I don’t hate musicals. I grew up on them, I was listening to You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown when I was too young to know what it was about. I have an original album cover for that show framed in my bathroom. I love the way a song in a musical is put together. The emotion that can spring from a character who has no choice to express what they’re going through except through song. Just listen to me talk about the song Skid Row from Little Shop of Horrors on the TFP podcast. My high school years were framed by Sondheim from beginning to end. When I was in high school, they used to show musicals on PBS and since Broadway was at that point a fictional magical place, I was glued to the TV through Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. A couple of years ago I got a freebie CD at some conference – it was a collection of first song from a bunch of musicals. I love this CD, I love how each one of these songs introduces the world of each particular musical.
Now, I don’t love ALL musicals. Because they have meant so much to my make up as a theatre artist, there might be a smidgen of hate in there when things go awry. There are some musicals that bore me, that confuse me, that I can’t believe actually made it to the stage. I get really, really mad when bad theatre happens, especially a musical because there are so many people involved. Of course no one sets out to make a bad musical. But sometimes I leave a show seething with a boiling rage because it seems impossible that no one, out of all the people involved couldn’t make something half way decent. I have not seen the Spider Man musical but I think based on all the anecdotal evidence it would be a seething rager.
Here is my most hated musical lyric of all time. Mostly because it doesn’t make any sense to me that they couldn’t have thought of something else. Anything else. There had to be someone who thought this was a dumb line. It’s from the opening of Pippin.
Ok, first line: Join us, leave your fields to flower (ok, that works, that’s nice, good image, very appropriate)
Now. Second line: Join us, LEAVE YOUR CHEESE TO SOUR. (Really? Really? There are no other words that could have fit in the world of the play that rhyme with flower? Not one word? This is the image you want to leave me with? Sour cheese? I Haaaaaaaaate this line. Ok. I’m done. Really, it’s a burr in my bonnet. Big time.)
And then there are the musicals that just don’t do it for me. Annie after the first two numbers leaves me numb with banality. I can’t actually summon up one song from 25th Putnam Spelling Bee. I’m not a fan of Spring Awakening but that’s actually the book more than the music. I think Cats is boring. And some are just so freaking long. Les Mis –Loves it, but so long. Anything Goes? The first act never ends.
So between the not doing it and the seething rage, I can absolutely understand the negative feelings that some have toward the genre as a whole. The I hate musical people. What do you mean you’re just going to start singing? It’s easy to understand. It really is a love hate thing.
What side of the musical fence do you stand on? Love ’em or hate ’em?