Convincing people to love theatre show is hard!
Luckily, I have my family and several friends who are theatre enthusiasts. My dad and my sister are hardcore musical fans, while my mom always finds difficulties on understanding the story, nonetheless she can still appreciate the show visually. I am also lucky enough that my husband loves watching theatre show that sometimes it becomes our pillow talk. Although you can enjoy the theatre show without inviting everybody, it always feels good to have companions who have the same interest and enthusiast that we can share and recommend each others or watching together and talking about it after the show. So we might be exposed to other shows that we never heard!
I brought my then-husband to his first time musical show Phantom of the Opera two years ago and he instantly loves it that I often hear him playing “All I ask of you“, “Phantom of the Opera“, and “Music of the Night” in our TV. As I started to believe that he might love some other shows that I wanted to recommend to him and making him watching them, he was not really impressed and always compares it to Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. I begin to understand that my approach is completely misleading. Before recommending people to theatre show, one rule I need to follow: Know what the person’s specific interest. You know, you shouldn’t recommend kids to watch Miss Saigon as it is too heavy. Or recommend your parents to watch Jesus Christ Superstar as it is a sensitive topic.
In this post, I made show guide for every kind of people. This is my own recommendation, some other theatre enthusiasts might have different opinions, but at least the approach is applicable. 😉
For those who want perfection
This category is for people who wants everything perfect. A show with great songs and orchestra, fabulous costume design, majestic stage decoration, epic story and excellent choreography. Surprisingly, I know the best show that has them all: Phantom of the opera. I am not saying the one with Gerrard Butler, it is an utter disappointment. I am talking about the original one with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. I know, I might be biased, since me and my sister are growing up listening to Phantom of the Opera with our Dad. While my dad introduced us to other musicals like Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Lion King, (which some of them will be featured on other categories), Phantom of the Opera is still considered as the masterpiece with perfection. It has ballet, opera, and magic! The songs are very memorable, you might even hear it randomly at shopping center. When you want to watch Phantom of the Opera live, make sure it is from great production (preferably West-End Production). So you expect senior composer, designer and coordinator to built a falling chandelier to thrill you or making Christine disappearing into a whispering mirror magically!
If Phantom of the Opera is too dark, too gloomy to you, try my more cheerful recommendation: Cirque du Soleil. This one is circus from Canada. Cirque du Soleil is the name of the company. It actually has about 50 shows such as Kooza, Allegria, Corteo, Totem and more! Their music, their costume design, their stage decoration, their story, their performance are visually and auditory satisfying. I mentioned my favorite Cirque the Soleil show in this post as well. Check it out!
For those who love great music
This category is for musical that doesn’t have dance and have average stage decoration but rich in music. Coincidently, both of Victor Hugo’s work adaptation: Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris fit this category. In this kind of musical, you don’t need to know who is the art designer or where it is performed. You want to know who plays as Jean Valjean, as Eponine, as Marius, as Javert, as Quasimodo, as Frollo, and so forth. It is very important to know whether the singer is able to sing according to the role he/she becomes. The quality of this musical is defined by the singer likeliness to impersonate the character through his/her voice. My husband is this kind of person too. He can watch different kind of Javerts singing “Star“. My recommendation for Les Miserables is 10th Anniversary that featuring Colm Wilkinson, Michael Ball, Judy Kuhn and my favorite Eponine, Lea Salonga. This version has the greatest casting!
For those who love great story
Of course, theatre show can be educational too! Whether you want to learn the history of famous people, you might like Evita how she becomes wife of Argentine President Juan Peron or learning world history (this is where you can find the famous song “Don’t Cry for my Argentina’” such as Vietnamese War in Miss Saigon (I love Lea Salonga version, but I only watch the 25th Anniversary version which features Eva Noblezada as Kim who sings as good as Lea Salonga). Or if you just want a thrilling story, you might like Sunset Boulevard. I personally never watch full version of Sunset Boulevard, but I know most of its song such as “As if We never Say Goodbye” and “The Perfect Year” and the story. I love noir movie and Sunset Boulevard is based on the noir movie under the same title. So if you also love noir movie, you should watch Sunset Boulevard. I always love Glenn Close and Elaine Page version since they both have same charisma as Norma Desmond.
For those who love great choreography
Cats movie featuring A-list Stars like Judy Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, and James Corden becomes one of the greatest flop in 2019. What happened actually? Jennifer Hudson sings well on “Memory“. Taylor Swift fits with her role as Bombalurina as well as Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots. The answer is simple: They unapologetically made the dance in a sloppy CGI. (The only dancer in the movie is Victoria). For theatre enthusiast, Cats only has one memorable song that many people love “Memory“. The rest we remember are the choreography. Cats is about agility, flexibility, and durability, that’s why it is so Cat-like. If you want to watch the best Cats with best choreography, try the 1998 version featuring Elaine Page. Another notable shows for this category is Nutcracker & Chicago.
For those who need laughter
Warning, the recommendation I share are potentially offensive because they mostly contain satirical joke which involve NAZI, Mormon and racism. But if you do love satyr, you might not be disappointed by Mel Brooks’ The Producer, The Book of Mormon, Hairspray. I personally have not watched The Book of Mormon, but my sister and Denise, my friend highly recommend me to watch this. I already listen to some the songs from The Book of Mormon and I already laughed on their musical parody that relating to Wicked, Lion King, and the Sound of Music. These kind of shows do not require you to like musical. All you need is knowledge because this show might refer to some literature, famous people, religion and history. Otherwise, it’s just another singing-people-show for you.
For those who like to sing-a-long
You love singing but you don’t have soprano range voice and you wonder what is the suitable musical for your next Karaoke session? Try Mamma Mia! and Rent! Who doesn’t know ABBA’s Dancing Queen? Mamma Mia!, as you know contains music by ABBA. As the story itself is too cliché for my taste, it is difficult not to sing-a-long to ABBA. Mamma Mia! and Rent do not require you to have higher vocal range that is usually intimidating. So “you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life!!”
For those who has family
My very first musical is The Sound of Music. I remember I watched it when I was 5 years old. At 5 years old, I already learned about World War II. As it is made less cruelty, The Sound of Music can be an entertaining and educating choice for children. By I mean entertaining is the show that is so colorful, magical, and the songs are catchy and easy for children to repeat the song. Wicked is another suitable show for children. Although maybe a little bit scary for younger children, but it is still enjoyable for family. I suggested you to watch The Wizard of Oz first before watching Wicked, because the story is loosely based on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. My rule of thumb for this category is whether it is educating and entertaining. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is both educating and entertaining for children. It based on the bible story: Joseph that are sold to Egypt by his jealous brothers.
For those who love books
There are so many book adaptations made into shows. But not many that are equally good. Either the show is better than the book or the book is better than the show. Or both book and shows are good, but different from each other (such as Les Miserables). One musical that I know based on book, that very close to the book itself and complimentary to each other is My Fair Lady. Try to watch the one with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Audrey Hepburn fits perfectly as Eliza Doolittle, she is bubbly as a flower girl, yet elegant as a lady. It really meets the expectation on Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
Bonus: For Traveler
As we know, you can easily find Broadway musical in London or New York, but not all countries are fans of Broadway musical. So their theatre have different kind of performances. If you really love watching theatre show, it is never a pain to watch their own show, while you are learning about their culture and their local art which they are proud of!
- Kabuki, in Tokyo Japan. If you watch in summer, you might expect horror theme in Japanese traditional drama or Kabuki. Last summer in 2013, me and my Family watched The Tale of Okiku. It is based on Japanese yurei Okiku who is poisoned by her own husband and haunting him to revenge. This Kabuki is not only beautiful and ghastly like Giselle Ballet, but it is also sacred. As the performer must pray on Okiku’s grave for her blessings.
- Marionette, in Salzburg Austria. As you know, Salzburg is home of Mozart. So it is a must to watch Marionette in Salzburg. It plays based on Mozart’s work such as The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte).
- Water Puppet, in Hanoi Vietnam. It is part of tradition in Vietnam to perform water puppet. Just like Marionette in Salzburg, only this time the performer must swim on a hip level-high water. It mostly retells Vietnamese folklore.
- Ramayana, in Jogjakarta or Bali Indonesia. Hindu is one of the oldest religion in Indonesia, no wonder there are so many version of Ramayana Ballet performed. If you watch in Jogjakarta, it is best to see in semi-outdoor stage. So the crucial part of the ballet-Sinta Obong where Sinta burned herself to prove her purity to Rama is performed with Candi Prambanan as the background. If you watch in Bali, you will have the performance is sung by Kecak dancers which makes the ballet feels so mystical.
If you are too bored to read the entire page, I put the Venn Diagram (again, might be biased) to simplify and ease you from reading too long. Hope it is still useful for your to-watch reference!