We really enjoy finding out what creative personalities are drawn to, their favorite lists of things and inspirations. Just this week, Lin-Manuel Miranda revealed a list of his five favorite musicals, as well as some pretty great stories as to why.
In an interview with The New York Times, in no particular order, the “In The Heights” and “Hamilton” creator spoke about what musicals mean to him, and why he loves them:
“There are some people who say, ‘I don’t really like musicals’. That means that music is very divorced from their life experience and they’re not willing to let music bleed into everyday speech or an everyday moment. Growing up in a Latino household, it’s the most natural thing in the world for music to bubble over into conversation.”
Singin’ In The Rain is on the list, Miranda sites his father’s love of Debbie Reynolds:
“Considering my dad’s love for Debbie Reynolds, it’s strange that ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ didn’t play more in my house, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I was older. It is a perfect movie. Every number in it is kind of glorious. What I love about both these movies is I don’t think you could make them today because we don’t make stars like that anymore. The long takes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire respectively. Donald O’Connor in the number ‘Make ’Em Laugh.’ I can watch that scene a million times and it shouldn’t still make me laugh, but it does. Lots of times you watch in wonder that it even exists.”
Another classic, 1953’s The Band Wagon:
“I joke to people, the last scene is how I would like the last scene of my life to go. It’s Fred Astaire, he’s worked on this musical out of town and he thinks they’ve got a big hit, but nobody is celebrating, and so he sings in a little funk, ‘I guess I’ll have to find my way’ and then he goes into the room and everyone he loves is in one room and they all sing ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ and Cyd Charisse says on top of making this musical with you, I love you. And then his best friends show up and then they all sing ‘That’s Entertainment.’ I mean, what a way to go. It’s [Michael Jackson‘s Smooth Criminal video] entirely taken from the sequence at the end of that film. the suit, the dance, you see what an influence Fred Astaire was on one of our biggest heroes growing up.”
2002’s Chicago gets a slot, too:
“What I always say about Rob Marshall is he should have been born in the MGM era, and I think he’d be the first to admit that too. He’s kind of the closest director we have in terms of taking today’s stars and crafting incredible musicals with them.
[“Cell Block Tango”] is about as thrilling a piece of musical theater moviemaking as exists. It could sit alongside any of those old movies from that era, and yet what amazes me about it is the way he frames the story and that we very firmly go into people’s heads and we have license to do whatever we want once we’re in there. And it’s so clear. In a lot of bad movie musicals, the editing is such that you can’t even tell who is dancing or what’s going on, and Rob uses editing to do the opposite, he uses editing to illuminate the gifts of the people onscreen and it’s really awesome.”
Unsurprisingly, the animated classic The Little Mermaid is on the list. Miranda is working on the new live-action version for Disney alongside original film composer Alan Menkin:
“My own contributions to the musicals in the VHS player at home really begin with The Little Mermaid. I don’t know why I loved it so much, but it really grabbed ahold of me. I was obsessed with it. I was in about fourth grade when it came out and I remember seeing it on a play date with a friend and I remember going home and making my sister take me and then my parents again. I remember the day it came out on VHS leaving early from school so I could get it from the store and not have to wait until the end of the school day.”
It’s a combination of things [that make the film influential]: The moment ‘Under the Sea’ began, I was transported. I remember feeling weightless. I remember thinking, ‘You can do a musical number under the freaking ocean,’ that was revelatory and it’s a calypso number, the fact that it felt contemporary, was huge. Steel drums and Caribbean-sounding music, it rocked my world. ‘Kiss the Girl’ when you’re 9 is the most romantic thing in your life. I was kind of the perfect age for that Disney golden-era renaissance of the animated movie musical in the ’80s and ’90s.”
And, the one we weren’t expecting, Jim Henson‘s Labyrinth staring David Bowie:
“I don’t think people would think of that as a movie musical, but it is totally a David Bowie movie musical. Unless you saw it as a child, you’re like, what is going on here? Who greenlit this very strange movie? And while it’s a kids’ movie, there’s really dark scary stuff and David Bowie is wearing super-tight pants, but it was a huge movie for me growing up.
My sister was obsessed with it. She would say, ‘And I’m not going to go to the Labyrinth to get you. I will just be very happy with David Bowie, my goblin king husband.’ It was a very real threat. But also those songs are great.
I paid homage to it when I wrote the songs for ‘Moana.’ Tamatoa the crab is a love letter to a David Bowie song, because for my generation, our first experience with David Bowie was as a movie musical villain. I’m sure ‘Labyrinth’ doesn’t makes anyone else’s Top 10 musicals, but it wields a strange power in my life and in our house growing up.”