Theater Masks

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I love musicals

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I love musicals. Caitie and I met because of musicals. I've loved them since I was a kid, and that love has grown and grown through my whole life. I have HUNDREDS of cast albums, seen hundreds of shows, own just about every commercial release of a show or movie available on DVD. Yes, I do enjoy a lot of other music - but even then, the groups or singers I like have a definite theatrical or story-telling edge: Bruce Springsteen, Ben Folds, Billy Joel.

So why musicals?

The last couple of days I've been thinking about it because
1)I just got the album for Sondheim on Sondheim (and really, I have hardly to say any more than that if you know musicals or at all - or more specifically, Norm Lewis singing Being Alive),
2)a result of listening to that, I watched the recording of Company of the revival a couple of years ago (which we saw)
3)just today I started to listening to a CD I picked up a while ago but hadn't listened to yet: The Story of My Life.

The first two on that list are, to me, the height of familiarity. Sondheim is my favorite composer, song writer, lyricist, artist of all time. The man is a genius. See my earlier post on the concert Caitie and I went to on March for more gushing. The thing is, Sondheim (as well as many other theater composers, he just does it the best) is so multi-layered. Songs in different singer's hands can take on different meanings. His lyrics, on multiple listenings, can gain extra layers. New things can be discovered, despite the intense familiarity I have with all of his shows. Musicals provide emotional connection that other forms of music simply can't. Watch Raul Esparza sing Being Alive or Mandy Patinkin doing Finishing the Hat or George Hearns spitting out Epiphany and you are instantly with those characters, understanding them on a level you can't with movies or plays. The closest that comes to being able to get inside a character to a musical is the novel.

Don't get me wrong. I've listened to/seen quite a few crap musicals. Not everything is brilliant. The show I turned on today, "The Story of My Life" is a little known, I believe off-Broadway show, but the music, from what I've heard so far, is pretty, the lyrics intelligent, and the characters interesting. The discovery of a new musical, for me, is wonderful. I'm so familiar with so much of the canon already, that discovering hidden gems or new shows is an experience I cherish.

I think my love of musicals connects to my love of novels and the written word. It's a medium for telling stories unlike any others. Musicals can get right to the heart of a character or situation in a way no other form can. The music can be alternatingly thrilling, funny, upbeat, or moving.

The convention of people bursting into song is not one that I think should be so hard to accept. People don't have much trouble accepting a character breaking the fourth wall in a movie and talking to the camera, a character singing isn't much different.

I truly believe there is a musical out there for everybody. Those who say they just don't like the medium have most likely never really given it a chance. I don't accept the stereotypes that "they're gay" or "they're stupid because they're not like real life." Tell me what's so gay about Sweeney Todd? What's so realistic about Star Wars.

My love for musicals is a huge part of who I am. I quote shows almost daily. Caitie and I will often quote lines to each other - going to the theater is one of our favorite activities. It's certainly played a role in our love for Disney.
I can't wait to discover that next great show, or relive another old favorite.

What's your favorite show? Why do you like or not like musicals? Sound off below...

3 comments:

  1. My favorite is The Last 5 Years. Into the Woods and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown are tied for second. I love musicals mostly because they tell stories (to which I know there are many exceptions, but that's beside the point). I also love the concept of breaking out into song randomly. ;)

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  2. Amy -- you have good taste! Those are all great shows.

    If you can find it, check out "The Story of My Life" - I think you'll love it!

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