Musical movies are sometimes the closest for most viewers to see a production on stage. So, it makes sense that the filmmakers would want to try and recreate the feeling of a live production through every song and dance in the film, and this is most clearly seen in the company / ensemble numbers.
Large numbers of companies can often outperform romantic solos and duets because there is more cast involvement and more going on. There isn’t too much flair when it comes to musicals on stage, on screen, or both. And some of the best pitfalls in the world need everyone’s voices to make them great.
ten Willkommen (Cabaret)
What better way to start than with a Willkommen, Welcome, welcome from the cast of Cabaret Kit Kat Klub? Directed by creepy host Joel Gray, the opening number features appearances from the titular nightclub’s various performers as well as interspersed scenes of the main characters arriving to set up the film.
“Wilkommen” does what most opening numbers should do; he introduces the audience to the characters and setting before the plot begins to roll. The fact that it is accompanied by a catchy melody is just a bonus.
9 Who will buy? (Olivier !)
The excellent construction and explosive gain of this song is more than enough to earn it serious recognition. In the musical as in the film, “Who Will Buy” is a beautiful number that starts with the norm but turns into a full symphony representing the London market.
One of the triumphs of the soundtrack is the composition that jumps from one voice to two, then from two to three, and so on, until the whole Londoners troop raise their voices.
8 Day after day (Godspell)
This 70s hit is the song most people remember from the musical Gods. Since the cast is very small and is almost always together, almost every number is an ensemble song, but few are as iconic as “Day By Day”.
This song is about faith, love and light; what more could you ask for from a hippie musical about Jesus? It is a delicious number that warms the heart and uplifts the soul.
7 Tradition (Fiddler on the roof)
Similar to “Wilkommen”, “Tradition” includes and features just about everyone in the musical. Assisted by the titular fiddler, Tevye presents directly to the public the main actors, places and social practices surrounding the village of Anatevka.
Everyone gets a place in this happy opening number; Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and figures like the rabbi and Yenta stand out in this show. And why do the characters spend so much time explaining their existence? One word, tradition!
6 Masquerade (The Phantom of the Opera)
Joel Schumacher’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous musical might not have had the colorful palate of the stage version, but that doesn’t mean the company’s big number still stands out. not. Easily a favorite among Broadway fans, the film version is still a musical powerhouse.
The film is far from perfect, but the masked ball remains one of the most memorable moments in the book, the play, and the film. The emotion, the excitement and the underlying current of danger are clearly felt in this sequence.
5 Joseph Coat (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat)
Describing someone’s costume has never been so fun. Yet another number of Webber’s, “Joseph’s Coat,” could practically be considered the musical’s main song, and it’s still an absolute hit after all this time. But thanks to TikTok, it is fortunately coming back to the fore.
It might not be the most complex number on the list, but its triumphant score and lyrics certainly make a happy sound.
4 You are the one I want (Grease)
It’s electrifying and it’s probably one of the best ways to end a fabulous 50’s musical. This song is the grand finale where all the students at Rydell High jump into the action to close the film, so it has to be the one that the audience will take home with them.
“You’re The One That I Want” practically made Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta household names, and the smash hit is perhaps one of the most recognized songs in musical history. It’s easy to see why this is always the one we want.
3 All that jazz (Chicago)
Few names dominate the Broadway world as high as Bob Fosse. This opening number of the award-winning musical and later Oscar-winning film brings together elements of music, dance and visuals into a jazz number designed to excite the viewer.
Showcasing the Chicago of the Prohibition Era, “All That Jazz” not only introduces viewers to the notorious setting and tracks, but sets the tone for most acts to follow. As they say, a good start is half done.
2 Let’s go fly a kite (Mary Poppins)
Speaking of phrases from Mary Poppins, why not mention the number that brings everyone together when they go to fly a kite? Although the film came before the musical adaptation on stage, this one still deserves serious recognition.
It’s the number that ties everything together, like the bow on a kite tail. The family is reunited, Mr. Banks has his job and a relationship with his children, and even Bert makes an appearance. What better way for Mary Poppins to make her bittersweet yet stylish outing?
1 The Time Warp (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
A song must be a hit when it inspires a dance craze that still takes Halloween parties by storm to this day. It’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right; it is the one and only “Time Warp”. Arguably the most memorable song of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it is definitely a major pitfall.
The best part about this sci-fi / horror inspired musical number is the fact that everyone is welcome to join. Brad, Janet, the Transylvanians and even the public are all encouraged to remake Time Warp over and over again.
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