Writer & Actress Eliza Skinner's 'Must See' Movie Musicals

eliza skinnerWhen it comes to picking a list of ‘must see’ movie musicals, they don’t come more qualified than Eliza Skinner, who’s been a lover of the art form since she was child. “I think what really grabbed me about musicals was that even as a kid, I got to experience all these different, grown up emotions when they were presented musically. You can feel them, even if you can't explain them.”

Eliza’s love of musicals has continued on in her career as a writer and comedian. She was the head writer for the recent holiday special A Legendary Christmas (NBC), as well as Drop The Mic (TBS). Before that she was a staff writer on The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS), where she wrote many of the show’s popular "Inappropriate Musicals" segments. Eliza also hosts her own music-themed podcast - Cool Playlist, and is currently finishing up her first stand up comedy/music album which drops in 2019.

Movie musicals can get a bad rap, and Eliza blames it on the fact that some just completely miss the mark, especially when it comes to adaptations of stage musicals. “I think so many people hate musicals, because their only exposure was to lazy musicals where it feels weird that suddenly people are singing. THESE MOVIES ARE BAD FOR THE WORLD.”

For Eliza there are two key things that make a movie musical great. “First of all, they should use the songs to move the emotion - not the plot - forward. Secondly, they should use the medium to present the musical in a way that couldn't be done on stage. If you're going to take the musical - an art form usually created for the stage - and stick it in a 2D rectangle, you better be making it bigger not smaller. Or closer, or more lush, or more impossible, but definitely different.”

Eliza was gracious enough to give us a list of ‘must see’ movie musicals that includes classic movie musicals and some modern masterpieces, all of which are guaranteed to make us laugh, cry and as with any good musical, feel all the feelings.

Top Hat (1935)

There are so many wonderful Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, It was difficult for Eliza to pick just one. She finally arrived on Top Hat for a few reasons. “Cheek To Cheek gets stuck in my head at least once a week, I learned what a soft shoe was from this movie, it's the least problematic love story of the bunch, and Ginger’s ostrich feather dress is TOO MUCH. “

The Wizard Of OZ (1939)

The story of Dorothy Gale finding her way back home to Kansas and the lessons she learns along the way, hits everyone straight in the heart. According to Eliza, “When everybody likes a thing, there's usually a good reason. Judy Garland, for instance.”

Singing In The Rain (1952)

You won’t find a cast more perfect than Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Jean Hagen. This movie truly has it all- dancing that will leave you breathless, old hollywood charm, and songs that will put a smile on your face. “This is one of my all-time favorite movies - musical or not. If you wanted to teach an alien about musicals, movies, or comedy, showing them this movie would be a great place to start.”

Guys And Dolls (1955)

The only stage-to-screen adaptation to make the list, one of the reasons this film works so well is the songs by Frank Loesser, which are deliciously clever, but more importantly, make you fall in love with the characters. Eliza adds, “I firmly believe you do not have to be a great singer to be great in a musical. But also, an amazing singer is such a joy to watch in a musical. And with that I point you to Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls.”

The Muppet Movie (1979)

Eliza is a big fan of Paul Williams’ musical soundtracks - which include Bugsy Malone, Phantom Of The Paradise, and The Muppet Movie, and had trouble picking just one, but ultimately went with the Muppets’ big screen debut. “The Muppet Movie is the most classic - it nails every genre it goes for, my heart still skips a beat the moment pig meets frog, and it's got the RAINBOW CONNECTION in it. Case closed.”

The Little Mermaid (1989)

This animated classic based on Hans Christian Andersen's timeless fairy tales has a heroine we’re all rooting for and all the elements you’d want in a live action romance. “As I said, I want movie musicals to do things that could never be done on stage - an animated movie about mermaids does just that. It is easily my favorite Disney musical, and the Alan Menken / Howard Ashman soundtrack is all hits, no misses.”

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Based on the hit animated show, this movie goes next level with the vulgarity, and the songs are not only hilarious but catchy as well. Plus we get a great story about the dangers of censorship. What more could you ask for? “If you are looking for an example of a perfect musical in terms of structure, song types, and execution -it’s this. This shouldn't be surprising given that Trey Parker and Matt Stone went on to create one of the best, most successful Broadway musicals of the last decade - Book Of Mormon.”

Sing Street (2016)

This coming-of-age story set in 1980s Dublin, tells the story of a young man named Conor, who starts a band to escape his troubled home life, and to well...duh, impress a girl. Eliza loves the pitch perfect 80s soundtrack and the overall vibe of the fim. “It's nice to see a modern musical that's not scared to pull at your heartstrings and make you FEEL THINGS. I dare you to watch this movie and not want to start a band with your friends.”

Download the Caavo TV & Movie Guides mobile app to add Eliza's selections to your own what-to-watchlist today.

By Desi Jedeikin
Photo credit: Kim Newmoney