Top Five Musicals

Morley tutor Cristina Barreiro talks us through her top five musicals in preparation for her Acting for Musical Theatre course starting in November.

Do you remember the MGM musicals of the 1940-50s? This is where my inspiration and approach to Acting for Musical Theatre comes from. Those films explore huge themes juxtaposed with jazz hands and big white teeth. The actor has a succinct story to tell in a musical alongside all of the emotions and intentions required in any drama, reaching the heights of their emotion through song. The words resonate with us all, and we explore the depths that they can take us to in this workshop.

Here are my top five musicals (in no particular order) and why:


Set on a Showboat on the Mississippi between 1887 and 1927 this is a love story, exploring not a sentimental journey but the trials and tribulations that love can bring. The central story is Magnolia and Gay’s mutual love, which is marred by Gay’s gambling. The sub-plot is based around another love story, also dealing with the difficulties of a hedonistic husband and racial prejudice; strong themes that make for an enduring storyline by Oscar Hammerstein II and a wonderful score by Jerome Kern.


A vivid depiction of the emergence of the Third Reich. Set in Berlin in 1931, its central story revolves around the life of Sally Bowles, a young cabaret performer at the Kit Kat Klub. There, she meets an American writer, Cliff Bradshaw. The audience are taken on a journey of debauchery and fantasy seen through the eyes of Sally Bowles and her contemporaries in a seedy underworld of nocturnal living, representing the rise of the Nazi regime.

Guys and Dolls

A story tackling love, religion and gambling set in the 1920-30s. The main characters are a Salvation Army recruiter called Sarah Brown and a wayward gambler, Sky Masterson – her unwilling victim and love interest. The sub-plot provides us with two splendid characters, a cabaret singer – Miss Adelaide – who’s long suffering campaign to wed her gambler boyfriend – Nathan Detroit – drives the action.

Spring Awakening

The most modern of the five musicals suggested here. This is a story about young love based on the German playwright, Frank Wedekind’s story of the same name. The main characters are adolescents working their way through puberty and experiencing all of its connotations. Exploring same sex and heterosexual relationships, this is a rock musical that takes the audience on a sometimes painful journey of sexual and emotional awakenings.

Wizard of Oz

The most iconic of all these musicals is The Wizard of Oz. We all know the story, but it never fails to excite us, given the world, the characters and their desires. We also have The Wizard of Oz to thank for the hugely popular musical Wicked.

Whatever your musical tipple, this workshop will explore the heightened excitement of musical theatre, and work through the personal connections we have with the book, lyrics and score.

Morley tutor Cristina Barreiro talks us through her top five musicals in preparation for her Acting for Musical Theatre course starting in November.

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