The musicals to see first

His name is synonymous with the West End musical, but last night Cameron Mackintosh faced his biggest test
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The Independent Online
Miss Saigon: Everything that Martin Guerre should have been. This production is gripping, visually striking with helicopter et al, and its climax (even for those who have seen it before in Madam Butterfly) is so poignant one can hear the sniffles all round the theatre. The Martin Guerre composers Boublil and Schonberg give Miss Saigon a score both stirring and tender.

Sunset Boulevard: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's most recent creation was revamped a la Martin Guerre and is all the stronger for it. At least three showstoppers in a compelling and ultimately quite moving production, even if the present Norma Desmond, Petula Clark, is not the most obvious nor the most convincing choice.

Guys and Dolls: When Richard Eyre's production first appeared in 1980, theatregoers slept outside the National to buy tickets for the first time since Laurence Olivier's Othello. Next month's revival is a welcome return for a show with more humour and energy than all the other musicals in London put together. Imelda Staunton as Miss Adelaide should be a comic treat.

Oliver!: Slightly anodyne direction by Sam Mendes in this revival, but Lionel Bart's music and the incorrigible rhymes in his lyrics ("Oliver, that was the mite with the large appetite") more than stand the test of time. It is a tribute to the generosity of Cameron Mackintosh that he is giving Bart a share of the royalties, even though there is no contractual obligation to do so.

The Phantom of the Opera: Another Mackintosh production, another Lloyd Webber score; both enhanced by direction and design which give the story a disturbing atmosphere. More memorable than the longer running Cats by the same producer-composer team, and the only show in town for which you have to book up months ahead.

Blood Brothers: Not a Mackintosh or Lloyd Webber in sight, but this Willy Russell show engenders great affection. A Liverpool sob story on a smaller scale than its blockbuster neighbours, it has proved a genuine family hit and could yet outlast its richer and more famous musical competitors.

David Lister

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