My Top 10 Happiest Musical Moments:
- OnStage Australia Columnist
Let’s face it, at the pinnacle of every musical is an overriding aura of joy. Though on occasion, particularly during the show’s second act, everything may go to hell in a hand-basket (here’s looking at you, Hamilton), no musical is without its happier moments. Here’s a list of some of my favourites.
10. Popular (Wicked)
It’s been almost eight years since I first heard this song, and yet – even to this day – I can’t get through it without laughing. Glinda, in an effort to integrate Elphaba into Shiz University’s elite crowd, sings of the many difficult attributes one must perfect in order to be popular. Amongst such attributes is obtaining ‘the proper poise when you talk to boys,’ coupled with the sagely advice ‘it’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed.’ Schwartz’s lyrics are what make this song, and it’s a sure-fire pick up when you’re having a bad day.
9. Gigi Visits La Mer (Gigi)
Gigi is a girl brimming with unbridled joy, but nowhere is this more apparent than during the scene where she visits the seaside with Gaston and Madame Alvarez. Here, Gigi is uninhibited, free from the restrictions and reservations that go along with city life. The 2015 revival of the show includes a song showcasing her newfound love of the sea, entitled ‘I Never Want to Go Home Again,’ and it is a true treasure to listen to. Gigi embraces her freedom and resolutely declares ‘leave me by the sea, I pray! Just as it is today, that is what my heart cries, this is where my soul flies!’
8. Tomorrow (Annie)
I have a confession to make. I don’t really like ‘Annie’. I recall being infatuated with it when I was about seven, but over the years the novelty has worn off to the point where I find the whole show rather irritating. But even I can’t find it in my heart to hate Martin Charnin’s classic ballad of hope. Annie’s a plucky character who – even in the midst of the Great Depression – can look on the bright side and hope for a better future. A quick listen to this number can turn a frown upside down, and you can’t fault something for doing its job. Hence, ‘Tomorrow’, you make #8.
7. Don Lockwood in the California Dew (Singing in the Rain)
There isn’t a musical fan alive who isn’t familiar with Gene Kelly’s impromptu dance in the midst of a torrential downpour. ‘Singing in the Rain’ is the definitive movie musical, and the still of Kelly hanging off the side of a lamppost has become one of the film’s most iconic images. The whole scene is brimming with joy, which becomes especially prominent when Kelly cheers ‘what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again!’
6. Questionable Pastry Ingredients (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
There are many activities one can partake in with their partner. Long walks on the beach, picnics in the park and slaughtering barbershop customers in order to revive a failing bakery are just a few suggestions for fun day together. Todd and Lovett are two halves of a whole psychopath, and while I absolutely do not condone slitting anyone’s throat for a profit, there is something delightful about the way they plot their horrendous crimes during Sondheim’s ‘Little Priest’ number, and their joy is ridiculously contagious. Check it out if you fancy a giggle at the ghastly.
5. The Schuyler Sisters (Hamilton)
There was no way I was going to get through this list without including a song from ‘Hamilton’, so here we go. While ‘What’d I Miss’ almost made this list for being so ridiculously upbeat, ‘the Schuyler Sisters’ takes the fifth spot for being the most optimistic, powerful, awesome-as-hell song on the soundtrack. The drum beats in this number are enough to get anyone hyped up, and I admit that – on more than one occasion – I have found myself throwing my arm up in the air and pouting dramatically in public whenever the word ‘WORK’ is shouted during the number. If you haven’t heard it yet, exit the article and get onto that. Thank me later.
4. God, I Hate Shakespeare (Something Rotten!)
I am British. I love Shakespeare. I was practically bottle-fed on the Bard’s words. So when I found out there was an entire musical dedicated to the Will-with-the-skill-to-thrill-you-with-his-quill, I was elated. Turns out my favourite song on the whole soundtrack is the one dedicated to slamming every aspect of Shakespeare, including (but not limited to), his mediocre acting, his ability to write ‘ass-numbingly’ boring plays, and the fact that he’s really just a ‘hack with a knack for stealing anything he can.’ Brian d’Arcy James is comic gold on this album, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this song, where he absolutely aces a blend of irritation and jealously as he despairs about the man that always manages to one-up him.
3. No One is Alone (Into the Woods)
Whilst the melody of this song may not be the most enthusiastic, the premise and message of this classic ballad is beautiful. The musical’s four main characters have each suffered great losses, and all have a longing for retribution to rain down on those who have wronged them. However, in this song, they each come to the conclusion that they must acknowledge the mistakes made by those closest to them, and remember that – no matter how bleak everything may seem – they are not alone. Sondheim is the master of the theatrical ballad, and his composition of ‘No One is Alone’ is haunting. It is a reminder that, even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of light, and no one need fight their battles alone.
2. Seasons of Love (RENT)
‘RENT’ is not a happy musical. It chronicles the story of a group of bohemians living in New York under the shadow of the AIDS epidemic. But through his song ‘Seasons of Love,’ Jonathan Larson has created a song that is not merely an exquisite melody, but a celebration. The cast stand together to sing about how one’s life might be measured and – after deliberation – conclude that life is measured in love. There is not a theatre buff around who doesn’t immediately perk up when they hear the opening chords to the song, and rightfully so. In a musical that chronicles such a bleak subject, ‘Seasons of Love’ is a ray of sunshine amidst the despair.
1. When I Grow Up (Matilda the Musical)
Matilda is, without a doubt, one of the defining musicals of the 21st century. Critics have called it magical, and rightfully so. Composer Tim Minchin has scored a show that not only tells the story, but delves deeply into the psyches of its characters. The song ‘Naughty’ narrowly missed a spot on this list (because I am biased and it is my favourite song in the show), but the placement had to go to ‘When I Grow Up.’ This is the song made me sell my soul to this musical way back in 2011. Minchin perfectly captures how it feels to be a child, and whenever I listen to this song I am hit by a wave of nostalgia thinking about my aspirations as a kid. I did used to crave sweets for every meal. I did wish I could watch cartoons until my eyes went square. I dreamed all these dreams in my youth, so to see them revived onstage was an intensely bittersweet moment. ‘When I Grow Up’ is a song that examines childhood dreams, and the happiness which comes with hope for the future, and that is why it takes the #1 spot.