Ever seen a show and said “that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen”? If you’re as indecisive as me, you probably agree that there are far too many ridiculously amazing productions out there and every show is far too different for comparison. My criteria to separate the best began to include number of goose-bumps, millilitres of tears shed, amount of energy used to prevent singing along, and other extreme measures.
Therefore, I decided to settle on one factor worth measuring: how badly I wanted to be on stage in that show. The list became a top 5. Which became a Top 7. Which became a Top 12. Which got cut back to a Top 10- and here it is! So grab a coffee and join me on the journey.
Matilda’s top 10 Musicals
Sweeney Todd (Adelphi Theatre London)
I almost missed out on this show after not being able to collect a ticket I had purchased months before in Australia, but it all worked out and I took my solo seat in the balcony just before the lights went down. This production won the title of “Most Goosebumps” in the opening song alone. With the entire ensemble twisting around the railings of the incredible set and the sheer volume of the perfectly harmonised “Swing your razor high, Sweeney!” I knew I was in for a brilliant show. And I was right. Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball led a flawless cast in the most physicalized and heart- wrenching version of this Sondheim masterpiece imaginable.
Wicked (GFO Australia)
I Imagine most people reading this will have seen the Gordon Frost production of Wicked at some point during its years in Australia, and I doubt many of you will say you were less than mesmerised by this production in every way: the set, the music, the choreography, the direction, the script, and most of all the performances. It’s rare to see a story with so much heart brought to life so magically – pun intended. No matter how many times I’ve seen it (too many), I will never get over the moment Elphaba and Glinda become friends doing an awkward dance at the Ozdust during “Dancin’ Through Life” or the fade to black with a spot on Elphaba’s face as she belts over the last chord of “Defying Gravity”. Spellbinding.
[Title of Show] (Squabbalogic)
This show wins the “Most Obnoxious Laughing” award with some of the funniest performances I’ve ever seen. I had a little knowledge of the songs and concept, but Jay James- Moody and Blake Erickson went above and beyond the comedic script and great music to deliver some of the wittiest, slickest performances I have ever seen. The whole cast’s work was pure genius, and made me laugh until I cried a few times…so I guess this one wins “Most Tears Shed” as well!
Next to Normal (Off- Broadway)
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to not listen to the music or read about the plot before I saw this show. I had heard it was terrific and fairly unknown (that didn’t last for long!) and was super keen to see such an awesome cast. I can’t begin to explain the emotions this show put me through as an audience member – it was one of the best theatrical experiences of my life. Meanwhile, my dad completely missed the key line “He’s been dead 16 years” and watched a majority of the show confused as to why everyone was making a fuss over this woman who was clearly just a little concerned about her teenage son.
I was lucky enough to catch this show with Emma Stone as Sally Bowles and Alan Cumming as the Emcee, and boy did they live up to their names. The sheer charisma and commitment on that stage was electric, with Alan Cumming leading the cast in a fresh and exhilarating display of passion in a role he had played so many times. Emma Stone’s performance was some of the most phenomenal acting I’ve ever experience; the stakes in “Maybe This Time” raised beyond anything imaginable only to be crushed in the shows finale- it was stunning.
The Book of Mormon (Broadway)
My 21st birthday in New York was already pretty darn special, but topped off with a free Birthday Baileys and some of my besties seeing The Book of Mormon with me – now that was unbeatable. Having listened to the cast recording on many a run, I had high expectations and they were exceeded. There wasn’t a zone-out moment in the entire show, and the performances of the Broadway cast were just outstanding – especially in the “Turn it Off” tap number. I can’t wait to see some Aussie faces take on this incredible show next year!
Once (GFO Australia)
“Falling Slowly” was the only song I knew before I saw this show. It was just a hint of the beauty and magic the small cast achieved in this wonderful piece of theatre. Anyone who had the privilege of witnessing this show knows how impossible it is to explain the transcendence this production achieved as it transported you into its world – primarily due to the stunning music and truthful acting. And the onstage bar. And the simplistically beautiful staging. And all the actors being multi-talented musicians, that was pretty cool too.
Reefer Madness (WAAPA)
This was one of those never-heard-of-it-but-apparently-it’s-funny shows I got to see the year above me do at WAAPA. Then I went again. Then again. Then I watched the movie. This show was one of the slickest, most energetic and hilarious things I have ever seen, and the second years were absolutely phenomenal. Anyone who is reading this and hasn’t seen a production of Reefer, go and watch the movie. Featuring Alan Cumming, marijuana zombies, Jesus and an orgy, there’s something for everyone.
Little Shop of Horrors/ Heathers (Hayes Theatre Co.)
So I cheated on this one. I couldn’t decide which deserved to make the list more. I knew these shows back to front from years of road trip singing, and saw both later in their seasons. I had heard the hype surrounding both and boy was it deserved! Little Shop of Horrors did not waste a beat from start to finish, and featured a ridiculously amazing cast (someone give Brent Hill a Helpmann) that really found the heart and soul of this piece; never thought I’d shed a tear over an inflatable plant eating someone!
And Heathers. Don’t get me started. I literally cannot think of a single thing to change in the Hayes production of this show. Pure perfection.
Miss Saigon (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
Let’s be honest, this one was always going to make my list.
This is one of my favourite shows of all time, and after visiting Vietnam and seeing all the history right in front of me, I had a soft-spot for the tragic story based on the events of the war. The Sydney cast brought the powerful score to life and left the audience with goose-bumps and tears for a majority of the show. Was it worth the ordeal? Definitely.