Musicals have been a great way to lift spirits during lockdown, so one writer has rounded up the best musicals available to stream in the UK. And, just in case you’re not sure which one to watch, she’s ranked them for you.
I bloody love a musical. In a parallel universe where I can sing, dance and act, I am on the West End stage belting out As Long As He Needs Me to a packed audience who are throwing flowers at my feet. Alas, in the real world, my talents lie elsewhere. But that doesn’t stop me from singing The Sound of Music soundtrack from start to end while cleaning my flat. In fact, I’ve found great comfort in listening to musical soundtracks at home during lockdown – each one taking me on an emotional journey that feels familiar, comforting and reassuring. I know a lot of my friends have been turning to their favourite musicals a lot during this period, too.
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With this in mind, I rounded up all the musicals that are available to stream in the UK as part of Netflix, NOW TV, Disney+ and Amazon Prime subscriptions – and ranked them. Disney animations have been left out, because they are obviously in a league all of their own.
Warning: this ranking is completely subjective, and you will no-doubt disagree with every choice. To give you an idea of what I’m into, my top three musicals are Moulin Rouge!, Les Miserables and Billy Elliot. Unfortunately, none of them are available as part of these packages, but the following 22 are…
This story sees struggling musician Jack Malik wake up in a world where he is the only person who remembers The Beatles and becomes famous by taking credit for their songs. Can a musical that uses a score of some of pop’s greatest songs really rank bottom of this list? The only reason I watched it at the start of lockdown was because my concentration level was at zero and you really do not need to pay attention to follow it. Also, the Ed Sheeran cameo is a bit much. But maybe it’s because I can’t forgive them for cutting this scene with the best Beatles song in it (Something, obvs).
Top tune: I’m gonna say Jack’s only original song, Summer Song, because it needs some love.
Watch Yesterday on NOW TV.
Cher and Christina Aguilera? This musical should have been iconic, but it just didn’t quite hit the right note. Ali (Aguilera) leaves her job as a waitress to pursue a career on stage. After failing the audition, she wanders into a club. Cue: a meeting with struggling club owner Tess (Cher). After a long struggle, Ali not only becomes a lead dancer, but also a singer. It’s fun… but forgettable.
Top Tune: Show Me How You Burlesque (because it’s the only one I remember).
Watch Burlesque on Netflix.
Oh what a circus, oh what a show! Evita is Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s telling of the story of Eva Peron, the Argentinian actor who escaped poverty to eventually become the wife of president Juan Domingo Perón and the most beloved/hated woman in Argentina. While I love a bit of Madonna, it was a bit weird she did this role, right?
Top tune: Oh come on, how can it not be Don’t Cry For Me Argentina?
Watch Evita on NOW TV.
Taron Egerton is undoubtedly brilliant as Elton John, and there are plenty of tunes in Rocketman. Jamie Bell was perfectly cast as songwriter Bernie Taupin, as was Richard Madden who plays nasty John Reid. Elton’s life was WILD but, ultimately, I’m just not that much of a fan. Sorry!
Top Tune: Madden and Egerton singing Honky Cat is my favourite scene.
Watch Rocketman on NOW TV.
18. West Side Story
Full disclosure: I watched West Side Story one time during a dance lesson at school and found it a bit “meh”. Yes. I realise I’ve just insulted one of the biggest films of all time and I have no right to be ranking musicals – but here I am. Inspired by Romeo & Juliet, it follows the forbidden love story between Maria and Tony amidst the ongoing clash between the Sharks and the Jets gangs.
Top Tune: Mariaaaaa and Somewhere (I do remember crying at that one *sob*).
Watch West Side Story on Netflix.
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You have a heart of stone if you don’t love a bit of Annie. It’s feel-good, nostalgic and so, so sweet. Annie (Aileen Quinn) is an orphan in a facility run by the mean Miss Hannigan. When a rich man named Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks (Albert Finney) decides to let an orphan live at his home to promote his image, Annie is selected. She still longs to meet her real parents, so Warbucks announces a search for them with a reward, which brings out many frauds. Both versions of the film are available on Netflix but we all know you should stick the 1982 original.
Top tunes: Tomorrow and It’s A Hard Knock Life feel very apt right now.
Watch Annie on Netflix.
16. Beauty & The Beast
OK, I know this might be slightly bending the “no Disney animations” rule but I’ll allow live-action adaptations. Beauty & The Beast is one of my favourites and I was very against a remake at first. Sure, Emma Watson won’t be duetting with Julie Andrews anytime soon, but it’s still a delightful retelling. The story of course follows Belle, a village girl, who embarks on a journey to save her father from a beast that has locked him in his castle’s dungeon. Eventually, she learns that the beast is an enchanted prince who has been cursed.
Top Tune: Listen to Belle on your daily walk and you’ll find yourself smiling at EVERYBODY you pass.
Watch Beauty & The Beast on Disney+.
15. Begin Again
Ranking this ahead of Annie and West Side Story might cause some outrage. But this film did not get the love it deserves in my not-so-expert opinion. It’s got Adam Levine of Maroon 5 fame in it for goodness sake. Gretta (Keira Knightley) is a budding songwriter who finds herself alone after her musician boyfriend Dave (Levine) cheats on her. She starts to find confidence and purpose when Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a record label executive, notices her talent. The guitar-led songs are sweet, modern and particularly poignant for anyone going through a breakup.
Top tune: Like A Fool is the perfect revenge song.
Watch Begin Again on Netflix.
14. Muppets Christmas Carol
The only reason this doesn’t rank higher is because everybody is probably over Christmas at this point. But we all know that Muppets Christmas Carol is one of the best family films of all time. If you can accept the idea of watching the retelling of the Charles Dickens Christmas classic in these early months of the year, there is a lot we can take from it right now. It’s a story about hope and love and family and friendship – exactly what we need.
Top tune: With A Thankful Heart had me in tears the other day.
Watch Muppets Christmas Carol on Disney+.
Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson belting out power bangers? We are not worthy. After Curtis (Jamie Foxx) recognises the singing talent of three women – The Dreamettes – at a show, he helps them attain stardom. But as their fame rises, everything else in their personal lives starts to decline. It’s big, glamorous, heartbreaking and powerful. And those vocals!
Top tune: Well it has to be Listen, right?
Watch Dreamgirls on Netflix.
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12. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (the original with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, of course) will transport you back to your childhood. Roald Dahl’s world of everlasting gobstoppers, chickens that lay chocolate eggs and chewing gum that tastes like a three-course meal is one I still dream about waking up in. And the songs are simply lovely.
Top tune: Get lost in chocolatey nostalgia with Pure Imagination.
Watch Charlie And The Chocolate Factory on Netflix.
11. Mamma Mia & Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
If there’s one thing that’s going to get you through lockdown, it’s singing ABBA’s greatest hits at the top of your voice. Trust me on that. Sure, we can’t go anywhere, but we can bring the bright colours of Greece to our living rooms with Mamma Mia. It’s a pretty weak and bizarre storyline line (Cher arriving to the island on a helicopter?!). And yet, it all just works SO WELL.
Top tune: It’s absolutely impossible to choose. I refuse.
Watch Mamma Mia on NOW TV.
10. The Prom
A newcomer to the musical world, Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of The Prom came to the rescue last Christmas. With Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman heading the cast, it was always going to be well worth the watch (let’s not get into James Cordon’s slightly questionable performance). It follows the story of four fading stage stars looking for a cause to support to help revive their careers. They come across a girl called Emma who is standing up for LGBTQ+ rights in her school and decide to help with her mission. It’s lots of fun, has a very strong and much-needed message and is full of new tunes for fans to learn.
Top tune: We Look To You will make you yearn (read: cry) for the shows we can’t see on stage in lockdown.
Watch The Prom on Netflix.
9. Funny Girl
Barbra Streisand casually earned her icon status by winning an Oscar for Funny Girl – and bloody rightly so. She plays 1930s comedian Fannie Brice, who journeys from her early days in the Jewish slums of New York to the height of her career with the Ziegfeld Follies. Her performance is snappy, charming, heartbreaking and… well, funny.
Top tune: Don’t Rain On My Parade brightens up any bad day.
Watch Funny Girl on Netflix.
8. Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins is the ultimate ode to London. It reminds me about the wonderful city that I miss moving around in so, so much. I cannot wait to be outside Underneath The Lovely London Sky again. Julie Andrews is obviously iconic in the original, and Emily Blunt takes a fantastic turn in the sequel. I always cry throughout both films – pandemic or not – thinking about my family and my childhood and everything that’s good in the world. THEY ARE SIMPLY WONDERFUL.
Top tune: Argh. I’ll go with Let’s Go Fly A Kite because even just thinking about the simple joy of the lyrics is bringing a tear to my eye.
Watch Mary Poppins on Disney+.
7. A Star Is Born
In need of a good cry? I hear ya. Maybe it’s time to grab your box of tissues and watch A Star Is Born. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper star in the latest remake of the classic story, and the chemistry is gripping. Gaga plays struggling artist Ally, who meets and falls in love with troubled but successful musician Jackson (Cooper). He helps Ally follow her dreams, while he battles with alcoholism and his personal demons. You will sob your eyes out, not matter how many times you’ve already watched it. Gaga is just TOO GOOD.
Top tune: We all know it’s Shallow.
Watch A Star Is Born on Amazon Prime.
OK, we all know and accept that Grease wouldn’t be made today: a girl absolutely does not need to get a perm, take up smoking and squeeze into leggings that were literally made for a Barbie doll to impress a guy. That said, we all grew up with this film and danced to the songs at every school party. Also, Rizzo and Frenchie are total Pink Lady legends.
Top tune: Can we choose the ever-popular Grease Mega-Mix?
Watch Grease on NOW TV.
5. Jesus Christ Superstar
“What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening…” Jesus Christ Superstar is the 70s rock opera with serious hippy vibes written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Ted Neeley stars as Jesus and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene – and their performances are unreal. The musical is sung-through, with no spoken dialogue, and I am a little bit obsessed with it. It’s groovy and great. It’s also my mum’s favourite musical and we went to see the stage production for her birthday, which explains why it’s very close to my heart right now *sob*.
Top tune: Sure, I’ll admit to learning Could We Start Again Please on guitar during lockdown.
Watch Jesus Christ Superstar on Amazon Prime.
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You can’t stop the beaaat! From start to end, Hairspray makes you want to get up, dance and sing. It tells the tale of teenager Tracy Turnblad, who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show. Along the way, she becomes a part of the fight for racial integration in 1962 Baltimore. The supporting cast – Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeifer – is excellent. From Good Morning Baltimore to Without Love and I Know Where I’ve been, the soundtrack is full of belters.
Top tune: You Can’t Stop The Beat gets everybody on their feet.
You can watch Hairspray on Amazon Prime.
3. La La Land
I’m sure you probably saw this one coming a mile off. La La Land is just a perfect musical. It makes me want to put on a yellow dress, tap dance, write a one woman show, watch Rebel Without a Cause, eat chicken on a stick, meet a very sexy musician lover and follow my dreams. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are wonderful. And the ending breaks me every damn time.
Top tune: Stick on Another Day of Sun, open your curtains, dance around the house and feel GREAT.
Watch La La Land on Netflix.
2. The Sound Of Music
Ah, the ultimate family musical about a nun who just can’t singing in the hills (I hear ya, sister). Maria – played by Julie Andrews because she is the Queen of musicals – is sent to look after Captain Von Trappe’s seven children with her trusty guitar. What ensues is hours of singing and honestly it’s just pure delight.
Top Tune: I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t cry at the captain’s acoustic rendition of Edelweiss.
Watch The Sound Of Music on Disney+.
I’ll come clean: I left Hamilton feeling slightly disappointed (and, admittedly, silly) after seeing it in London earlier this year: I just didn’t fully understand what was going on in the rap-heavy, genius work-of-160-minute-long-art about American founding father Alexander Hamilton.
However, after some Wikipedia searches, conversations with fans and really listening to the lyrics while plugging into the soundtrack on runs, I properly fell in love with the musical masterpiece while watching the original production, starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, on Disney+.
Angelica toasting “to the groom! To the bride!”; Eliza burning the letters built with “palaces out of paragraphs”; King George spitting out “you’ll be back” – it is 100% worth doing the groundwork to fully enjoy this Pulitzer Prize-winning stage production.
Top tune: Any of the Schyuler sisters’ songs (Helpless, Satisfied, Burn)
Watch Hamilton on Disney+.
Images: Lionsgate, Dreamworks, Disney, NOW TV
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