Reader poll: What are your top 5 musicals (stage & screen)?

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Dear Readers,

I am extremely flattered to have been asked to write a feature on musicals for It will be aimed at ‘beginners’, based around my recommendations for the top 5 must-see musicals. I have a bit of free rein around this format, and am currently planning on a central focus of 5 top stage musicals, with an addendum recommending my top 5 movie musicals.

As ever, this is a subject close to my heart and it is very hard to cut down ideas to 5 – there is so much variety and quality out there, and everyone has very different opinions. However, I have a week before I plan to knock together a first draft, and would love to gather as many suggestions – from as many people – as possible first.

If you have time, it would be great if you could please add a comment below this post stating your top 5 stage musicals (+ a brief reason). If you also want to add your top 5 film musicals, that would be great too. Please don’t worry if you think they are too obvious/mainstream – every opinion matters and all contributions would be greatly appreciated. You can also leave comments anonymously or request that I don’t publish them for public view.

I will then look at all suggestions and consider before compiling my final list. I’m afraid that I can’t promise to include all opinions or credit individuals due to the word limit imposed. Hopefully the debate amongst the comments should keep you all entertained at least!

In normal blog news, more reviews are coming up next week – Shrek the Musical & The Lion King  (with the possibility of a new review of Thrill Me on its transfer to the Charing Cross theatre). Also, Spring Awakening is booked for June .

These are very exciting times for me and the blog. Thanks again for reading – all support is so greatly appreciated. Please continue to spread the word!

As ever, happy theatregoing,

Helena x

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11 thoughts on “Reader poll: What are your top 5 musicals (stage & screen)?

  1. Kaméa says:

    My top five musicals will be Avenue Q, A Very Potter Musical, A Very Potter Sequel, Wicked and… Probably Mamma Mia!

  2. Laura says:

    Top 5 stage musicals:
    Bloody bloody andrew Jackson, the light in the piazza, parade, hair and in the heights.

  3. Hannah says:

    Top 5 stage musicals:

    1) Chicago – Great for beginners as it has a very basic storyline. It has fantastic characters, a lot of comedy and a little tragedy. It has songs that everyone knows, even if they’ve never seen it before, and what I consider to be some of the best choreography on the West End. It’s the only show I’ve seen into double figures! (17 times.)

    2) Blood Brothers – The storyline is cleverly worked around superstition and again has both comedy and tragedy. It’s far deeper than Chicago and gives away the fate of the main characters by starting at the end, but that doesn’t take away the emotion from the finale. Always has a brilliant cast and gets a standing ovation every night whether on the West End or on tour. I defy anyone not to cry at during the final song.

    3) Wicked – Very family friendly. Everyone knows the Wizard of Oz and it does well to try new things with old characters, as well as incorporating some of Baum’s original narrative. The songs are simply awe-inspiring, particularly those of the lead, Elphaba. You’ll want to go back – I certainly have.

    4) We Will Rock You – Everyone loves Queen, no matter the age, and everyone knows at least one song. The storyline isn’t the best but it does work somehow. A hell of a lot of comedy, the current Galileo and Scaramouche (Ricardo Afonso and Sarah French) are stunning, and there’s some audience participation with some of the songs. Amazing.

    5) The Phantom of the Opera – more sophisticated than the others I’ve listed, with a much darker storyline, but still easy to follow. It has one of the best and most moving scores, and the characters – particularly the Phantom – are incredible.

    Top 5 musical films

    1) Mamma Mia – A feel-good family film that you can all sing along to.

    2) The Sound of Music – An absolute classic that never gets old, no matter how many years its on at New Year! Again, great for sing-alongs.

    3) Moulin Rogue – Brilliant cast, excellent set and cinematography and a great use of old “popular” songs for the score.

    4) The Phantom of the Opera – I saw the film first and it only made me want to see the show even more. Very similar to the show as Lloyd Webber had a lot to do with it. Gerad Buttler is a perfect Phantom.

    5) Rent – Not on in England anymore and didn’t get enough praise. Deals sensitively with subjects such as HIV and homosexuality, fused together with a story of friendship and love. Has as fantastic score by Jonathon Larson. Highly recommended.

    Wouldn’t recommend:

    Chicago (the film) – It’s great for what it is and I loved it when it came out, but you lose so much of what makes the show great. It cuts many of the best songs and it has big sets with lots of costume changes. The show doesn’t and people are disappointed when they come out as they go expecting to see that. It also loses Fosse’s amazing choreography.

  4. Amanda says:

    Ok. Rehashing what I said on Twitter yesterday (in no particular order):

    1. Avenue Q- hilarious and not too cheesy, clever use of non-humans. The puppets are as engaging, if not more, than the human cast, and it’s subject matter that I think anyone can relate to .
    2. We Will Rock You- A real extravaganza, which again is easy to relate to. The set and costumes are phenomenal (if I ever get to work in costume design, that would be a great one to work on), and the songs, while familiar, are fit perfectly to the story.
    3. The Mikado- I saw this as a 12 year old, and the female lead waved to my brother and I in the front row during the curtain call. It was amazing. Anything that manages to wow audiences over a century after it was first produced has well and truly stood the test of time. I think G&S is lyric genius.
    4. Wicked- I agree with Sarah’s comment on FB, I think the musicality of Wicked is amazing, and I love that it’s a (relatively) new show with new songs that has enjoyed huge success. I love anything that takes a familiar story and twists it, Wicked does it brilliantly.
    5. Lion King- Perfectly captures the emotion of the film, and adds that extra element. Perfect for a beginner, as it has songs we all know, and the whole family will enjoy it. Anything that has me immediately wanting to plan a 2nd visit must be good. The costumes and puppetry are breathtaking.

    All very mainstream, but also very accessible because of it. I’ll work on the films, too 🙂

  5. June Svenson says:

    My top 5 musicals are, in no particular order:
    Les Mis: great story, very moving and inspiring songs. Everything about it has alread been said!
    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: great fun, witty lyrics. An entertaining, happy show, with a fantastic opening number.
    Merrily We Roll Along: interesting characters and storyline, I like the way it goes backwards in time till we see the characters starting out on life, which makes the last song sad and inspiring at the same time (at least for me). And it has great songs.
    Guys and Dolls: a classic musical, witty lyrics, great tunes and a nice story. And great showstopping numbers.
    La Cage Aux Folles: again, witty lyrics, great tunes, funny and moving with very appealing main characters.
    It’s hard keeping it down to 5!

  6. jazzygal says:

    What an interesting project! Unfortunately I haven’t been lucky enough to get to London in years to see more recent productions. Thanks to our new Grand Canal Theatre, here in Ireland, I am slowly but surely catching up via all the visiting touring companies! My choices will be dated as a result. It is VERY hard to chose but here’s my list…for what it’s worth!

    Top Stage Musicals:

    1)CHICAGO: I love the music, the characters and the raunchiness! It also brings back such memories from our amateur production from way back!

    2) WEST SIDE STORY: Because it’s a classic. I love the music and the jazz style dancing. I just love it. The one show I never got to perform in…

    3) CABARET: A decandant show that’s also dark and funny. Guess I like!

    4) CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG: I saw this over here recently and it was wonderful. Nostalgic and heart-warming

    5) ROCKY HORROR: haven’t seen this on stage in years and the biggest mistake I made was not seeing this when it came last year. I like it becuuse it’s such fun and… what’s NOT to like!

    Gosh… nowhere to fit in Mama Mia and Hairspray! Both are extremely good ‘feel-good’ musicals.


    1) DIRTY DANCING: Love it! The dancing, the music, the era.

    2) SINGING IN THE RAIN: SUCH a classic with some classic dance routines. Love it.

    3) ROCKY HORROR: It’s simply hilarious! The mad mix of characters and how the main character manipulates them all…or seems to;-)

    4) ALL THAT JAZZ: Fantastic. Great storyline About the fabulous choreographer Bob Fosse. Of cours eI also love the fabulous choreography in this show.

    5) THE PRODUCERS: The re-make version. It’s hilarious and I just love Nathan lane in this..and the others! Very enjoyable.

    Again I find it hard to keep to 5! I’m leaving out Little Shop of Horrors which is fun. I alsoo like Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! I’d love to see that back on stage….

    This was fun, thanks for the opportunity! Good luck 😉

    xx Jazzy (@ValOD1 on twittter)

  7. JC says:

    The Producers – five star funny. Broadway tunes Nathan Lane

    Mary Poppins – Magical

    Wicked – Wittily and tunefully brilliant

    Les Mis – magnifique

    Phantom – still Phantastic, musically and coup de theatrically

  8. Moira says:

    1) Blood Brothers : it has everything comedy and tragedy Brilliant script and cast. Don’t know how many times I ‘ve seen it and it still gets me 2) Les Mis 3)West Side Story 4) Miss Saigon 5)Wicked

  9. Hannah says:

    1) Legally Blonde – it’s been criticised for being “leave your brain at the door” theatre, but I don’t see that as anything to look down on. I’ve seen it 8 times and it’s just pure fluff and joy! Great songs, very funny, and some amazing peformers (current cast especially). My favourite way to spend 2 and a half hours.

    2) Betty Blue Eyes – a proper British musical. It’s weird, it’s funny, it has some brilliant songs. Very entertaining; it deserves to run and run.

    3) Sweet Charity – hated the film, loved the stage version. The recent Chocolate Factory production was great- lots of songs you know (but maybe didn’t realise were eve from a musical), great staging, a nice interpretation of the mood of the show. The dead-behind-the-eyes taxi dancers during Big Spender were inspired!

    4) Wicked – a proper mega musical. A very impressive show, in terms of everything from staging and costumes to the amazing songs. It never fails to entertain, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. The only problem is you’ll never watch the Wizard of Oz in the same way again!

    5) Sister Act – fantastic score, great cast, some lovely funny moments. It deserves to still be running in the West End (damn you Lloyd Webber!!), a proper feel-good show.

    Other ‘worth a mention’s: Avenue Q, Love Never Dies, Blood Brothers, We Will Rock You, Les Mis, Spamalot, Priscilla.

  10. Peter says:

    Well I’d exclude juke box shows unless they somehow managed to adhere to the first law of musicals which is that the songs must advance the plot.

    And I’d leave out Lloyd Webber for being (mostly) a one-trick pony (albeit with occasional flashes of excellence).

    And I’d be wary of adaptations from films, particularly Disney cartoons, due to a prejudice about “cashing in”.

    But funnily enough I have no problem with adaptations from books or plays, as evidenced by three of my Top Five below (not in ranked order):

    “Honk!” to start ’em young
    “Oliver!” to keep ’em interested
    “West Side Story” because it’s as good as it gets
    “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” for a taste of off-Broadway
    “The Producers” because it’s a meta-musical

    It’s fair to warn that this list is heavily constrained by my limited exposure to the genre…

  11. Ugly Bug says:

    How fun. I’m so behind on recent musicals, so these are oldies but goodies:
    1. Les Miserables
    2. West Side Story
    3. Pippin
    4. Godspell
    5. Hair
    Movies are also West Side Story and Godspell, plus Dilwale Dulhania La Jayenge, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (because I LOVE Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan).

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