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Grease Is the Word

Dateline: 31st October, 2005

So, Grease is the most popular musical in the UK, according to a poll to discover the top ten musicals carried out for the Wales Millennium Centre. Andrew Lloyd Webber appears three times with Phantom, Cats and the ever-popular Joseph (in which a substantial proportion of the British population under the age of thirty has probably appeared, in a school production!) and the oldest is West Side Story at number six, followed, in terms of age, by The Sound of Music at number ten.

What did surprise me was the number two, cult musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was pleased, too, because, like the Lloyd Webber shows and Les Miserables, it is British - or, given Les Mis's origins, European.

The staples of the amateur operatic world, shows such as Oklahoma! and Carousel, don't get a mention, nor does the show that's packing them in at the Dominion, We Will Rock You. And no Mamma Mia. No Sondheim, either, except for West Side Story to which he was a contributor.

I suspect that the people questioned were the "person in the street" variety without a particular interest in theatre: I wonder what theatregoers would think. For me, certainly West Side Story and Les Mis would be up there, but Grease certainly wouldn't be in my top twenty, let along top, and, much as I love Joseph (having directed it three times), it wouldn't be in my top ten. Godspell - in spite of Michael Billington's wonderful dimissal ("If you missed it the first time, here's your chance to miss it again") - could possibly make it. And, in spite of its verging on sentimentality, I think Blood Brothers would be up there.

I think that, if I had to choose just one, it would be West Side Story. What would be your number one? Let's have a poll and find out what would be the BTG readers' first choice. We have over 17,000 unique visitors a week so if only half vote, it would still give a very good idea of what theatregoers think.

To vote, just send an email to with the name of your chosen best ever musical in the subject line. We'll keep the poll open until 15th November***. Just vote for one, though: alternatives will be ignored!

***Poll now closed***

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©Peter Lathan 2005