Friends, I’m a theater geek. I could sugarcoat it and call myself an enthusiast or an aficionado, but that’s not accurate. I’m a total geek. We’ve taken our sons to see Mary Poppins and The Music Man on stage with pretty decent success, so whenever a new movie musical comes out I try like hell to get my boys into it. Imagine my thrill when they were SO in to Frozen. And then Frozen exploded. And we got the Blu-Ray. And then we got the soundtrack. And then we had the entire thing memorized. (Seriously, my 8-year-old can narrate the exact moment when the parents get sucked into the ocean.)
Now, since I’m in a confessional mood, I will admit that unlike most of you I am actually not sick of Frozen. (See the theater geek confession above for an explanation for this madness.) I worship at the altar of Idina Menzel and can’t get enough of listening to her voice. That said, I know you’re not all as strange as I am, so I thought I’d give you some recommendations of movie musicals to sway your kids’ attention away from Anna, Elsa and the Arendelle gang. Kids: it’s time to let it go.
The Sound of Music
I have to insist that we go old-school here and watch the Julie Andrews version first. You can introduce Carrie Underwood’s NBC experiment later, but only if you must. My kids actually loved this one, in part because of the WWII setting. (I have boys. Say what you want about nature vs. nurture…my husband and I didn’t allow toy guns in the house till one of his sisters bought them a Nerf armory a couple years ago, but these two were born with the talent of turning anything into a weapon. It’s impressive.) My favorite part – and the kids’ too – is the Lonely Goatherd. Who can resist marionettes?
Okay, one more Julie Andrews and then I promise I’ll move on. Mary Poppins is a fantastic choice, especially for littler kids. What’s great about Mary Poppins is that the songs are singable and memorable. There’s nothing complicated here, except Dick Van Dyke’s accent. An added plus is the bit with the animated penguins, especially for those kids who aren’t totally sold on live action movies yet.
The King and I
Yes, this is a bit of a deep dive, but just go with it. The King and I was one of my childhood favorites. Deborah Kerr’s costumes are stunning, the songs are pretty catchy, and the Siamese princes and princesses are adorable. This is a long movie and there are a few parts where it drags a bit, so keep the remote handy. If your theater-geeks-in-training get restless, fast forward to the next song. Note that this is rated G, but there are some adult themes here that might be tough to explain (slavery, arranged marriage, polygamy, ummm, yeah).
The Music Man
I first saw a stage production of The Music Man in junior high and I’ve loved it ever since. Seventy Six Trombones, the Pick-a-Little ladies and Shipoopi will have your kids humming long after the movie ends. The plot is way old-fashioned, which is just so refreshing. We took the boys to a local production this summer and my older son thought it was hilarious that the parents were afraid of their kids playing pool. Marion’s lisping little brother is completely endearing. I had braces up until about 2 weeks ago and now I’m in retainers so we’ve been quoting his lines in my retainer-lisping voice. I somehow missed this, but the movie was remade by Broadway royalty Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth in 2003. The two of them can do no wrong in my eyes, but the fact that I have never heard of this remake makes me very leery. Proceed with caution.
Into the Woods
Fairy tales galore. Princesses, witches, giants, spells, and a wolf. What more can your kids ask for? We have two options here too – you could dig up the filmed version of Bernadette Peters on Broadway (and you should) or you can wait till December to see Disney’s take on this classic. Rumor has it the film will be Disney-fied to take some of the more adult overtones down a few notches, so this may be a better option (but perhaps not, as Sondheim has backpedaled a bit). And I love Meryl Streep – I do – but I’m having a difficult time with imagining her as the witch. Because: Bernadette Peters. That said, there are some publicity photos out for the new movie and it looks absolutely stunning. Simply gorgeous. I’ll be in line on Christmas Day to see this one (nobody panic, I’m Jewish).
Also, Annie (old and new), Peter Pan (old and new), My Fair Lady, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (old but I can’t tolerate the new), the possibilities are endless. Gotta run…Inside the Actor’s Studio is on.