My Act I vs Act II Challenge

So, prompted by @TheatreTruffles, from a challenge set by @ChowKimWan, also carried out by @ThriftyTheatre, we are carrying out our Act I vs Act II challenge to explain which acts from our favourite musicals we prefer. Even the act of writing our eight favourite musicals down was enough of a test, but setting out which half we prefer, now that is something really deep people! Something that cuts to the core of our musical theatre heart. Anyway, here we go, in no particular order;

Singing in the Rain, 1952 (A. Freed & N. Brown)


Starting simply with this one, it just has to be the first act. All the great numbers come in the first act, the title song, ‘Moses Supposes’, ‘Fit as a Fiddle’, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, ‘Good Morning’, ‘All I do is Dream of You’, ‘Beautiful Girls’ and ‘You Are My Lucky Star’. I mean they are all absolute winners! The second act is mainly reprises and the forgotten one from the film, Lina’s ‘Whats Wrong With Me”… No doubt about this one…

Verdict: Act I

Our favourite version – MGM movie magic of course.

My Fair Lady, 1956 (A. Lerner & F. Loewe)


Almost a formality here too, it is only the unavoidably great natured “Get Me to the Church on Time’ that sways things to the second Act. In the first act, however, we see Eliza’s schooling, all the tension and beef with Professor Higgins as he tries to teach her manners and behaviour, coupled with all the great numbers, Highlights for us being, ‘I Could of Danced All Night’, ‘On the Street Where You Live’, ‘Wouldn’t it be Lovely’ and the cheeky ‘Servants Chorus’. Second half is generally just a bit suspect… So he wins the bet? She ends up staying with him? Even though it was all over a bet? Not sure about all that, but it sure is a cracking first act…

Verdict: Act I

Our favourite version – has to be the movie, Rex and Audrey – what a combo!

Kiss Me Kate, 1948 (Cole Porter)


Finally a tough one. This one has good numbers in both acts, and plot wise develops, perfectly throughout. ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ ‘Another Openin’ and ‘Wunderbar’ are favourites from the first act, however it’s hard to avoid the awesome ‘Too Darn Hot’ opening the second act and one of the best musical theatre duets for men ever written – ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’. Tight to call, but I think Act II just pips it.

Verdict: Act II

Our favourite version – Trever Nunn’s version at The Old Vic in 2013.

The Phantom of the Opera, 1986 (A.L. Webber & C. Hart)


Musically this is a tough one as our two favourite numbers; ‘Music of the Night’ and ‘Masquerade’ come in each half. Therefore we will go for the dramatics to settle this one. All the chasing about and mounting tension of the second act coupled with the pyrotechnics does it for us…

Verdict: Act II

Our favourite version – has to be live at Her Majesty’s.

The Scottsboro Boys, 2010 (J. Kander & F. Ebb)


Cheeky one here, as it is only one act. One act of the most powerful music theatre out there. It makes you laugh and think through its use of minstrel show techniques and serious subject matter. ‘Nothin’ is an incredible song to see live. A really exceptional Kander & Ebb musical.

Verdict: The whole thing.

Our favourite version – UK premiere at the Young Vic.

Cabaret, 1966 (J. Kander & F. Ebb)


Another Kander & Ebb musical here. The show as a whole is a beast! Powerful, sexy, gripping, dealing with some very dark days. Obviously much of the story development happens in the second act, and there is a very powerful ending to contend with, but how can we overlook the famous opening number in the Kit Kat Club.

Verdict: Act I

Our favourite version – Emma Stone and Alan Cumming killing it for us in New York last year.

Guys and Dolls, 1950 (Frank Loesser)


Another tough one here with Frank Loesser’s classic show. Strong music in both half’s, although our favourite number, “Fugue for Tinhorns’ does come right at the beginning of the show. We also get most of Sky’s pursuit of Sarah in the first Act and as they say, it’s all about the chase. Second act high points obviously down in the sewers for the crapshooting and of course ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’. Not to forget ‘Sue Me’. A tricky one here, although I think for me the first act just wins out here.

Verdict: Act I

Our favourite version – although disliked by the purists, the movie really does it for us, although we’ve never actually seen it live – maybe at the Savoy? How can you argue with Frank and Marlon though…

The Wizard of Oz, 1939 (H. Stothart & H. Arlen)


Here’s another tough one just by form, obviously we all know the film, however with at least four different staged adaptions it is hard to know where to break this one in two. Working this out roughly in my head, I will again opt for what I will presume to be the first act, because with most of these things, the opening, meeting the characters and getting a sense of the world, all occurs in the first act of a show. And of course we all know where ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ comes…

Verdict: Act I

Our favourite version – how can anything beat Judy!

And there it is our, Act I vs Act II favourite musical challenge! Well done to @ChowKimWan for coming up with it and thanks @TheatreTruffles for the challenge.


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