Best classic musicals to introduce children to
- Published Date: April 28, 2020
When you need a break from the usual rotation of animated family favourites, try introducing your children to some classic musicals!
What’s great about these classic musicals is that, unlike many other classic films, they can be broad, funny, colourful and fast-paced enough to hold younger ones’ attentions. Even if they don’t sit still for the whole film, or can’t quite follow the plot, the musical sequences are normally very entertaining just by themselves.
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Frank Butler, the sharpshooting star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, loses a shooting challenge to Annie Oakley who becomes his rival when she joins the show.
The two main characters in this broad comedic musical often act like petulant children themselves, boasting in one number ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better!’ There’s some enjoyable Wild West show stunts, and the whole film carries the message that women can compete in the same sports that men can (and sometimes, they’re actually better!).
There is a questionable musical number that you might want to fast-forward through (‘I’m an Indian, Too’), but otherwise the film is colourful, fast-moving and fun.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
While the jokes about Hollywood’s transition from the silent era to sound will fly over their heads, there’s still plenty here for younger viewers to love.
Many of the catchy songs (repurposed from earlier films) have become classics and the dancing is some of the best ever committed to film. ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and ‘Moses Supposes’ are especially goofy, energetic and anarchic. Overall, even in the quieter moments, there’s an infectious sense of joy to the entire film and a charm to the main trio of performers – Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor – that’s irresistible.
Do watch out for the long fantasy sequence in the middle of the film, which is spectacular in itself but, being completely divorced from the plot, might cause some attention spans to drag. But otherwise this is a film that’s still fun for the whole family.
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
A musical about a musical – a director entices his ex-wife to appear in his new show and then has to stop her from leaving half-way through. There are also some gangsters (silly rather than scary) who infiltrate the show, with hilarious slapstick results.
The costumes are outlandish and colourful, the dance numbers are surreal and spectacular as they were originally designed and shot in 3D (plus a young Bob Fosse makes an appearance), and the plot is easy to follow but not that important for enjoying the rest of the film.
The Music Man (1962)
The most charming con man alive brings music to a small Midwestern town. When he’s exposed, the town spare him because of how much he has enriched their lives.
Younger viewers will enjoy how “Professor” Harold Hill outsmarts the school board by causing them to constantly break into song, as well as the story of shy child Winthrop (a young Ron Howard) being drawn out of his shell through music.
There’s a wholesome message at the centre of it all – that anyone can sing, anyone can enjoy creating music! – and the parade that closes the film is an explosion of colour and music.