Musicals Consider the Best Ever...

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Musicals Considered the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 07:56am
How has this changed over time.

For example, nowadays Gypsy is often the go-to for the title of best musical of all time, much like how Citizen Kane is a generic answer for best film of all time.
However, it has not always been this way. For a long time, My Fair Lady was considered the greatest ever and Oklahoma! probably was before that. For a period of time, A Chorus Line was often referred to as the greatest, wasn't it.

My point is, what musicals have been generalised as the best ever written over the years.

Updated On: 5/25/12 at 07:56 AM
After Eight
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 08:11am
Frankly, I don't think Gypsy has ever been that go-to title as best of all time.

As for today, I think that Show Boat, Oklahoma, or My Fair Lady can still lay claim to that title, in the minds of many.
CarlosAlberto Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 08:27am
I believe Gypsy has long been considered a musical with one of the best books ever written. It's definitely up there. One only as to look at the constant revivals and the fact (if the latest one gets off the ground) that it's on it's way to be filmed a third time.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 08:47am

You're right. It has an excellent book. And score, too. It's a great show, and I would say, close to up there. But it is not, in my opinion, as great as the three other shows I mentioned.

But I'm not talking about my own personal opinion here. I'm referring to Jay's question as to what has been generally conidered the best of all time. I don't believe Gypsy has ever been viewed in that way, nor A Chorus Line.

Gypsy9 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 09:01am
We tend to look back to the OBCR's to gauge our remembrances of the greatest musicals. I, along with historians, would argue that SHOWBOAT is one of the very greatest musicals, turning the tide in the way that musicals are created. For me, the studio cast recording conducted by John McGlinn is the best available recording of SHOWBOAT. It is so good.

I saw MY FAIR LADY when I was 15 and was aware that this original production with Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stanley Holloway was something very special. It fittingly played the beautiful Mark Hellinger. I can remember my parents sitting quietly in the living room listening with rapt attention to the OBCR. Incidentally, I feel that the mono version of the NY cast is superior to the London stereo version; there is so much more energy in the OBCR. In those days, cast albums were made on the first Sunday after the opening (no Sunday matinees back then), so the cast was fresh from the opening. The OBCR of MY FAIR LADY also has John Michael KIng singing "On the Street Where You Live", superior to the different London singer.

Which leads us to GYPSY, certainly one of the greatest musicals ever, withstanding different interpretations and usually coming out on top, with the exception of the Sam Mendes production which played with the raw emotions of the musical without having any fun. I bought the OBCR of GYPSY before seeing it for the first time and got so excited about it that I would count the days before seeing it. Reading in the liner notes that "Rose's Turn" was something special, I purposely did not play that track, preferring to be surprised by the live performance by Ethel Merman. For me, the OBCR is definitive.

Although the question wasn't asked, there are two guilty pleasures which I absolutely love, two flops with great scores: GOLDILOCKS with Elaine Stritch which I saw twice in the 1958-1959 season, and I HAD A BALL which I did not see, whose extremely brassy score is infectious.

"Madam Rose...and her daughter...Gypsy!"
JulesReverie Profile Photo
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 09:06am
What about Les Miserables, Evita, Chicago, and West Side Story, would they contend? (Then again I think Les Miserables is more the equivalent to Field of Dreams than Citizen Kane. And Wicked is definitely the equivalent to a James Cameron blockbuster. And Next to Normal is the equivalent to American Beauty. And Phantom of the Opera is the equivalent to Gone With the Wind. This game is fun. What would the Godfather equivalent be? Sweeney Todd maybe?)

Updated On: 5/25/12 at 09:06 AM
JRybka Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 09:10am
I truly believe that something like RAGTIME has a chance to be considered one of the greats. CHICAGO to many is considered one of the GREAT AMERICAN MUSICAL.
"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."
henrikegerman Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 09:14am
I suggest a pantheon of Show Boat, Oklahoma, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Gypsy, Fiddler, A Chorus Line, and Sweeney Todd. And arguably Threepenny Opera and Porgy and Bess, in very different ways.

I get the uber appeal of each of them with the exception of Oklahoma, not to take away from the fact that it set a trend for musical number blending with action that one would think Show Boat would have set. There was no going back after Oklahoma.

I personally think She Loves Me is the greatest musical ever written, because it is the pinnacle of a great libretto blended with a great score, comedy, feeling, subplot, romance and rich character. Masteroff + Bock/Harnick were so well suited for each other and for this material, the perfect romantic comedy. And each number is to be relished. While I'm not alone in championing it as "my favorite show," those of us who think so probably are too small a contingent to make it a responsive answer to this query. We are merely a merry but proud and outspoken cult.

And it is a show that has grown in stature since it opened. But perhaps, on a greater scale, the same is true of Gypsy. I'm not sure if Gypsy was acknowledged as the gold standard when it opened; didn't that happen many years later?

Updated On: 5/25/12 at 09:14 AM
LYLS3637 Profile Photo
Leading Actor
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 09:57am
I think it depends on what criteria you're observing.

The best SCORE? I think you have to give it to WEST SIDE STORY or CANDIDE

The best BOOK? I think GYPSY, FIDDLER, or MY FAIR LADY take the cake.

The best choreography? A CHORUS LINE

The most innovative concept/method of storytelling? COMPANY, LAST FIVE YEARS

dreaming Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 10:07am
My personal list (not necessarily my favorites, but musicals I consider 'artistically' the 'best'):

Showboat (this has to be here for being really the first modern book musical as we now know it)
Oklahoma! (this built on the book musical and integrated dance to tell the story through the Dream Ballet)
Pal Joey (introduced an anti-hero in its title character and introduced some dark themes)
Carousel (again, the darkness of the themes is highly recognizable here as is the anti-hero of Billy Bigelow)
Gypsy (the book and score are among the finest ever written)
West Side Story (brought the story of Romeo and Juliet to a modern audience using contemporary themes)
Sweeney Todd (the Sondheim musical that seems to come up as his best, most fully-realized work-I think the way in which it explores the human psyche is very important and what it says about society even more so)
jv92 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 10:14am
I think GYPSY is fabulous and brilliant, and I've always had affection for MY FAIR LADY, but if I had to pick a "Perfect" musical, where everything works spectacularly, it'd be SHE LOVES ME. Too bad it's not a "go-to" classic name like the others.
EponineAmneris Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 11:12am
LES MISERABLES is the Best Ever... at least in my book

Perhaps THE PRODUCERS since it has the most Tony Awards...

... What about PHANTOM or LION KING if we look only at money...?
adamgreer Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 11:31am
It's hard to argue with choices like Gypsy, West Side Story, or Oklahoma, however, I've always felt Carousel was the stronger R&H show.

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them"
~Walt Disney

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
~Walt Disney

My name is neither "adam" nor "greer."
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 11:33am
Citizen Kane is not the "Generic answer" best film ever made. While there will always be contrariness, it wins those surveys because it is an amazing film that inspired hundreds (thousands?) of filmmakers to make movies- and truly changed the way we think about film. If you can find a high school or college student who's never seen Kane, arrange a screening and watch the reaction.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 11:38am
Didn't South Pacific have that title for a while. For me, that is THE American musical.
hermajesty Profile Photo
Leading Actor
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 12:06pm
Sondheim must be up there.
All problems are man made and so, can be man solved.
Chorus Member
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 12:55pm
The King and I
Guys and Dolls
The Music Man
West Side Story
My Fair Lady
She Loves Me
The Sondheim Sextet (Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George, and Into the Woods)
A Chorus Line
Evita (IMO one of the best crafted pop operas ever written)
Once On This Island
The Light in the Piazza
The Drowsy Chaperone

The above list represents musicals which are (ihmo) structurally perfect. There are no wasted moves, no missing pieces, everything within directly furthers the plot, characters, or theme. While there are some (A Chorus Line, Into the Woods, Follies, Fela, Nine) that rely heavily upon the director/ choreographer's work, this does not mean the material is flawed: the piece simply makes use of their contributions as much as the book or score.

And movies which perfected their respective musicals:
The Sound of Music
The Wonderful World of Disney's ANNIE
FANtomFollies Profile Photo
Featured Actor
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 02:09pm
bmw - I thought the WWoD "Annie" was a train wreck. I love Kathy Bates, but I didn't find her funny at all. I also thought the whole thing looked cheap, and somehow the whole thing felt sterile. I realize it was made for tv, but I'd hardly say it 'perfected' Annie. Just my opinion.
Kad Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 02:15pm
I think the recent revival proved that Evita is not one of the greatest musicals of all time.

I've always read/heard that My Fair Lady is generally considered "the best".

West Side Story, I think, could lay claim to one of the greatest scores of all time... but the book doesn't reach the score's bar.
AC126748 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 02:20pm
If I had a vote, it would go to either SHOW BOAT or CAROUSEL.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Chorus Member
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 02:44pm
^It's not so much the performances or design of it ( it was made for TV after all). They just really tightened up the book and score (not to mention great dance arrangements) and (like R&H's Cinderella), I wish they'd license this cut of it.
Ourtime992 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 03:16pm
I'm so glad to see multiple posters mentioning SHE LOVES ME. It really is just a perfect, little show. More a confection than a meal, but satisfying and delicious nonetheless.

I tend to judge perfection by whether a show has any dead moments that bore me or confusing moments that don't follow the story's own internal logic. Perhaps it's an unnecessary subplot or a too-pat ending that does it in. There are even shows I absolutely adore but can still find many faults with, such as The Light in the Piazza (a few missteps in the dialogue) or My Fair Lady (the first act is about 20 minutes too long, and I couldn't care less about Freddie).

The ones that I can't really fault in any way are:

Drama Doodles Poster Designs Making small town productions look Big Time!
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 04:59pm
Greatest musicals I would say are. Taking into consideration everything, awards, memorablity, scores covered, public, impact made to industry...

Guys and dolls
Porgy and Bess
West side story
La cage
Anything goes
Les Miserables
Mamma Mia
Lion King
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 05:14pm
Glad to see you are back, henrik. I missed you!

SHE LOVES ME is certainly a fine show and far better than it's nine-month run would suggest.

But there is quite a hole in the second act between the time George sings the title song and when he finally reveals himself to Amalia. I realize subplots have to be resolved and the passage of time is handled very cleverly in the "Christmas shopping" sequence, but the fact remains that the air has been let out of the tire.

The greatest shows, including OKLAHOMA! and MY FAIR LADY, manage to keep the dramatic suspense going until the final moments.


Kad, I think you're right that MY FAIR LADY is often called "the best musical play of the R&H era". The same commentators often draw a line with COMPANY and argue that the "concept musicals" that followed should be judged by different standards.

Updated On: 5/25/12 at 05:14 PM
themysteriousgrowl Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 05:32pm

I know this isn't what's being asked, but F off.

My vote for Most Underrated is PACIFIC OVERTURES.

It has a stunning score, yes, but what most people overlook -- even within the Sondheim canon -- is its stunning book, perhaps the strongest of show Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics for. ASSASSINS is a marvel of economy and experimentation, NIGHT MUSIC a terrific adaptation, and FORUM impressively packed with funny, but PO never seems to get recognition for both its vast ambition and remarkable success in execution.
Broadway Star
Musicals Consider the Best Ever...
Posted: 5/25/12 at 10:42pm
GYPSY9 -- I know we've 'talked' before about our mutual love affair with GYPSY and The Merm. You're one of the only ones on this board who was fortunate enough to actually see the Original Broadway cast. Fascinated to hear that you purposely didn't listen to 'Rose's Turn' until you saw the show in person. I have, of course, listened to it ad nauseum on the OBCR. Do you remember what it was like to see the Merm perform it LIVE?! Were there anythings she did, physically, that stuck out in your mind? I know she's been the target of a lot of criticism over the years for her delivery of the "m-m-m-ma-ma" line.. but there are other points in the song where her passion, determination, grit and bulldozer mentality shine like no other.. without coming across as forced or 'acted.'


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