Favorite Non-Howard Musical

edited November 2012 in Theater
What is your favorite non-Howard musical, good or bad, movie, stage, and or other?

Mine is, hands down, "Phantom of the Opera", specifically Phantom 25 (which, in my opinion, is the only really good recording of the show and score). I recorded it on a lark when it aired on PBS, thinking it would be a bit slow and boring, and I was completely blown away and engrossed by what I saw. (And I'm convinced that Ramin was genetically engineered in a lab. There's no way that voice is natural.) It's the Blu-Ray I pop in whenever I need something to watch and whenever I want to show off my TV. (And I find it funny and amusing that it's the one Blu-Ray I've scratched.)


  • Sweeney Todd here. Should I be concerned that Little Shop and Sweeney are my faves? I choose to believe it's because both of them are such well-executed stories. That both stories involve murder and violence is just an inconsequential coincidence, right?! ;)
  • SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE hands down. A moving, cathartic experience...for me at least. Also a big fan of SHE LOVES ME (Which I gather Howard must have liked... Maybe Sarah can clarify there?) and, for recent shows that really thrilled and surprised me, NEXT TO NORMAL.
  • Hi John,
    Howard definitely would have agreed with you about She Loves Me. I remember him explaining to me why it didn't get the run it deserved (lots of competition, mostly). And then the following year Harnick and Bock overshadowed themselves with Fiddler. You've reminded me, I have to write a post about the night we met Barbara Cook...
  • Sarah, you NEED to write about the night you two met Barbara Cook. Of course, I'm using this term facetiously, but I worship her.

    Also, Hal Prince has told me (and others) that part of the reason She Loves Me did not run as long as Dolly! or Fiddler was because he booked a theater too small to make its weekly "nut." They wanted a now defunct theater for financial reasons, but thought the theater it played in (The O'Neill) was more intimate...art vs. commerce.
  • I'm working on it, promise.

    Thanks for the info from Mr. Prince. Amazing how often theatrical success comes down to real estate.
  • Julie Andrews was also originally slated to play Amalia in that show, but asked the Prince Office is they could wait a year until she finished MARY POPPINS. Prince got Barbara Cook instead. I think both are good choices, and have that "neurotic quality" one needs to play the part, but Cook nailed it. Is there a better theater song from that era than "Ice Cream?" Or a better actress performing it?
  • @loganculwell Well, every really good story includes murder. Take Phantom. It's about a deranged, disfigured lunatic stalker who kidnaps his obsession in the hopes of making her fall in love with him, killing multiple people along the way. Sweeney Todd is just a story of revenge. Little Shop is Faust. Murder is just a plot device to make the stories work.

    ...At least, that's what I tell myself at night when I'm alone in my bed.
  • @JustinKudwa Little Shop may be a parody of Faust (it says so in the author's notes of the libretto), but Seymour did kill--or at least contribute to the death to in some manner or another--three people, including the girl he truly loved.

    Also, to say murder is "just a plot device" is to trivialize the emotional impact of murder.
    Let’s use Seymour wanting to kill Orin as an example.

    Someone who has never killed someone before, but has intentions of doing so, faces a number of dilemmas. First is the subjective nature of justice. Seymour must obviously have no concept of the punishment fitting the crime, for he sees murder as justice for the physical and verbal abuse Orin has committed against Audrey. Second, having never used, let alone trained with, a gun before (as far as the story has revealed to us), Seymour runs the risk of accidentally shooting somebody else. Third, knowing that Orin is obviously much tougher than him, he might get overpowered… and he does, as Orin almost effortlessly forces Seymour into the dentist chair and, through the power of intimidation, keeps him there to perform surgery on him. Fourth, even if Seymour did end up shooting Orin (instead of letting the gas do the work for him), it would traumatize him for the rest of his life, as many a police officer can testify to having shot criminals in self-defense or to put an end to their felonious rampages.

    So to say that murder is just a plot device is to undercut all the ethical dilemmas and repercussions that take place before, during, and after the act.

    Just a thought.

    Finally, to keep in spirit with the thread, I really love "The Who's Tommy" (the album, too). It's ironic, but I don't feel the same about the movie version with Roger Daltry.
  • @Mikhail_Cucuk: What I said isn't exactly what I ment (which tends to happen when I post after work when my brain is goo). What I ment was murder is a plot element many good stories use (Little Shop, Sweeny Todd, Phantom) to make a point and tell a good story.
  • The Book of Mormon

    Like Little Shop of Horrors, it has a great balance of emotion and humor. However, for Little Shop, the main draw for me is the emotion, and the humor is simply the icing on the cake. With The Book of Mormon, the real draw is the humor, and the emotion is the icing on the cake.
  • I'm changing my answer to Sweeney Todd, especially after hear what Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton did. The story is just perfection, and the songs are just.... In my humble opinion, there isn't a single song or piece of music that's below "excellent."
  • I really wish that Ball-Staunton production had moved to New York. Sondheim was extremely enthusiastic about it, and though he doesn't say anything bad about productions of his shows, you could tell the enthusiasm was genuine, not just polite. I was intrigued by John Doyle's actor-musician version a few years ago, but in hindsight, I don't think Patti LuPone dancing around playing the tuba was vital to the piece. Audiences (myself included) might have been tickled by La LuPone doing that, but did it work?

    Doyle did have a really fascinating framework going on-- the show being set in an asylum where Tobias was taken after the plot ended-- but I would have rather heard Tunick's orchestrations (reduced slightly, even) than the actor-musician take. His production of PASSION last spring, however, was gorgeous, and his production of ROAD SHOW (BOUNCE/GOLD/whatever) was dazzling. I do admire him.
  • edited December 2013
    I thought I hated Sondheim, but I finally got around to listening to Assassins, and it's undoubtedly one of the best shows I've ever had the privilege to hear. There are even some Howard-quality lyrics in there, I'd say. "Everybody's got the right to some sunshine/Not the sun, but maybe one of its beams..."
  • Listen to more Sondheim-- it will grow on you, unless you're Walter Kerr reincarnated. The great man has said that of all his shows, ASSASSINS is the one he wouldn't change anything in and came closest to filling his and his collaborator's intention.
  • I am way, way into A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder right now. It's my favorite show from the 2013/2014 season (Why did it have to come out the same year as Aladdin? Why?), it's perfectly cast, the score is totally delightful, as soon as I can, I'm buying tickets to the inevitable tour, and I was ecstatic when I head it's ticket sales were up after it's Best Musical win.
  • Love Gentleman's Guide.
  • I liked A Gentleman's Guide, too, but I thought one of the most entertaining musicals on Broadway last season (and I know I'm in the minority) was Rocky. Aside from the exciting finale and the flashy production, I thought Ahrens and Flaherty did a really nice job musicalizing the sweet Rocky-Adrian love story.

    However, by far the best musical to open in New York last season was Fun Home at The Public Theater. I was totally surprised and dazzled by it. I hope it transfers to Broadway, or finds a wider audience in some way.
  • The only Broadway show that I have ever seen has been "The Lion King" (although I recently saw a production of "South Pacific" being put on by the musical theatre group at my school, Foothill College, and watched the DVD of "Cats"), and I was blown away; it DESERVED that Best Musical Tony, if you want my opinion!
  • I would have to say "Les Miserables" because it is just such a dramatic story. I also loved the book. :)
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