Do you hear the people sing…

I’ve spent most of today singing songs from musicals. I woke up singing the closing number from Hairspray, and as the morning went on, I covered Les Mis and Joseph. By the time I left work I was humming a tune from Chicago and somewhere along the way it turned into The Lion King.

I blame this on last night’s pub quiz, which featured a musicals round. This didn’t go down very well with most of the pub, but I was pretty happy.

Oh, right. I should probably mention – I love musicals.

Les Mis, London

I grew up going to the theatre because my mum’s always been a big fan too. And even now that you basically have to remortgage your house to afford a ticket in the West End, I still go as often as I can. The only ones I’ve deliberately avoided are Cats, because it was based on the poetry of T.S. Eliot, who I still haven’t forgiven for English A-level, and Starlight Express, because it was about trains, which are not really my thing. Oh and I won’t be going to see the X Factor musical either, because Harry Hill’s involved and although I’m not usually given to violence, he’s one person I could quite cheerfully punch in the face. Him and Andrew Castle. But I don’t think Andrew Castle has any plans to make a musical. At least I hope not?!

The first show I remember going to see is Joseph, starring Mr Silver Fox himself, Phillip Schofield. I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for Phil ever since the CBBC broom cupboard – showing my age here – when he read out a message that my parents had sent in for my fifth birthday. My sister’s never quite forgiven him for getting her name wrong, but I was over the moon. So when he took over as Joseph, my mum and dad took me to see the show. And I loved it. Of course back then I didn’t get all the references – like Pharaoh as Elvis, for instance – but I loved the songs and the dancing and, of course, all the colours. (I still remember all the colours of Joseph’s coat, by the way. In order.)

Twenty or so years later, Lord Lloyd Webber decided to bring back Joseph, and I was ridiculously excited. Even more so when the lovely Lee Mead won the starring role. Seeing the show as an adult was very different, obviously, but it also brought back brilliant memories of being nine years old and discovering ‘proper theatre’ for the first time.

And since then, there’s been no stopping me. From the cheesy (Mamma Mia, Fame) to the weepy (Blood Brothers, Miss Saigon) to the just downright amazing (Les Mis, The Lion King), I love them all. If you pressed me for a favourite, I’d struggle. Joseph will obviously always have a special place in my heart, but I’ve seen Les Mis more times than I can count (I think six…?) and The Lion King has the most incredible opening scene of any show I’ve been to. And let’s not forget Once, which is a recent arrival and is brilliant in its simplicity.

Once, London

I know musicals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and a lot of people wonder why it’s necessary to sing something that could be said a whole lot quicker. And they can be a bit on the camp side. Just look at Hairspray; Michael Ball in a dress, giggling his way through a romantic duet with another man, was quite a sight. But don’t try and tell me it wasn’t fun.

I think the appeal of musicals for me is the same reason I like a shot of Glee every now and then – the idea that whether you’re happy, or sad, or lonely, or desperate, or even drunk, there’s a song for the occasion. And you can get more involved when there’s music; I don’t know anyone who leaves a performance of Hamlet and starts reciting ‘To be or not to be’ (although I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere who does) but I bet we’ve all found ourselves humming a tune on our way out the theatre after a musical. Or in my case, belting out songs from Les Mis next morning in the shower.

The Lion King, LondonI do draw the line at jazz hands, though.


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