My Mother has always been into musicals. Mostly Andre Lloyd Webber's work, but not limited to his only. As such I grew up on this kinda thing (as well as my Dad's love for country and rock). Naturally, I fell in love with theatre and always felt a bit gutted that I never got the chance to go and see some of my favourite musicals. That is, until I moved to London and was in reach of London's world-renowned West End - Theatreland.
I know there's a "loser" stigma" that goes with a lot of musical-lovers but to be honest, I don't care, I'm going to share my experiences of those that stuck in my memory ;-)
Wicked - Victoria Apollo
Having been an avid Wizard of Oz fan as a child, I was naturally intrigued that there was going to be a musical based on the early lives of the two witches, Glinda the Good, and the wicked Witch of the West. Having not been a huge fan of the book by Gregory Maguire, I finally got to see the musical with an open mind - I am pleased to report that the musical is only VERY loosely based on the book. While maintaining its edginess, it also eliminates the whimsy that is an ongoing theme in the book.
Anyway, while the musical is enchanting, funny, touching and pure escapism it was the performance by Elphaba (the green witch) that led to a far more intoxicating love for the show. A one Miss Kerry Ellis (no longer performing as Elphaba sadly) is quite simply a tremendous performer, and her heart clearly leaps into every note she sings. I'll always remember the shows I saw her in very fondly. It's extraordinary when a performer captures an audience in this way.
The Phantom of the Opera - Her Majesty's Theatre
This was the big one for me. I first heard the original cast recording at a very young age, and was, like my mother, mesmerised. While I never really got into opera music (though later I would learn to love opera/metal) this musical-opera really did strike that balance. It's a beautiful story, really. I know, the lead is a borderline nutter with a penchant for casual violence and murder. But don't let that deter you.
While the first time I saw this musical will stay in my mind forever as a standalone memory, the second time was the one that seared through my body and pulled me into the music from start to finish. Partly, I think, because I had a much better view of the stage, partly because I was seeing it with my Mum - the originator of my love for the musical. But the performers had something that makes a show worth seeing. Chemistry. Ramin Karimloo as Phantom and Robyn North as Christine were perfect together. I mean perfect. When Christine faints into Phantom's arms towards the end of "Music of the Night" I actually almost gasped, right there, feeling every last tingle of Phantom's astonishment that the woman he loved was there, in his arms.
Still, there are some musicals that I haven't had the pleasure of seeing yet and would love to do so before I die:
My Fair Lady
Love Never Dies
Cats (highly unlikely, sadly)
Blood Brothers, Avenue Q