How To Have a Musical Themed Party

How To Have a Musical Themed Party

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Ready to host your musical themed party?

The thought of a misplaced theme can put a bad taste in many a mouth: prom and dance themes are always trite and hyperbolic; a room or restaurant designed around a theme is usually kitschy.

Trite is never good, and kitschy only works for a party. In fact, kitschy makes a really fun party.

Hence the Sherri Theme Theorem: party + theme = fun.

The We Heart This chicks have had some fab ideas for theme parties; Mad Men and Grey Gardens come to mind.

But when they picked up on my Musical Sunday theme for Glee week I was tickled. I was also inspired to let you all in on the most fun tradition that a manageable group of friends can have.

To clue in those of you unfamiliar with Musical Sunday, it all started a dozen plus years ago in a teeny apartment in Tempe, Arizona. A drunken night out culminated in an uproariously fun late night in.

Singing along with The Sound of Music proved enormously entertaining to my roomie, Eric, our baby doxie, Leto, and me. Leto sealed the Musical Sunday deal by singing the Goat Song louder, better and with more accurate yodeling than either Eric or myself.

Subsequent Sundays were often spent in eager anticipation of seeing Leto sing the Goat Song. Champagne would accompany our fete (Leisel: I’d like to stay and taste my first champagne, yes? Captain Von Trapp: No).

In coming years we’d add some German meats and bake crisp apple strudel. I became enamored with the stylings of the Baroness Schraeder and would attempt to replicate her big bows and chignon. At some point Eric even bought Lederhosen.

And so it goes: the themed musical party was born.

But why limit ourselves?

The Sound Of Music may be the musical pinnacle, but there are other mountains to climb.

If Leto could hit the high notes of the Goat Song (actually called “The Lonely Goat Herd”), what might he do with “Some Enchanted Evening?” And there must be more to eat than strudel, more to drink than champagne.

We thus set out to climb every mountain.

Picking the Musical for your theme party

In the years since that first Musical Sunday, we’ve viewed

  • Hello, Dolly!,
  • Fiddler On The Roof,
  • Cabaret,
  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band,
  • High Society,
  • The Music Man,
  • Oklahoma!,
  • State Fair,
  • West Side Story,
  • South Pacific,
  • Mamma Mia,
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy,
  • Chicago,
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie,
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch,
  • A Star is Born,
  • and many, many more.

Our musical pool is diverse and we don’t have many rules. Some preferences have been observed over the years (Eric isn’t a big Gene Kelly fan, and neither of us are bowled over by Fred Astaire).

If you’d like to try your own Musical Sunday (or Tuesday, Friday or Saturday), think about what you and your friends want to hear, and what you all would have fun singing.

If you’re willing to watch something you’ve never seen before, download some songs from the soundtrack so you are a familiar with them; you can play these songs as everyone arrives and cocktails are served.

Cocktails For Musical Themed Parties

If possible, review the movie beforehand to see if any particular cocktail or beverage is drunk, ordered, or is pertinent to the movie in any form (i.e. our Sound Of Music Champagne reference) in order to choose your themed beverage.

If you are unable to preview the movie, or if no beverage reference is discernible, choose your beverage according to the

  • time period,
  • country in which the movie is set,
  • or see if a cocktail incorporates the name of a character, group or place within the movie (i.e. Bloody Marias, Storm Trooper cocktails, or Austrian or German beer could work for a SOM party, too).

Make and serve the cocktails before starting the movie. A cocktail hour before the movie will give everyone a chance to loosen up (and if you’ve got the soundtrack pumping in the background, everyone will be familiar with the words when it comes time to sing!)

Planning Costumes For Your Musical Themed Party

I am a big believer in dressing up. Dressing up creates an inclusive atmosphere for everyone and encourages losing yourself in the silly musical-ness of it all.

But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on a brand new outfit or fancy costume rental.

Most things can be found in your closet. Ok, maybe not Lederhosen, but a military-inspired jacket or a pencil skirt and frilly blouse could make you a Captain Von Trapp or Baroness Schraeder.

An ascot and a sportcoat could make you a Max. Draping some curtains around you a la Carol Burnett could make you an inspired Von Trapp child.

If someone arrives sans costume, have an appropriate scarf, tie, hat or jacket on hand for them that fits the theme. Just like a fancy restaurant that will make you rent a tie or jacket in order to gain admittance, so should you.

Don’t charge them, though; that would be bad taste. Just make them help cook dinner later.

Musical Themed Food

Food should be chosen in much the same way as the cocktail.

Was something served in the movie?

Where did the movie take place?

What did these people likely eat for dinner?

The Sound Of Music is dripping with choices for food: schnitzel with noodles, crisp apple strudel, heirloom tomatoes, anything German or Austrian (like sauerkraut or potato salad).

Prepare what you can ahead of time: pre-bake that strudel, bread the schnitzel, slice the heirloom tomatoes, and prep the potato salad. This way, when the musical is finished it won’t take another two hours to make dinner.

Musical Themed Party Ideas

The Sound Of Music is my sentimental favorite for Musical Sunday, and we do revisit this standby often, but some other themes have worked out quite well. And here are a few other favorites…

Mamma Mia! 

Costumes: Summery Greek-Isle wear
Beverage: Absolut Vodka (we had the limited edition disco ball version) with mixers
Food: Swedish meatballs

South Pacific

Costumes: Tropical forties
Beverage: Mai Tai
Food: BBQ Pork and Pineapple skewers with red onion

Fiddler on the Roof


Costumes: big newsboy caps, suspenders, gray and brown austere pants/dresses.
Beverage: Russian beer
Food: Borscht (Leto loved this one!)

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Costumes: Flappers, pinstripes
Food: Chinese
Beverage: Champagne and Chinese Beer

The Musical Themed Party Tradition Continues…

We started Musical Sundays in my twenties; this past year I turned 40. Leto, the baby doxie whose yodeling inspired Musical Sunday, is now an old, lumpy and grumpy wiener who is still the guest of honor at every party.


Well then, grab a few of your favorite friends and say, “Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! Fremde, etranger, stranger. Gluklich zu sehen, je suis enchante, Happy to see you, bleibe, reste, stay.” Life is a cabaret.

Sherri is co-author of What Would You Do With This Room? My 10 Foolproof Commandments to Great Interior Design, and part of the team behind the iPhone app, Mark On Call.

15 thoughts on “How To Have a Musical Themed Party”

  1. What a clever idea Sherri! I do like it! Especially having the soundtrack playing in the background, it totally sets the tone.
    Oh boy, you must know by now that “The Sound of Music is our very own and dear Stef’s all-time favorite musical! I can see her wheels turning right now!
    I can totally see our friends singing along with “Westside Story” and a few others. Going way back, I can remember playing Westside Story over and over again until it was too scratched up! We all has a blast singing along! We’d act it out down the basement on a bunch of milk cartons (stage) and have the kids and cousins in the neighborhood come over to join us. My goofy brother could sing the whole dang thing! “Gee, Officer Krupke, We’re down on our knees, ‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease. Gee, Officer Krupke, What are we to do? Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup you”! We’d sing our hearts out to lots of albums my parents had.. Westside Story being one of our favorites. Gee, I even remember singing along with “HAIR”, and “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
    Thanks again for the great ideas!
    The collection of peeps we entertain will need more than an hour to warm up before they start to sing along! They are a funny bunch and will probably need to have some sailor ditties to encourage them to join in the fun!

  2. Sherri – we are thrilled to have your amazing Musical Sunday party ideas here on the site! This post is chock full of fun and simple ideas – I have 20 musicals i want to plan now. I think a lot of our readers are going to appreciate this idea and plan their own musical festivities.

    I would suggest that first-timers start with a musical they already know and love – that way it’s pretty easy to come up with food, drinks costumes etc, – you’ll be amazed at how easily the party plan comes together.

    Finally, I love the idea of having costume accessories for the costume-less. And couple of extra wigs and hats can add some life to a party!
    .-= Tyna Werner´s last blog ..we heart Glee =-.

  3. Such a great post Sherri! and such good ideas.. Tyna I totally have 20 musical themed parties I want to throw now too!

    I bet an ANNIE Party would be pretty fun too!! And of course… Wizard of Oz! :)

    The three musts you have for each theme, costume – beverage – and food. are all perfect Sherri!

    Having participated in the fun you will hear about tomorrow, I can vouch for the fact that a musical themed party will leave you happy and smiling for days! :)

  4. Ohmygosh! I never thought of Annie OR Wizard of Oz! Can you believe it? That just proves that there is a treasure trove of musically themed parties from which to choose.
    I’ve always thought of Musical Sunday as our little secret. Glad the cat’s out of the bag.

  5. Oh yeah, @ Irene, West Side Story was a good Musical Sunday. We had Cuba Libres (rum–Puerto Rican, of course–and coke with lime) and roast pork. I wore a Natalie Wood-inspired blue pleated dress that flowed when I twirled, its sweetheart neckline adorned with a delicate little cross necklace. I soooo take my themes seriously.

  6. Love this idea Sherri. I could totally see myself doing an Annie party. I think I still have all the words of the songs memorized. This would be a totally cute idea for a young girl’s birthday party too.

  7. Wow-wee Sherrishera! I so want to come to AZ for one of your shindigs! After I logged off WHT, I went on line and started checking out musicals and thought this was a great idea and the sky was the limit! Oh, we’d definitely have some Cuban sandwiches and rum and cokes- you can bet that! I love the dress Natalie Wood wore too.. I bet you twirled your pretty head off!

  8. Ok, before I bow down to the awesomeness that is Musical Sunday, I want to ask a question…does anyone cry at musicals? And I’m not talking about crying while Maria is singing about her youth or childhood or while Babs is asking her Pappa if he can hear her. I’m talking about watching that Lonely Goat Herd clip above and tearing up? I don’t know, something about musicals has me in tears at the weirdest, happiest times. I’ve never met anyone who this happens to (my friends LOVE to tease me about this.) If you’re the same, let me know! And what do you think it is? Are we happiness deficient or something?
    .-= stef´s last blog ..we heart Glee =-.

  9. Stef I totally tear up at musicals! You are not alone!

    Sherri I just thought of one more..
    The original Willy Wonka! How fun would that be!

    I would love to see pix of Ledo at a fiddler on the roof themed party!! I remember you saying how much he loved Borscht :)

  10. @ Stef, I cry when Leto sings The Lonely Goat Herd song, but I can hold the tears if he’s not present for the yodeling.

    @ Christy, keep the ideas coming! And, unfortunately, no pictures of Leto scrambling for our bowls of borscht and lapping it up unceremoniously exist. The picture is etched only in our minds’ eyes.

  11. I’ve been thinking of my list for the next party!
    * Hedwig & The Angry Inch – love this soundtrack so much and the costumes could be so much fun

    * Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains – everyone loves to dress as punk rockers, plus vintage Diane Lane and an adorable Paul Simonon (The Clash)- sigh.

    * The Buffy Musical episode – I had tickets to a Buffy Musical event (just like a Rocky Horror showing) that was canceled – boo! I always wanted to throw one at my house.

    * Dr. Horrible’s Sing A Long blog – maybe as a preview at my Buffy event?

    And a few classics, West Side Story and Camelot come to mind.
    .-= Tyna Werner´s last blog ..Green Monday Suggestion: Pea & Pepper Risotto =-.

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