Why Movie Musical Characters Make Great Role Models

While your kids sing classic show tunes with everyone from Annie to Oliver, they might just learn something, too.
Betsy Bozdech Executive Editor, Ratings & Reviews | Mom of two Categories: Screen Time
Executive Editor, Ratings & Reviews | Mom of two

Ready for your kids to start belting out something besides "Let It Go" and "For the First Time in Forever"? Try introducing them to a classic musical. Here are our top three reasons that show-tune-packed picks are great for kids:

  • The music and songs get kids moving. Plus, they're often more memorable than standard dialogue -- and memorizing songs strengthens kids' listening skills.
  • There's a built-in conversation starter. You can talk about the difference between speaking the words and singing them and ask kids whether they can figure out what purpose each song fills (in the best musicals, the songs always either help develop the characters or move the story along).
  • Characters tend to be clearly identifiable as "good" and "bad." This can help you talk to your kids about which specific character traits are valued in your family -- and why. (There are always exceptions, of course; we recommend skipping darker titles like Carousel, Rent, and Dreamgirls until kids are old enough to understand the more complex issues and characters they tackle.)

If you're in the market for some great musical role models to start with, try any of these iconic characters (and find more -- from Mulan to the High School Musical gang -- in our Musicals for Kids list):

Musical: Annie
Character: Annie
Great trait: Optimism
What we love about her: She may live in a dismal orphanage run by the disastrous Miss Hannigan, but Annie never stops believing in the promise of tomorrow. She's a loyal friend, a hard worker, and resourceful in even the trickiest circumstances.
Signature song: "Tomorrow"

Musical: Mary Poppins
Character: Mary Poppins
Great trait: Creativity
What we love about her: She doesn't take any nonsense, but the world's most memorable nanny is also full of creative ways to have fun -- from cleaning up the nursery with magic to dancing on the rooftops. Firm but loving, Mary's an excellent adult role model for kids.
Signature song: "A Spoonful of Sugar"

Musical: The Music Man
Character: Harold Hill
Great trait: Spontaneity
What we love about him: OK, so technically "Professor" Hill is a con man, but his ability to take unexpected events in stride -- and improvise as he goes -- helps him realize that there's much more to life than cheating honest people out of their hard-earned money. Who doesn't love a reformed "bad guy"?
Signature song: "Ya Got Trouble"

Musical: The Sound of Music
Character: Maria
Great trait: Idealism
What we love about her: Leaving the safety of the abbey behind to become a governess to seven mischievous children might daunt even the cheeriest of souls, but Maria has such a strong belief in herself -- and the power of music -- that she succeeds where many others failed. And she finds a new family in the process.
Signature song: "I Have Confidence"

Musical: Oliver!
Character: Oliver Twist
Great trait: Resilience
What we love about him: Another iconic orphan, Oliver survives by being resilient and maintaining his innocence despite his difficult life. And in doing so, he ultimately moves from the mean streets of London to a real home, learning some important lessons along the way.
Signature song: "Where Is Love?"

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About Betsy Bozdech

Betsy's experiences working in online parenting and entertainment content were the perfect preparation for her role as Common Sense's executive editor of ratings and reviews. After earning bachelor's and master's... Read more

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Comments (6)

Parent of a 8 year old written by Sharon M

Before you generalize, it might be best to remember that Cabaret and Chicago are also "Classic Musicals." And while "I'm the Bravest Individual" in Sweet Charity is an awesomely funny and uplifting song, would you really want to have to explain to your seven-year-old what a "taxi dancer" actually is (as if "Hey, Big Spender" didn't make the point clear enough)? Even high school drama club staples like West Side Story and Grease contain material that would be very inappropriate for younger kids.
Adult written by thriftypb

Are you sure you remember the whole plot of Oliver? The bad girl with the good heart friend of Oliver's (Nancy) sings, "As long as he needs me, I know where I must be...I won't betray his trust, though people say I must..." She is brutally murdered by that "love." Though there is a happy ending for Oliver, just because there are a few happy songs like "Who Will Buy?" does not make this movie based on Dicken's depiction of raw poverty, injustice, criminal life, and brutality a good fit for younger viewers.
Parent of a 9 and 11 year old written by Amalthea

I'm sorry, but your write-up on "Oliver!" is almost completely wrong. First, let me say that "Oliver!" is one of my all-time favorite musicals; I was even in a production of it myself, so I know it inside and out. It wasn't Oliver's "quick-wit and resilience" that got him through. Oliver was a feather in the wind, carried along by forces well beyond his control. Also, "Consider Yourself" was the Artful Dodger's signature song. Oliver's was "Where Is Love" or "Who Will Buy".
Parent of an infant and 4 year old written by Betsy Bozdech

Hi, Amalthea and SharonM! We did indeed make an update to the piece; just hadn't been able to add my own comment here saying so before now. :) We always appreciate hearing from readers who feel passionately about the topics we're covering. Thanks so much for your thoughts.
Parent of a 8 year old written by Sharon M

Looks like they've edited the article in response to your comment! Would be nice if they added a note to the article saying so, as news sites do when they make corrections.