5 CULTURALLY CLASSIC MUSICALS
PUBLISHED 17 APR 2017
THE WIZARD OF OZ
VICTOR FLEMMING / 1939
"You, my friend, are a victim of disorganised thinking."
Released in 1939, THE WIZARD OF OZ is a culturally ground-breaking endeavour for American film. Following the adventures of Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto, Oz takes the audience into a world unknown at the time, going from a sepia tone to colour in order to reflect the magical world the characters are in. The film's visual art emphasises the wonderful contrast to Dorothy’s reality, leaving audiences with a joyous feeling inside as the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) gets his brain, the Tin Man (Jack Haley) gets his heart and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) gets courage, before Dorothy returns to reality and the rest resume their normal lives.
CAROL REED / 1968
"Please sir, I want some more."
No musical has managed to capture the life of the lower classes in 1800s Britain like the Academy Award-winning classic, OLIVER! Following the journey of banished orphan Oliver Twist, as he is enveloped into a gang of young pickpockets led by the formidable Fagin (Ron Moody). The characters all brilliantly break away from their continuous struggles of being lower class in the musical segments; the film perfectly captures the gap in the classes that is representative of the time and can still be appreciated to this day.
ALAN PARKER / 1976
"Suddenly everybody wants to be in show business."
Set in the glitzy and flashy 1920s New York city, BUGSY MALONE uses a cast of all-child actors to reflect the lifestyle of gang members and the desperate venture to make it big on Broadway. Replacing the would-be violent shots of gang shootings with bananas and the use of “splurge guns” that shoot cream instead of real bullets, the film concludes with the message that they can all be friends and that the world doesn’t need to be so violent as the cast sing “You Give A Little Love” as Blousey (Florrie Dugger) and Bugsy (Scott Baio) follow their journey to Hollywood
JOHN HUSTON / 1982
"Buddha says a child without courage is like a night without stars!"
Set in 1930s America, ANNIE tells the story of a girl who is chosen to live with the city’s richest billionaire, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks (Albert Finney) in order to promote his persona. The film charmingly breaks away from Annie’s (Aileen Quinn) harsh reality of living in an orphanage with an abusive alcoholic, as all the girls sing the film's classic number - “It’s a Hard Knock Life” - while showing their daily morning rituals. ANNIE’S storyline of a poor girl managing to make a wealthy man’s attitude change completely, as well as ensuring all the orphaned girls have a home, is enough to make this musical remain such a sensation even 30 years later. It enables the audience to realise the universal struggles of life whilst still enjoying the musical numbers and eventual happy ending.
JOHN WATERS / 1988
"It's the times. They are changing. Something's blowing in the wind."
Very few musicals manage to portray the reality of race issues in 1960s America as HAIRSPRAY does. The film takes us through Tracy Turnblad’s (Ricki Lake) desire to remain a permanent member of a hit teen dance show airing on television and also to have integration on the network. The film focuses on the difficult journey America has in terms of equality, exploring themes of the 1960s alongside change and rebellion. The film uses the musical genre to highlight the importance of putting an end to racial segregation, a subject otherwise untouched by the mainstream musical. HAIRSPRAY went on to become a cult classic and was remade in 2007 with Zac Efron and John Travolta, further reinforcing its timeless tale.
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