Many musicals have a reputation for being a little cheesy. Okay – a lot cheesy. You can’t escape the harmonbries. Intermozzorella. The melobries (I’m sorry – it’s not my fault that the only cheese-name that goes with musical terms happens to be ‘brie’. Perhaps musicals are just very brie-ey affairs).
However, sometimes you don’t WANT the cheese. Or you’ve already had too much cheese and are beginning to feel a little sick. It can be pretty toe-curling watching ridiculously made-up people smiling, dancing and screaming under fluorescent lights – indeed, adding proof to the pudding that there’s a thin line between cheesy and queasy (the only scenario ever in which the word “thin” can be associated with cheese. The fat-generating bastards).
I do not mean to be a killjoy – indeed, for the most part, I love musicals. But, sometimes, I have to be in a specific mood to watch a happy-clappy one without feeling even one iota of sickliness.
There is an option for the moody musical mares like myself. There are dark musicals. Musicals that match the shadowy crypt of your VERY SOUL ( a dramatic metaphor to befit this thespian-centric article).
Your attention, please.
- The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom, attempting to be seductive in his underground lair, and serving as a severe fire hazard
The Phantom of the Opera is pretty much wholly without cheese, in my opinion. Sure, it can be sloppy and romantic in places – but in a very dark, brooding and kind-of-murderous sort of way. This is not a sunshine-and-lollipops kind of affair. This is a cry-over-the-loveless-Phantom-and-be-inspired-never-to-buy-a-chandelier-lest-it-crush-and-kill-you kind of affair.
Yeah. You could argue that it’s a little sombre.
I find myself to be both resentful when movies take inspiration from books (like, create your own ideas already, film-guys) and loving it when it’s pulled off well – fortunately, The Phantom of the Opera ignites the latter response. I believe that this retelling of Gaston Leroux’s tale is done admirably, with exactly the right gloomy, humorous and gothic panache. It’s very absorbing, and very effective. And very Kleenex-inducing.
On that note – don’t watch it if you’re feeling sad. If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you. There’s a difference between badass and downright depressing musicals, and this one sort of tows the line between the two. It’s depr-ass-ing. Bad-essing. Let’s go with deprassing.
My favourite track from the musical – ironically, probably the happiest one.
- Thoroughly Modern Millie
A quirky cast to the max
I’ll tell you straight-up – this is a bit of a cheesy musical, but it is SO FORGIVABLE because it also contains a super sub-plot of Julie Andrew’s running around freeing orphaned women who have been sold into slavery by Asian gangs. It also contains a mad old woman who flies a plane and lives in a mansion and gets a lot of booty (the sex kind. Though she’s also rich AF). It ALSO contains people scaling buildings to spy on their office crushes and attacking bourgeois people with vinegar by accident.
It is, in short, amazing.
Probably right up there with my favourite musicals, I regard Thoroughly Modern Millie to be one of the most underrated films ever. At least, I’d never heard of it until I found it gathering dust on my parent’s DVD shelf. It’s not screamed about like The Sound of Music or Mamma Mia!, but the mind boggles as to why. After all, it’s important to aspire to free slaves whilst singing in tune. Who doesn’t want to be that heroine?
- Moulin Rouge
Just the Green Fairy, doing her thang
The Moulin Rouge is both a great and horrible musical. It’s confusing like that. Visually, you can’t deny that it’s “stupenda”. Dancing around within a giant elephant in the middle of France, framed within a beautiful colour palette of gold and scarlet, a consistently changing, mesmerising set unfolding before your eyes? Not to mention the scene in which Nicole Kidman comes swinging into a giant ballroom on a trapeze looking like a silver fairy? Or the ABSINTHE green fairy who appears once the guys are drunk, and sings a little ditty?
Also, Ewan McGregor is fit in this film. That’s a plus.
But it’s also tragic and awful and plays on my fears of tuberculosis which is why I basically never watch it (unless surrounded by friends and pillows and chocolate). I swear that the amounts of tears you cry watching this film could be purified and used as bottled water. It could save you some money, actually. As tragic as it is, the Moulin Rouge could also be economically beneficial to you.
- The musical episode in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Once More With Feeling
Obviously this is a good musical for moody people. It’s a musical episode within a cool, gothic-kind-of TV show with VAMPIRES in it – it’s built for emo bastards like you and I. Okay, so it’s only like, forty minutes long. You couldn’t make a movie night out of it. But it’s VERY GOOD. Listen to it when you’re brushing your teeth, or something.
Buffy is a little bit cheesy but it’s so cool and there are so many badass monsters in it that you can forgive. And the lyrics within this episode teaches very important messages, such as how to feel about bunnies.
“I’ve got a theory, it could be bunnies…”
- The Corpse Bride
A good grim animated musical for those of you with your grump on. Nothing beats stroking a sour mood like watching an animated corpse (I just realised the irony in this, as the film itself is an “animation” too. HA!) running around trying to pursue a hopeless love. Burton’s film also is imbued with many greys and browns, and takes place predominantly at night either within the creepy underworld itself, a darkened forest or a church. It’s the perfect combination of slightly-discordant singing and dark humour. You’re sure to adore the “solemnibrie” (sorry – I can’t help myself).
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Potential candidate for Miss Universe?
A CLASSIC. The most fun I ever had watching this movie was sitting in a theatre on Halloween, dressed up as a cat-slut-circus-freak (I don’t know what I was going for, really) watching this film with loads of other fanatics. People were throwing rice everywhere instead of confetti. There was screaming and dancing and general ugliness. It was enchanting.
Though I get sick of hearing the Time Warp sung over and over again at karaoke, I don’t get sick of this film. It’s too gothic (a reoccurring theme of this article) and cool. I heard somewhere that the guy who wrote it also wrote it whilst completely high in one night (didn’t Lewis Carroll do that for Alice in Wonderland, too? And didn’t J.R.R. Tolkein do that for one of his books? Is this just the way that it should be done)?!
Importantly, Tim Curry plays Dr Frank-N-Furter masterfully, and rocks it in fishnets. I would not be surprised if he continued to wear them in the comfort of his own home after production, just admiring himself in full-length mirrors. You definitely feel a bit sexually confused watching his legs in action.
But definitely sexual, all the same.
- Les Miserables
It’s RIGHT THERE in the title. THE MISERABLES. Or loosely translated as such.
A great feat of a film, as well as befitting for those of you who aren’t into smiley, peachy musicals. I was extraordinarily impressed with this production when it came out, particularly on discovering that all of the actors sung live into the cameras, as opposed to in a recorded studio. That takes guts. And it really adds to the film’s authenticity.
Hugh Jackman is particularly stunning as Jean val Jean, in my opinion. My only discrepancy is the fact that the kid who is buddies with everyone in the barricade has a cockney accent. His acting is adorable but KID, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG PLACE. Unless the film was simply trying to make ‘french-cockney’ a thing.
Alternatively, if you aren’t into musicals (in which case, why are you reading this article..?) but ARE into piss-taking, here is an excellent parody video from YTP, who edited the exchange between Javert and Jean val Jean at the beginning of the three-hour-long epic.. I wish I’d made it.
Alternatively, if you’re into looking at the film itself, here’s Hugh Jackman being a bossman:
ALSO! I deeply recommend that you see this live, if you can. I went with one of my good friend’s about two years ago and it was fantastically well done – they had a moving, circular stage that spun consistently, stage sets were built before your very eyes within seconds and the singing and acting was flawless. Indeed, great nights at the theatre hold a special place within my memories – you can’t beat them.
This is mainly dark and cool because it involves female prison fodder (dark) and Queen Latifah (cool). The score is also probably one of my favourites of all time – absolutely chockablock (with not even a hint of cheese) of classics, which emanate both that is jazzy and seductive. I could genuinely watch this over and over.
The first time I watched it (when I was about 12) it freaked me out because it was so dark. Now, my 12 year old self encourages you to watch it wholeheartedly. It kicks ass.
I am sure that although this is the end of my list, there are many, MANY others. I know I’ve probably missed out loads – but these are the ones that spring to mind when I think of pairing-up melodies with a case of the grumpies. However on Googling musicals to inspire myself, I came across some titles I’d never before heard of (or titles which I had but hadn’t had the time to watch), such as:
– Little Shop of Horrors
– Confessions of a Thug
– Voyage of the Rock Aliens
I couldn’t write upon them extensively as I’ve never seen any of them before, but if their namesakes are anything to go by – they’re not your traditional cheesy-teethed choir. So perhaps are worth a look-over.
So go and get a moody stout and your butt on a couch – I can vouch for those that I have written about in detail, at least, as being rocking musicals from the get-go. You’ll be so hapbrie.
I’ll stop now.