Movie Musicals to Lift Your Spirits

Movie Musicals to Lift Your Spirits

Audrey Zielenbach is the Artistic Content Curator at Gulfshore Playhouse.

If you are anything like me, being stuck at home has meant finally getting around to the movies on my watchlist. Being stuck at home also means we aren’t able to go watch a live theatrical production, so I thought it would be nice to curate a list of the next best thing: the movie musical!

I spoke with Gulfshore Playhouse staff members about their favorite movie musicals, the ones they think you should make sure to add to your list. On this list are musicals that were adapted into films, films that were adapted into musicals and then adapted back into movies, and musicals created specifically for film. Whether you’ve seen these films dozens of times or it’s been on your list for ages, there’s never been a more perfect time to experience them. A movie musical is almost guaranteed to lift your spirits and deliver a few hours of escapism. 

Recommended by Joel Markus and Jeff Binder: Little Shop of Horrors

Jeff: Before there was computer animation and its sleek, hyper-realistic fantasy framing, Frank Oz directed a brilliant adaptation of the musical Little Shop of Horrors. The casting was exceptional and truthful to the original story, and it had some of the best comedians of the 1980s jumping in and out of cameos throughout. On top of that, Ellen Green and Rick Moranis, as the young and in-love down-and-outs Audrey and Seymour are charming and lovely in the film, and Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops) brilliantly voices the maniacal plant, Audrey II. Top it off with Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist, Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell, as Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon (the story’s soulful and harmoniously brilliant ‘greek chorus’), Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik, and you have a stellar cast, some fantastic voices, and a wonderfully quirky director/puppet master who brings it all together and frames the story in a rich, fun way. A great musical to watch with your kids or grandkids.

Joel: It’s silly, a break from reality; and I mean, who doesn’t get excited about the two main characters singing (with doo wop in the background supporting them) and a crescendo about getting out of skid row:

Recommended by Kimberly Dye: Fiddler on the Roof
The 1960s was a decade of musical movies and among them was an adaptation of the beloved Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. The story follows Tevye, the father of five daughters who works to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions within the Pale of Settlement in Imperial Russia. Fiddler on the Roof won three Academy Awards, and was nominated for many others including Best Picture.
Kim: From childhood, Fiddler on the Roof has always been my favorite. I would belt out the songs! In fact, I think I’ll introduce it to my daughter so we can create a “Tradition!”
Recommended by Alyson McCoyHairspray!
In 1988, John Waters directed a comedy film called Hairspray about a young girl in Baltimore who dreams of stardom as a dancer on a local TV show, but becomes involved in a larger fight for racial equality. In 2002, this film was adapted into a Broadway musical by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell, and Thomas Meehan. The Broadway musical went on to win eight Tony Awards out of 13 total nominations, including Best Musical. The musical was in turn adapted into a 2007 film directed by Adam Shankman. It’s quite a journey, but it makes sense when you hear the ear-worm worthy 1960s-style music and watch the excellently choreographed dance numbers.
Alyson: It is fun with a great message and catchy tunes to sing along with. Plus I can get up and dance to it!
Recommended by Kristen Coury: Meet Me in St. Louis
This Judy Garland classic from 1944 follows a year in the life of the Smith family in St. Louis leading up to the World’s Fair in spring 1904. The film was adapted from a novel of the same name and was the second highest grossing film the year of its release. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Cinematography and Best Music.
Kristen: The costumes are to die for.  It’s Judy at her best.  The songs are wonderful.  Margaret O’Brien was adorable.  And it’s a period in American history that we don’t see portrayed often on screen.  And: little known fact, it debuted “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – one of my favorite Christmas songs!
Recommended by Audrey Zielenbach: Singin’ in the Rain
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, Singin’ in the Rain was only a modest hit upon its release. It garnered a quaint amount of attention on the awards circuit, but won no major awards. Since then, Singin’ in the Rain has become one of the most revered films of all time. The story is a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late ’20s and the transition from silent films to “talkies.”
Audrey: Singin’ in the Rain is one of those films that everyone knows. The titular song and the image of Gene Kelly swinging around a lamp post is well ingrained in our cultural memory. However, I recently revisited Singin’ in the Rain and could not believe how good this film is. When you learn about its somewhat turbulent production (Gene Kelly filming that iconic sequence with a 103 degree fever, Donald O’Connor’s hospitalization after filming the “Make ‘Em Laugh” sequence, Debbie Reynolds’ feet bleeding after a 15-hour shoot), it becomes clear just how hard they strove toward perfection in crafting the film’s legendary sequences. And boy does it pay off. I was torn between recommending this or one of my darker favoritesbut Singin’ in the Rain is the kind of direct serotonin injection we all need right now!
Recommended by Emily Malmborg: Mamma Mia!
The jukebox musical featuring the music of iconic Swedish band ABBA debuted on Broadway in 1999. When the Broadway production closed in 2015, its 14-year run made it the ninth longest-running show in Broadway history. In 2008, the show was adapted into a film directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried in the lead roles. It was the fifth highest-grossing film in 2008 and attained such popularity that a sequel was released in 2018.
Emily: I honestly rarely watch movie musicals because I very much prefer the real thing, but Mamma Mia is one of my favorite shows I’ve ever worked on so I find the movie enjoyable. Additionally, ABBA is a Swedish band so that’s a fun connection and I like their music a lot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.