Musicals have been a great way to lift spirits during lockdown. With Disney+’s very recent addition of Hamilton, one writer has rounded up the best musicals available to stream in the UK, and ranked them.
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 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.
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 18 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.
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.
15. 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.
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.
13. 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 NOW TV.
12. 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.
11. Muppets Christmas Carol
The only reason this doesn’t rank higher is because it’s too festive for April. 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 springtime, 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 NOW TV.
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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9. The Wizard of Oz
Wizard of Oz will transport you back to your childhood with just three clicks of your heels (or, just by clicking play on Netflix). It hits a bit of a soft spot because there really is no place like home right now. It’s a charming bit of escapism and Judy Garland obviously shines as Dorothy.
Top tune: Warble along to Over The Rainbow with Judy.
Watch Wizard of Oz on Netflix.
8. 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.
7. Bohemian Rhapsody
Big Queen fan here. So of course Bohemian Rhapsody makes the top five. Rami Malek literally is Freddy Mercury in this biopic and Lucy Boynton is perfect as Mary Austen. You will find yourself rocking out in the living room when the epic Live Aid performance happens at the end – just like I did (sorry, neighbours).
Top tune: I often listen to the Live Aid medley (Bohemian Rhapsody/Radio Gaga/Hammer To Fall/ We Are The Champions) while I’m in the shower.
Watch Bohemian Rhapsody on NOW TV.
6. 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.
5. 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 NOW TV.
4. 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 NOW TV.
3. 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.
2. 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.
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
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…