From West Side Story to Sweeney Todd, here are nine of my favourite musical minutes. Theres one space left for a classic please select you
All great musicals require a few moments of ecstasy that defines them. It may not be the best carol in a show it is simply the degree when story, music and dance coalesce to achieve a spine-tingling transcendence. Here are nine key instances from the last 70 years, listed in reverse chronological order, in the hope that readers can supply the missing 10 th.
Pick Out a Simple Tune, from Half a Sixpence( 2016)
It may seem odd to start with a number that wasnt even in the original 1963 prove. It was producer Cameron Mackintosh who suggested that the new version needed a number comparable to Oh Look At Me, Im Dancing! from his beloved Salad Days. So George Stiles and Anthony Drewe( composer and lyricist) and Andrew Wright( choreographer) came up with a carol in which the hero plucks at his banjo and has a group of toffs playing the spoonfuls and swinging from the chandeliers. The ensue spreads delirium from the stage into the auditorium.
Ill Build a Stairway to Paradise, from An American in Paris( 2014)
George Gershwin wrote this song in 1922 and it was incorporated into the 1951 MGM musical. But it is the way it is staged in the current production, which has moved from Paris to London via Broadway, that stimulates it a showstopper. Craig Lucas( writer) and Christopher Wheeldon( administrator and choreographer) have had the brilliant notion of recommending it is the spiralling fiction of a wannabe nightclub singer. Bob Crowley, as designer, generates an unforgettable image of stairs, starlit skies and artwork deco arches that tops off a fusion of flair that sends the audience into seventh heaven.
The Best of Times, from La Cage aux Folles( 1983)
Jerry Herman is a supreme Broadway pro who knows just how to place a number. Late in this prove Zaza, a flamboyant transvestite, induces a whole eatery to sing along to this rouse carol that tells us: To live and desire as hard as you know how/ And make this moment last. Mark Steyn has recorded how he once heard it defiantly rendered in a Greenwich Village bar at the height of the Aids crisis. But its carpe diem message lives on, and it is astonishing to realise staid British audiences joining in its refrain in Bill Kenwrights current touring revival.
A Little Priest, from Sweeney Todd( 1979)
You might not expect a number celebrating slaying and the intake of human flesh to induce musical ecstasy. Stephen Sondheim, however, pulls off that feat in a carol set to three-four waltz period, in which Sweeney and Mrs Lovett list the professions that will provide meat for pies. Sondheim has written of the trickiness of finding suitable triple verses but the carol runs perfectly since we are sway to the tune while savouring the lyrics. Who can forget the image of some shepherds tarts peppered with actual shepherd on top?
Hello, Dolly, from Hello, Dolly!( 1964)
Another Jerry Herman showstopper and a classic example of a number that logically stimulates no appreciation, but that theatrically always runs. Hal Prince refused to aim the prove unless the title number was fallen: he pointed out that Dolly Levi, a scrounging matchmaker with no fund, would never go to a place as fancy as the Harmonia Gardens. Yet, over the years, countless figures from Carol Channing and Mary Martin to Dora Bryan and Danny La Rue have come swanning down that big staircase to offer theatregoers with a memorable take-home moment.
America, from West Side Story( 1957)
This is the real deal: a perfect number in which Sondheims lyrics, Leonard Bernsteins score and Jerome Robbinss choreography exhilaratingly blend with the skirt-shaking elan of the dancers. Bernstein said he was fired up by a dance rhythm he heard in Puerto Rico called huapango . This becomes the excuse for a verbal combat between two women. I like the towns of San Juan, sings Rosalia. I know a craft you can get on, retorts Anita. A routine that stimulates you giddy with delight.
The Rain in Spain, from My Fair Lady( 1956)
The story goes that composer Frederick Loewe and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner were debating how to create a carol from Elizas elocution lesson. Lerner suggested The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain and, within 10 minutes, Loewe had became it into a tango. Polite decorum suddenly devotes route to madcap excitement as Higgins and Pickering start playing matador and bull, while Elizas cockney vowels are replaced by cut-glass enunciation. Its the pivotal moment of the show.
Conga, from Wonderful Town( 1953)
Ruth, a writer in 1930 s Greenwich Village, is sent to interview a group of young Brazilians only off the craft. Unfortunately, they have only three words of English, one of which is conga, so Ruth is forced to lead them on a merry dance through the streets of Manhattan. Again, this shows Leonard Bernsteins embrace of Latin American rhythm and crops extraordinary performances. When Simon Rattle conducted the piece at the Proms in 1999, he had casting and audience snaking their route through the Albert Hall. I also heard Mark Elder conduct the Halle in a revival at the Lowry, Salford, in 2012 that had spectators hopping out of their seats.
Sit Down, Youre Rockin the Boat, from Guys and Dolls( 1950)
I know this induces ecstasy because Ive actually danced it at the London Palladium. As part of a concerted effort to celebrate the Daily Mails Jack Tinker, the London theatre critics formed the chorus of sinners in a restaging of the number from Richard Eyres fantastic National Theatre production. But you dont have to dance it to enjoy it: simply to realise and hear a group of Times Square crap-shooters joyously singing Frank Loessers revivalist number is be taken out of yourself and ushered into another world.