The temptation in a discussion of show stopping musical numbers is to reach for the trusty classics. Films like Singin’ in the Rain, Top Hat and The Wizard of Oz hold such a dear place in our hearts that they become akin to family. In The Artist and 8 Femmes we have more recent evidence that great musicals endure.
But, as we are all so well acquainted, perhaps they will excuse their exclusion from this particular list to make room for quirkier fare. The greats are still well represented – they were the groundbreakers of their time and the passing years have not impacted upon their power – the handful of unconventional numbers that stand beside them are in inspiring company.
If you find it counterintuitive to see a wordless song, from one of the loveliest musicals of all time, appear here you might need to watch this extraordinary dance sequence again. Billy Bigelow’s fifteen year old daughter Louise (Susan Luckey) eloquently articulates her isolation and pain to an overture of the film’s most beautiful songs as her dead father (Gordon MacRae) – on a day pass from Heaven – helplessly stands watch.
Paying stunning tribute to Billy’s carousel barker history with a ‘Starlight Carnival’ hosted by Jacques D’Amboise, and showcasing Agnes De Mille’s poignant choreography from the original theatre production, “Louise’s Ballet” is a cathartic story within a story. Bigelow’s epiphany – and the closure it brings his steadfast widow Julie (Shirley Jones) – is pivotal for a tale which has until that point been tragedy. The collaboration between Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers gifted us all with some of the enduring musical greats. But, for me, Carousel holds its head high above the rest.