Shop Of Horrors (Sheffield, 2016)
By now you’re probably sick of hearing about Izzy, but I have her to thank for this one. Whilst she’s wanted to see the stage version of Little Shop Of Horrors FOREVER, I previously couldn’t think of anything worse. Watching the film taught me that I was terrified of both dentists and Audrey II which obviously doesn’t bode well for this musical, but I decided to be BFF of the year and get us tickets for her birthday. And my goodness, it was AWESOME. It was such a tiny cast but each actor was so talented, and the whole production was genuinely hilarious. I still smile every time I think of the “Excuse me, I couldn’t help noticing that strange and interesting plant in the window” line. If anything I’m now even more terrified of Audrey II (I would rather my eventual cause of death not be by digestion of a giant talking green plant with an attitude problem), but I’d go so far to say that it was worth enduring. This show completely exceeded my expectations: it just goes to show how sometimes the things you’d usually not give much thought to can turn out to be some of the best of all.
6. Show Boat (London, 2016)
Show Boat remains one of the greatest spontaneous decisions my mum and I have ever made. In London on a Thursday afternoon, on a truly terrible chronic illness day for me, we happened to get AMAZING matinee tickets for Show Boat at the very last minute. With my mum never hearing of it before and me being almost completely zoned out and dead to the world that day, we had no idea what to expect. And let me tell you this: it was absolutely stunning. The songs in particular were beautiful, and the cast had the most incredibly moving voices… I still get shivers thinking about Old Man River. By the time we reached the emotional (but ultimately lovely) ending I was ugly crying so hard that I could barely see straight, for crying out loud. And that was also the state I was in when I left the theatre and got to meet Gina Beck, a complete theatre icon. So… there’s that.
7. CATS (Leeds, 2007)
Although I’d apparently already seen a few musicals prior to this, CATS is the earliest show that I can recall actually experiencing for myself. I know it must have been good, because whilst I can’t remember much of my childhood at all (genuinely, it’s terrible), I can remember Old Deuteronomy. AND I can remember getting to go up on the stage at the interval and have my programme signed by him… something that never seems to happen during performances now. At the time of watching Cats I would have been in the midst of my pre-professional ballet training, and I remember watching the choreography, particularly for Jellicle Songs, and thinking that I’d LOVE to be a member of that junkyard one day. Although as anyone who has ever heard me sing will readily confirm, it’s probably for the best that this never happened. Yikes.
|‘Love From Old Dew’: my signed CATS programme!|
8. Legally Blonde (York, 2011)
I’m just going to throw this out here: Legally Blonde is not the most deep and meaningful musical to ever exist, and there might be a lot of stagey people who turn their stagey little noses up at this being one of my all-time favourites. But to be honest, I don’t really care. Legally Blonde is a very pink, very sparkly representation of a timeless chick flick that’s pretty predictable, but completely enjoyable anyway. Elle Woods is the fictional embodiment of girl-power, the Bend And Snap song is my jam, and (most importantly) there are actual real dogs in the performance. The courtroom scene featuring the ‘Is he gay or European?’ debacle remains one of my all-time favourite scenes in any musical; if you’re in need of a giggle, listen to There, Right There, the song that makes up this scene. Even with no context whatsoever, I can guarantee that it’ll make you smile. I’d really recommend this show for a lighthearted, upbeat evening of entertainment and I’d love to see it again the next time it tours.
9. Phantom of the Opera (London, 2013)
I saw Phantom with my parents to celebrate my mum’s birthday in 2013. She’s always loved the soundtrack (as do I) and whilst I probably would never have chosen to book tickets for this myself, I thought the show was beautiful. The vocals were just as incredible as could be expected, and every single cast member was just…mesmerising. The overture where the chandelier gets lifted from the stage to become a part of the actual theatre you’re sat in, and the iconic moment in the performance where it comes crashing down, are both so powerful; I’m glad I can say that I’ve witnessed it as an audience member.
10. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (London, 2016)
Beautiful was beautiful, and it was so lush to get to see a musical to celebrate my lovely pal Olivia’s 18th birthday. I knew nothing about Carole King or her life prior to seeing the show, and I left feeling a hell of a lot of respect for that gal. It was an entertaining watch that was easy to follow without being dull, something that can often be difficult to find. The soundtrack in particular was a killer, full of good vibes and timelessly catchy tunes that’ll be stuck in your head for 3783081 days… but in a good way. You can read my full review of Beautiful here.
So there you have it, my top 10 (or 11, but shh) musicals. It took sitting in a circle surrounded by tickets and programmes, many cups of tea and a lot of mental effort to order my favourites, but I’m pretty happy with my choices.
However, by November 2017, I fully expect this list to be shuffled around a bit as I finally, finally get to see Hairspray: the musical that’s been top of my mental must-see list for literally a decade. So stay tuned… if you can bear the fangirling. I’m considering doing a top 10 ballets/plays/variety shows list too so let me know if that’s something you’d like to see. Also let me know if your favourite musical isn’t included on my list, so I can use that as an excuse to spend my ever-dwindling student loan on tickets to see it. Go on, be an enabler…