Those Days Are Gone: Busted’s Night Driver Tour marks a new era.

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Less than a year ago, I saw Busted reform in front of my very eyes at Wembley Arena in May 2016. Since then, the boys have completed their comeback tour, recorded and released their newest album Night Driver and begun a second tour promoting their new sound.

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When Night Driver was released back in November, I was completely bowled over and gave the album 5/5 when I reviewed it earlier in the year. So imagine my excitement when I heard they were going to be touring the new album AND they were coming to my home city, Brighton, to play. My good friend Rob and I snapped up tickets and spent the next few months stewing in our excitement waiting to see them.

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The physical set up compared to the Pigs Can Fly Tour is vastly different. The boys have gone from huge arenas to more intimate venues like O2 Academies and the Brighton Center, which meant that their staging was simple, compared to the Pig Sty which they exhibited on the Pigs Can Fly tour. It wasn’t plain by any stretch of the imagination, as the boys had cool strip lights behind them that pulsed, throbbed and flashed in time with the music.

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In fact, a lot of the set up for the new tour was different, including the set list as it now included songs from Night Driver. It was a great mix of old and new songs, the old mainly being their hit singles with the exception of Nerdy which is a fan favourite but was never released. You Said No didn’t make an appearance, much to my personal dismay, as I feel it’s one of their strongest. A girl can’t have it all though. As promised on their last tour, Thunderbirds didn’t make an appearance.

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The boys opened with Kids with Computers, which was a surprise to me considering that it comes further down the track-listing on Night Driver, and I assumed they would open with the title track or Coming Home like they had done on the Pigs Can Fly tour. Never the less, it was a strong opening, followed by Thinking of You, which was recently announced as the band’s newest single and On What You’re On, which started the ball rolling for the Night Driver era.

Air Hostess got the Busted purists in the crowd going and singing along, which meant there was a very clear divide between fans that wanted to come and sing along to the old songs, and fans that were, perhaps, more tolerable of the sound change. Never the less, it was an ice breaker for the fans that didn’t know the new material as well.

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Night Driver, the title track of the new album, completely lit up the room. Charlie’s front man role as been more established with the new record, as he takes most of the lead vocals and has swapped out the guitar for a synth machine. I worried he would look uncomfortable, as behind a guitar is clearly where he feels most comfortable, but he coped with the change well. For me, that was the moment when it felt confirmed in my mind that Charlie really is happy in Busted. He looked so at home that there should be no dispute.

Without It appeared after Nerdy, which in my eyes is strong enough to be a single. I Will Break Your Heart followed suit and was the perfect bridge between their old upbeat pop sound and their new 80’s influenced sound. Matt’s larger than life personality, as always, carries right to the back of the room. His passion and love, and natural show-man-ship was infectious, especially when he encouraged a dance competition and had no qualms dancing around the stage himself like a dork.

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The boys followed with a re-invention of one of their hit singles, Who’s David, that has been completely rearranged into a more mature sound. I’m now begging them all on Twitter for them to release it because it sounded so good! I didn’t manage to get a recording of it, but I’m hoping someone did. More classics followed suit, Sleeping with the Light On, Crashed the Wedding, 3am, and one of their strongest from the new record, New York, which was truly anthem-ic. Year 3000 ended the main part of the set, and left the crowd on a high before the boys came back again for an encore made up of What I Go to School For, Coming Home and my personal favourite Those Days Are Gone. 

James’s vocals, particularly his harmonies with Charlie, were on point and effortless. His cheeky, wacky nature was honed, but he set off his unique sparks throughout the show, dancing around like a goofball and reminding everyone to wear a seat belt whilst thanking them for coming to the show. Upon amping up the crowd, he cried, ‘I didn’t wear my shorts for nothing!’ Each of the boy’s brings something different to the band, which, in my opinion, is why the dynamic works. The transfer from recorded songs to live was great and shows their capability and legitimacy as a live band. I left the venue, singing and dancing all the way home, and I’m sure everyone else was too.

Ending on Those Days Are Gone, on the album and on the live set list, felt like a message to the fans. Those days are gone but we’re excited about the future and this is what it’s going to look like. The boys circled around each other like they did on the first night of their reunion tour when they played Coming Home. We’re here, it says, we’re here coming home. Those days really are gone, and I’m excited to find out what happens next.

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Top 20 Albums I Love (1-10)

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I started developing my own music taste around the age of twelve years old. This also coincided with the exposure of Busted, who were my first music-based obsession, closely followed by McFly, their prodigies. I am now aged twenty four and my music taste has changed a lot since then, (well, not THAT much. I still love Busted and McFly), and I wanted to compile my top 20 albums that I love.

These albums are in no particular order

Pioneer by The Maine

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I love the story of this album just as much as I love the album itself. In the wake of their success of ‘the difficult second album‘ Black and White, The Maine still felt dissatisfied by their experience of working with a major label, and made their third album, Pioneer, in secret. When they eventually revealed the album to their record company, they decided to part ways and were released from their contract. Ever since, The Maine have been doing it for themselves, and have gone from strength to strength under their self-management/label 8123, and have toured around the world with another two albums.

Songs to Love: Time, Some Days, Don’t Give Up on Us, When I’m At Home, Jenny, Like We Did, Listening to Rock and Roll.

American Candy by The Maine

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This album is the latest to be dropped from The Maine and shows their growth as musicians, not only from Pioneer, but also from their first album Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, which was released back in 2008. What I love about The Maine is that every album contains and different sound, a different perspective, shows maturity and tells a story, so it was so difficult to only pick two for this list. Whilst this album goes back to their earlier pop-rock roots, The Maine have established themselves as staples in the alternative rock genre.

Songs to Love: Same Suit Different Tie, My Hair, English Girls, 24 Floors, Diet Soda Society, Am I Pretty?

The Final Riot! by Paramore

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I am a listener who loves live albums, and The Final Riot! by Paramore is one I have listened to on repeat. This album perfectly sums up their first two records, and shows just how incredible the band sound in a live venue. The crowd goes wild, the band goes wild, and even though Hayley Williams rocks the show like it’s her own, this record proves that Paramore IS A BAND.

Songs to Love: That’s What You Get, Here We Go Again, crushcrushcrush, When It Rains, My Heart, Decoy, Pressure, Emergency, Misery Business.

Brand New Eyes by Paramore

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The last album before the in-famous depature of the Farro brothers and showed just how fraught things became between them. Although the band insisted things were better, the cracks were clear with this album that detailed the intense feelings of judgement that the members were placing on each other. One thing I particularly love about this album is that it captures so candidly the no man’s land between growing up, and the frustration at the world as one matures.

Songs to Love: Playing God, Brick by Boring Brick, Turn it Off, Looking Up, Where the Lines Overlap, Misguided Ghosts, Decode.

Paramore by Paramore

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I know what you’re probably thinking. Three Paramore albums in one list?! But I couldn’t do a top twenty album list and NOT include this beauty. A lot of Paramore fans, including myself, worried about what the sound of Paramore would be like PF, (post-Farro), as a lot of the melodies were written by Hayley and Josh. Their chemistry, their love, which unfortunately came to an end ,(and probably was partly to blame for the Farro’s depature), was what fueled the spark of Paramore, or so we thought. The truth was, we didn’t have to worry. Paramore came back live and kicking without the Farro brothers and gave us the gift that was their self-titled album. Mixing pop/rock/funk was something I never thought I would see on a mainstream album, and I don’t think I ever will again.

Songs to Love: Daydreaming, Ain’t It Fun, Last Hope, Still into You, Anklebiters, Proof, Hate to See Your Heart Break.

Big Skies by Nick Santino

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Another prodigy from 8123, Nick Santino released his solo album Big Skies after being a part A Rocket to the Moon before they split. This album captures the ache of unrequited love and plays it out on this up-tempo, slightly western-infused acoustic-come-rock album that gives Nick Santino his unique sound.

Songs to Love: Bad Taste, I Can’t Say I Miss You, Long Way Home, Mood Ring Eyes.

Young Pilgrim by Charlie Simpson

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Like many, I found Charlie Simpson through his success in Busted, and although I was devastated when his departure split up my love affair with the band, I’m (in a round about way) very glad he did. See, if Charlie had never quit Busted, then he may never have had a solo career, and made this fantastic album, that showed everyone what Charlie was really made of. This acoustic-based album with beautiful poetic lyrics is one of my all time favourites.

Songs to Love: Down Down, Parachutes, All At Once, Thorns, Hold On, Sundown, Riverbanks.

Long Road Home by Charlie Simpson

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Charlie’s not-so-difficult second album is just as good as his first. It shows a slightly more mature and refined sound but has just as many hits on it as it’s predecessor. Charlie’s voice is unmistakable, whether you’re a Busted fan, a Fightstar fan or just a fan of old Charlie boy himself, it’s this album that allows him to make his mark as a solo artist.

Songs to Love: Long Road Home, Comets, Emily, Haunted, Blood, Still Young.

The Dance by Fleetwood Mac

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As I said before, I love live albums, and I consider this to be one of Fleetwood Mac’s hidden gems. Recorded in 1997, The Dance showcases the band behind the mask, behind the headlines and the stories, the real people who made music just because they loved it. They play all the hits, they talk the talk and walk the walk. This album is one that delivers time and time again.

Songs to Love: The Chain, Dreams, Everywhere, Rhiannon, I’m So Afraid, Temporary One, Big Love, Landslide, Say You Love Me, Silver Springs, You Make Loving Fun, Go Your Own Way, Tusk, Don’t Stop.

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

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It would be sacralidge to do a ‘favourite albums’ list and not include one of the most well know, well loved albums of all time. This record is certified Diamond (yes, I didn’t know it was a thing either), and has sold over twenty eight million copies to date. Impressive, even more so, as this was the album the masked the lies, the drugs and the breakups that Fleetwood Mac is renowned for. I’ll let it’s legacy speak for itself.

Songs to Love: Dreams, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way, Songbird, Silver Springs, The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, I Don’t Wanna Know.

Stay tuned to part two of my list of favourite albums coming soon!

Coming Home: A Reunion 12 Years in the Making

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On 14th January 2005, when I was thirteen years old, my world ended, as Busted held a press conference detailing the departure of guitarist Charlie Simpson, and thus the group had decided to disband. But our story begins two and a half years previously in August of 2002, when Busted launched themselves onto the Pop scene, revolutionising the face of the genre, from boy bands busting moves to boy BANDS rocking out with guitars around their necks.

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One month later, What I Go to School For dropped, and everyone in the country fell for their bad boy persona, lusting after their teacher Miss McKenzie. But what really set them apart from other pop groups, was the appearance of their second single Year 3000. It was clear from the start that Busted didn’t want to conform to the “boy band love song” ideals, and just wanted to have fun, which was exactly what we did. After their third single You Said No went to number one, the band then entered the Guinness World Book of Records for having their three consecutive debut singles in ascending order. But that wasn’t the only achievement under their belts, their first self-titled album Busted, shot to number two in the UK Top 40, and has since been certified three times platinum.

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Everything was going swimmingly for the band, with more hit singles and another hit album, BRIT awards, sell out tours, you name it, they had it. So when Charlie started his passion project Fightstar to outlet some of his pent-up creative energy, not a lot of people understood his decision. Nevertheless, their second album A Present for Everyone dropped and was stronger and more mature than their first record. But all was not well in the Busted camp. The band entered 2004 on rocky ground, and it was clear the foundations of the band were beginning to crack. Charlie looked increasingly unhappy, and Matt and James looked unhappy at the fact Charlie was unhappy. Consensus: everyone wasn’t happy. They’d been handed everything on a plate, so why the despondency? Busted embarked on what would be their final tour, and in the new year of 2005, the band was over.

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Ever since that date, it was clear that Busted was well and truly finished. Charlie seemed glad to be rid of his pop-boy-band background, throwing himself into writing hardcore rock songs with Fightstar, and releasing two solo acoustic albums that received critical acclaim. James tried to ride on the crest of the pop-boy-band wave, and created Son of Dork, who had a more punk sound than Busted, but still showed that James’ songwriting talent was not tied to his former band. After Son of Dork disbanded, James retreated to LA and became a full-time song writer, penning hits for a variety of artists and developed Son of Dork’s album Welcome to Loserville into a musical titled Loserville. Matt stayed in the limelight and released a solo album, one that was underwhelming considering Matt’s talents as a musician and as a singer. Eventually he entered the I’m a Celeb jungle and went onto win, fully re-launching himself in a career as a TV presenter and personality. It seemed that each of them were doing just fine in their own way, but the fact that the boys weren’t close and didn’t speak still hurt the fan’s hearts.

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So imagine our surprise when Matt and James joined good friends McFly on stage to perform a few of Busted’s hits during the 10th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall under the name McBusted, and things only got more exciting when McBusted announced that they would be touring and releasing new music together. It was almost as good as having the real thing, and considering Charlie had been bought out of the Busted name for a six figure sum, it seemed clear that it was all we were going to get in terms of a Busted reunion. So imagine our surprise when Matt, James and Charlie announced just that. The Busted reunion we had all been waiting for.

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Throughout the 12 years of silence, there had been many whispers every now and again that something could happen, but had always been shot down by Charlie who was adamant that he would never, ever, rejoin Busted. After a while, it became a mantra to the fans. It just wasn’t going to happen. Then, different kinds of whispers emerged, not suggesting that Busted were back together, but that they had been in the studio together writing new music. It was this news that made the fans ears prick up, and eventually, after many more news stories reporting the same thing, Busted announced officially that they were getting back together, and would tour for the first time since their split.

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Me and my good friend Rob immediately bought tickets for their first night back at Wembley Arena, as we knew it was going to be a special night, and boy were we right. It was the same arena where Busted had performed their last show, and so to see them in the same venue for their first show seemed fitting. Emma Blackery and Wheatus were great opening acts, fueling the fans with adrenaline, and the appearance of McFly in the crowd made us go wild. It seemed it wasn’t only us that had been waiting 12 years, McFly had been too.

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Then, the moment was finally here, as Busted returned via trap doors in the stage and broke out into their newest single Coming Home, which they had given away to the fans for free. Then, they swiftly moved onto the hits everyone was waiting for, following up with Air Hostess and Falling For You, both from their second album. The night took an emotional turn, as the three boys we once knew, who had grown into men, circled each other, smiling and laughing as if 12 years hadn’t passed at all.

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They then went onto play Everything I Knew from their first album, which had, in some ways, become a soundtrack to the news that Busted were due to split all those years ago. Although it was somewhat an underrated track from their self-titled debut, its inclusion in the set list made it all the more meaningful.

“Everything I knew, just went out the window, now I can’t depend on you forever. I never thought I’d see my life walk away from me, I thought we’d always be together… You didn’t have to pay for every word I’d say, and I wish I could change your decision…”

I’m not going to lie. I shed a tear or two.

“Lets go back, lets rewind to the days that remind me of all the good times that we spent together, and I don’t know why we just let it all slide when we both knew inside we were right for each other.”

It felt very poignant hearing those lyrics, watching them play together after so long, after all the harsh words that had been probably been exchanged behind closed doors. The boys continued an amazing set with their first number one single, You Said No, That Thing You Do, from their second album, and a personal favourite of mine, which was completely unexpected, Dawson’s Geek.

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Then, the guys moved to the B-Stage, which was set up in the middle of the arena and decorated with vintage rugs and a glorious chandelier. The crowd, completely enthralled by Act 1 of the concert began to chant Charlie’s name, to let him know just how happy we were to have him back. Act 2 continued with Who’s David an Easy, a new mellow rock song that the boys had written together in the Philadelphia sessions. Before Act 3 of the show began, we were treated to “the soundtrack for us getting back together,” said Charlie, as he looked meaningfully to James and Matt, as if to say, yes, I’m really back and you have no idea how happy I am that I’m here. At that moment, all thoughts of “doing it for the money” or “publicity” went out the window. No one could deny the vibe that we were all riding on. The boys then began to play Meet You There, the song they had re-recorded at Abbey Road to help announce their come back.

 “I’m waiting, for the perfect time to call you back, cause I remember saying I don’t want to know the truth, can’t handle that… It’s written all over your face, such a painful thing to waste, tell me now where do we go? Now the future’s not so clear, I can’t believe we’ve ended here…”

More tears were shed.

“I’m sorry, if I slagged you down I meant no harm, but when I heard the stories I said things I didn’t mean, should have stayed calm. But sadly, you got angry, and it breaks my heart, you’re so mad at me…” 

It felt like a public apology between the boys, and for the fans too. Yes, 12 years has passed, and we’re all sorry, but we’re here now, and that’s what matters.

For Act 3, the boys moved back to the main stage and treated us to another new song titled One of a Kind, in which James played the key-tar, which he had apparently been trying to shoe horn into Busted songs for years. Then, we had another string of hits, Thunderbirds Are Go, Sleeping with The Light On and Why, which was Charlie’s personal diary entry from A Present for Everyone, and seemed to further give context on what had been going on inside 2004-Charlie’s head, and the reasons why Busted split in the first place.

“Just talk to me a while and joke about the things we used to see, it’s so hard for me to smile. I’ve never felt so alone, after all of this there’s so much left to lose… but how can I complain, when everybody seems to know my name? You’re out of luck and I’m out of line. It’s such a selfish compromise, a self-indulgent useless bunch of lies…”

Why is a favourite of mine because it’s so honest and gritty and I felt like we finally understood Charlie’s motives and reasons for leaving the band. It was the perfect note to end on, as if all the loose ends had been tied up, and all the wounds had healed. After that, the hits continued Crashed the Wedding and What I Go to School For, with an encore of 3am and Year 3000. Then just like that, it was over. The boys took a bow and thanked the crowd for such a warm welcome. The show we had been waiting 12 years for was over and Busted had performed together again. If the world had ended the next day, I would have died a happy fan. Finally, The boys put their arms around each other and took a photo to commemorate their first gig as a group, showing just how happy they are to be back together – and we can’t tell you just how happy we are too.

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My Top 10 Movie Musicals

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The “movie musical” is a genre that has become increasingly popular over the years. With West End shows more popular than ever, it seems every director is jumping on the all-singing, all-dancing bandwagon. Recently, classics such as Les Miserables and Into the Woods have taken the leap from Stage to Screen starring big names like Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep. I’ve watched a fair few myself, taking pride of place in my illustrious DVD collection, so I’ll be ranking my favourites from ten to one. As always, I’ll only include films I’ve seen and can vouch for, and I’ll only include titles that have appeared on both the stage and the screen.

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Sweeney Todd

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The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, AKA Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical. – from IMDb

The Burton/Depp/Bonham-Carter conglomerate has been a bit hit and miss (let’s not talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but Burton definitely got a hit with his re-imagining of the Tale of Sweeney Todd. The cinematography is sufficiently creepy, with fantastic performances from Sacha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, Jamie Campell Bower as Anthony, Ed Saunders as Toby, and Alan Rickman (RIP) as Judge Turpin.

9

Les Miserables

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In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. The decision changes their lives for ever. – from IMDb

One of the more recent movie-musicals to hit the screen, and one of the most incredible all-star casts since Love Actually. The only reason this film doesn’t chart higher on the list is because it’s so long! The stage musical itself is generous in length, but I often don’t watch the DVD because I don’t have time to watch it in it’s entirety. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks give standout performances, and it’s interesting to observe these stars singing live, which has never been done in a movie-musical before.

8

The Sound of Music

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A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower. – from IMDb

On paper, this film shouldn’t work. Singing nuns, seven children, clothes made out of curtains, yodeling, goats and Nazis! But there’s something familiar and warm about the Sound of Music, and Julie Andrew’s portrayal of the naive and feisty Maria. In my house, it’s practically tradition to watch this ever Christmas.

7

Love Never Dies

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10 years has passed since a fire broke out in Paris – leaving only a mask behind… As the love story continues in Coney Island, NY. – from IMDb

This musical is my guilty pleasure. It seems like someone has turned Phantom of the Opera into a sticky soap-like fan-fiction, and is loosely based off of The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, the unofficial sequel to the original novel by Gaston Leroux. I’m not quite sure what Andrew Lloyd Webber was on when he wrote this musical, but there’s something beautifully bizarre that keeps me coming back.

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Billy Elliot

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A talented young dancer has to learn to fight for his dream despite social and parental disapproval. – from IMDb

So this is a slight cheat here. Billy Elliot the original film had music in it, but wasn’t necessarily a musical. It was adapted to stage in 2005 and most recently, the live production was streamed out to hundreds of cinemas around the country, and was released on DVD. I’ve seen Billy Elliot in London four times, and I love having a piece of it to watch at home.

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The Phantom of the Opera

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A disfigured musical genius, hidden away in the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégée whom he trains and loves. – from IMDb

Okay, slight cheat numero dos. I haven’t ever seen The Phantom of the Opera film starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum (can you blame me? I’ve only heard bad things), so I prefer to watch and listen to the 25th Anniversary Live performance with the Holy Trinity (Karimloo/Boggess/Fraser). I know some parts were tweeked from the stage version normally shown in London, but I really enjoy watching the Holy Trinity at their best.

4

Into the Woods

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A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree. – from IMDb

This film was my most favourite of 2015, with another all-star cast, all of whom had fantastic voices and an imaginative reworking of Sondheim’s classic tale. Meryl Streep’s performance as the Witch particularly stands out, and Corden and Blunt’s chemistry leaps off the screen, perfectly complimented by Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. The list is endless for reasons why I love this film.

3

Rent

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This is the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love and AIDS, and the impacts they have on America. – from IMDb

This film was what kick-started my love for Rent. I know this ensemble doesn’t contain entirely the original cast, but having most of the originals there made it so much more special. The screenplay was also written by one of my favourite writers Stephen Chbosky who famously wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book and screenplay).

2

Jersey Boys

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The story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. – from IMDb

My Jersey Boys obsession has been a recent discovery, as last year I saw the musical for the first time when it came nearby on tour. There’s something so electric and charming about these four guys and their dynamic that keeps their story timeless. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and instead of casting well known actors in the roles, Eastwood decided to cast actors who had played the roles on the stage, including John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for his performance as Frankie Valli on Broadway.

1

Mary Poppins

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A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker’s unhappy family. – from IMDb

Mary Poppins is probably one of the greatest musicals ever written. Originally adapted from the book written by PL Travers, into the Disney Classic we know and love today. The story was then adapted onto the stage, starring a young Carrie Hope Fletcher, and closely resembled the book, rather than the sugary-sweet practically-perfect Mary that we were closely affiliated with. To me, Julie Andrews is at her best in this role and is my all time favourite movie-musical.

What do you guys think about my top ten? Have I missed any out? And do you agree or would you rather see a different film take the top spot? Let me know in the comments.