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Musicals to make a song and dance about
▶ If the release of ‘Hamilton’ has whet your appetite for the genre, Emma Day has more suggestions to add to your streaming watch list
It was frequently sold out on Broadway, but now Hamilton fans have the chance to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical at home, after the production hit Disney+ and OSN last week.
The Tony Award-winning musical, which tells the story of US founding father Alexander Hamilton, fuses classic show tunes with a hip-hop sensibility, with critics branding it the most modern iteration of its genre to date.
However, it’s not the only musical you can currently stream in the UAE.
From biopics to Disney classics and cinematic adaptations with some stellar soundtracks, these shows will have you singing in the shower for weeks to come.
La La Land 2016 Netflix
It didn’t quite nab Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, though it was announced the winner in an infamous faux pas, but this Damien Chazelle-directed romance still wins the title of the 21st century’s best-executed musical. Borrowing heavily from the common motifs of the genre’s golden age, but keeping the plot in a thoroughly modern world, La La Land is both fizzing with energy and quietly nuanced at times.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling respectively play an aspiring actress and a jazz musician, who meet as they’re down on their luck, and find their burgeoning relationship tested as they taste success.
There’s dancing, there’s jazz, there’s singing in the street, but it also still feels, at its heart, like a romantic drama rather than an over the top spectacle.
Rocketman 2019 OSN
This critically acclaimed music biopic charts the life of British singer-songwriter Elton John, from his humble beginnings as Reginald Dwight through to stratospheric chart success, as well as the highs and lows of the artist’s well-documented battle with addiction.
As is typical in most biopics based on a performer, John’s music is ever-present, but in
Rocketman, it’s given the full Hollywood treatment, turning some of the Tiny Dancer star’s best-loved songs into mini music videos.
As well as the energising soundtrack, high-octane costumes and innovative cinematography, this is worth seeing for Taron Egerton’s note-perfect portrayal of Oscar and Grammy-winner John.
Enchanted 2007 Starzplay
Fed up with typical fairy tale tropes? This live-action musical turns a lot of them on their head to highlight just how silly they are. After all, what kind of woman agrees to marry a prince after first meeting them that very same day?
That’s the scenario that Amy Adams’s Giselle finds herself in, before being cast out of the fantasy land of Andalusia by her wicked stepmother (Susan Sarandon) and into ... modern-day New York City. As she tries to find her way back to happily ever after, this self-deprecating parody shines a light on Disney archetypes, with a smattering of knowing lines to keep adults chuckling.
It’s also got a seriously catchy soundtrack – it’ll take days for you to get That’s How You Know out of your head.
Funny Girl 1968 Netflix
There is a dearth of classic musicals on UAE streaming platforms at the moment, but this Barbra Streisand-starring romance helps fill the gap.
In her Academy Award-winning debut, Streisand plays Fanny Brice, a real-life Broadway star and comedienne.
Funny Girl charts Brice’s romance with Nicky (Omar Sharif), a businessman who woos the young ingenue but later ends up in jail after being convicted of embezzlement.
Streisand is utterly charming as the witty Ziegfeld heroine, after first playing the role in the Broadway version. Her rendition of Don’t Rain on my
Parade, still a favourite for musicals’ finest talents to cover, remains fresh more than 40 years on.
Frozen 2013 OSN
Parents may have long been sick of Let It Go, but if you haven’t seen this modern Disney classic yet, it’s more than worth a watch.
In a tale that’s captured the imaginations of children around the world, Princess Elsa, heir to the kingdom of Arendelle, flees her home town after losing control of her icy magical powers and leaving her citizens living in a permanent winter.
Her fearless sister, Anna, embarks on an adventure to bring Elsa home, meeting several loveable characters along the way. The sweet tale, which is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow
Queen, is accompanied by a soundtrack that has more hits than just the Idina Menzel belter.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit 1993 OSN
You don’t necessarily need to have seen the original Sister
Act to enjoy this follow-up musical comedy. Whoopi Goldberg reprises her role as club singer Delores van Cartier, who was forced to moonlight as nun Mary Clarence in the first film in order to hide from the mob.
In the sequel, van Cartier returns to help the convent after its school faces closure due to its bad reputation. Taking up the post of music teacher, Delores is charged with bringing a rowdy bunch of teens – including a young Lauryn Hill – to heel, a job she undertakes by turning them into a choir.
Fusing gospel and hip-hop, the soulful soundtrack shines thanks to Hill’s stirring vocals, while the film itself also provides a visual ode to 1990s fashion.
Les Miserables 2012 Amazon Prime
While some musical aficionados believe this Hollywood remake of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s masterpiece has nothing on the stage version, there’s no denying it did help introduce a lot more people to the tale of Jean Valjean.
This ensemble piece, set in 19th-century France, follows the paroled convict turned mayor, on the run from the vengeful policeman Javert. Weaving in the stories of the wretched Fantine, lovesick Eponine, torn Marius and plotting Monsieur Thenardier, among others, Tom Hopper’s cinematic adaptation is more of a drama set to music, rather than pure musical, with closeups allowing actors, including Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, to really emote the soundtrack’s poignant lyrics.
The performances might not be on the same level as the Broadway and West End versions – we’re mostly talking to you, Russell Crowe – but it’s still a worthy remake of a gripping tale.
The Little Mermaid 1989 Starzplay
Starzplay has most of Disney’s canon available for streaming, but this is surely one of the studio’s best-loved musical offerings.
The story, which follows Ariel, a mermaid who trades her voice for human legs so she can romance Prince Eric, is chock-full of earworms, including Part of Your World, Under the Sea and Poor Unfortunate Souls.
It’s since been turned into a stage musical, cementing just how celebrated the score is by fans.
Beauty and the Beast 1991 Starzplay
Speaking of Disney’s finest, this one is also up there, thanks to tunes such as Tale as Old as Time, Be Our Guest and Gaston.
The animated favourite follows the plight of Belle, a young French woman who becomes imprisoned by a cursed prince who takes the form of a frightening creature. Cue a household inhabited by all-singing, all-dancing furniture and accessories, and a budding romance, and you’ve got a film more upbeat than its premise would have you believe.
There is also a 2017 live-action version that stars Emma Watson, but sometimes you just can’t beat the original.
Yesterday 2019 OSN
This Richard Curtis-penned film is based on one rather intriguing premise: what if you were the only person who remembered the Beatles?
That’s the situation Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, finds himself in, after the British four-piece is wiped from the world’s memory after a mysterious global blackout. The struggling singer-songwriter performs some of the 1960s group’s most famous numbers, and finds himself rocketed to stardom – but facing a moral dilemma of whether to own up to the truth.
It’s a fun concept, with Patel proving his chops as a leading man, as well as carrying off McCartney and co’s hits with panache.
Pitch Perfect 2012 Netflix
Ah, the film that introduced audiences to the concept of the “riff-off”.
This university-based tale follows a wannabe DJ (Anna Kendrick) who is cajoled into joining the Barden Bellas, an a cappella group who have fallen from grace due to a lessthan-perfect performance at a singing competition.
Pitch Perfect charts the reformed and revamped group’s battle to win back their good reputation with contest glory, pulling in the laughs thanks to a cast that includes Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow and Adam DeVine.
While mostly made up of covers of pop tracks, the ensemble breathe new life into the soundtrack with their a cappella arrangements.
Prepare to get chills that multiply with this ’70s smash hit, led by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Set in an American high school, the action kicks off when Australian student Sandy unknowingly transfers to the same school as Danny Zuko, her summer romance. While the pair had believed they wouldn’t meet again, aloof Danny seems less than impressed to be reunited, setting the duo on track for a stormy journey.
The actors might have all been about a decade too old to portray high schoolers, but the songs haven’t dated at all in their appeal, from Summer
Nights to Hopelessly Devoted to You.
Fusing gospel and hiphop, the soundtrack of ‘Sister Act 2’ shines thanks to Lauryn Hill’s stirring vocals