It is no secret that I am, and have always been, a massive fan of musical theatre. For as long as I can remember, I have immensely enjoyed prancing around my living room listening to all the greatest hits.
I grew up with my mum playing her Barbra Streisand records at full volume, I have fond memories of tap dancing with my mum and my little brother in the kitchen, and, to my dad’s dismay, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without an afternoon spent watching The Sound of Music. The highlight of my short-lived performing career was playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the age of ten. I still have the size three red glittery shoes in a box at home. I’ll never be able to wear them again, but just can’t bring myself to get rid of them.
Going to the theatre was, and still is, such a treat. Every birthday I would squeal with delight when my parents said we were going to see a show, and even now I get a silly grin on my face like the look on a dog when you tell them it’s time to go for a walk. From Cats, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Starlight Express, to Mamma Mia, Guys & Dolls, Chicago, Into The Woods and Billy Elliot. And of course my all-time favourite, which I think I have seen at least seven times, Les Miserables. All brought their own unique sense of fun and joy, enabling me to leave the theatre with a spring in my step and a smile on my face (even though in the case of Les Miserables I was reduced to tears for the duration of the show!)
I know that what puts a lot of people off musicals is the fact they can’t understand why people can just randomly break into song. But that’s half the joy – why say it when you can sing it?! Musicals aren’t meant to be like real-life, just like the classic Disney fairy tales. The stories are fantastical, whimsical, with far-fetched ideas of love and, mostly, they have happy endings.
Sweeney Todd was in my opinion the hit musical of 2013 and I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am that there are so many new musicals coming into London’s West End this year, with many more being planned for 2014. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Once, Wind in the Willows and The Book of Mormon. And let’s not forget A Chorus Line, currently causing a singular sensation over at the Palladium. What better way to spend an afternoon or evening than at the theatre?
I’m not going to pretend it’s all been good. I saw a shocking performance of Rent once, and I can take or leave some of the oldie classics like South Pacific and Oklahoma. But give me the Wicked, Lion King or Legally Blonde soundtracks and I’m higher than a kite. I ran a half marathon last year and although the majority of the music on my ipod was pumped up dance music, I crossed the finish line listening to the reprise of ‘Omigod You Guys’. It made me feel great (well, that and not having to run any further). If ever I’m feeling down, ‘Oh Happy Day’ or ‘Joyful, Joyful’ from the second Sister Act film are guaranteed to do the trick. My song of choice at the moment though has to be ‘Tomorrow Is A Latter Day’ from The Book of Mormon. Those spine-tingling close harmonies, memorable tunes and gospel moments (to which I often find myself singing and clapping along) are sheer brilliance.
I know, I know, you’re all judging me right now. But if you’re anti-musicals, I implore you to give them one last try. They’re not trying to be Shakespeare so why treat them the same way? Oh, and one more thing - go to a big open field with no one else around and sing ‘The Hills Are Alive' at the top of your lungs whilst spinning around. You’ll look silly and probably won’t sound a bit like Julie Andrews, but I guarantee it will make you feel on top of the world.