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A century of song : 1990s

In preparation for featuring her favourite shows, Lily introduces another decade of the century of song - the 1990s!


Featuring Anastasia and The Happy Prince

A brief introduction

The 1990s was the era when Disney took over the world of Broadway. Movie hits such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King made the leap from screen to stage with enormous success. After the Brit Hits of the 1980s, new musicals were less and less in the public consciousness as audiences chose other forms of entertainment over theatre. Despite this, Cameron Mackintosh produced hit revivals including Carousel, Oliver! and Oklahoma!

Notable Musical Mentions

Disney on stage

This was the decade when Disney became king on stage. Beauty and the Beast, Alan Menken's telling of a classic French fairytale premiered on stage in 1994, just 3 years after its film debut. Familiar music and stories proved a winning way to lure in audiences who might not otherwise have visited a theatre and the elaborate innovative staging and design elevated the familiar to an unforgettable experience.

This was particularly true of The Lion King which combined puppetry and movement with fantastical make-up to bring to life the original animation in a theatrical style. Both of these productions are very much alive either in the West End or on tour three decades later.

Classic films on stage

Musicals based on popular films were also a feature of the 1990s. On Broadway, they inspired original scores like Big the musical, based on the 1988 film starring Tom Hanks written by the established partnership of Maltby and Shire. In the West End, Lloyd Webber gave the iconic Sunset Boulevard a musical treatment followed by Whistle Down the Wind.

But there was a sense of the jukebox musicals to come in Footloose, based on the 80s hit film with the original hit soundtrack brought to life on stage.

Novels brought to Broadway

Before Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White made its debut on the West End stage, Frank Wildhorn was exploring novels on Broadway. Jekyll and Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel were given theatrical flourish with sweeping melody that captured the imagination of New York audiences. Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens were also inspired by literary works producing shows such as Once on the Island, Seussical, and Ragtime.

Tackling Difficult Subjects

In contrast to Disney's fantasy world on stage, writers were turning their attention to complex social issues as inspiration for musical material. Following the success of Les Miserables, the same creative team tackled the evacuation of Vietnam in Miss Saigon. At the same time,

Jason Robert Brown told the story of the trial, imprisonment and lynching of Jewish American Leo Frank in Georgia in 1913 in Parade.

Other shows that tackled difficult subjects included Jonathan Larson's Rent, which told the story of a group of young artists struggling to survive and create a life in the shadow of HIV/AIDS and The Falsettos which highlighted the struggles of modern family life exploring themes such as gender roles and gay life in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Join me in “my own little corner” of the internet next time as I explore my first featured musical from the 1990s - a beloved animation reworked for the stage, Anastasia. See you next matinee day!