‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Friday, March 6, 2009

If you are a huge fan of musicals, you might want to stop reading here.

A few months ago, I was asked if I'd like to attend a musical - with the hopes that I'd review it. I declined.

I have conflicting personal policies in cases like this. Policy #1: I will go to anything for which I've been given free tickets. Policy #2: I try to accentuate the positive eliminate the negative latch on to the affirmative when it comes to the arts. Musicals are a conundrum because let's face it, there are no affirmatives. I avoid them like the plague, no matter how free the tickets are.

You can imagine my surprise when a friend of mine invited me to go see a musical with her. Invited is perhaps not the right word. She begged. She bribed. She offered scones. And in some sort of weak moment, I agreed to go.

It became evident to both of us early on that it was a mistake. "I owe you A LOT of scones," she whispered.

Maybe if she had gone with a fan of the genre, she would have had a better Musical Experience. She wouldn't have noticed that the band inevitably sounds honky and plinky - no matter how talented the musicians are. I think the music is just written that way. Or the person who arranged the music for all the musicals I've ever seen (in 6 states and two countries) has a deranged sense of humor and is going for "that plinky, honky sound."

Maybe if she had gone with a fan, she would have heard the intentional comedy and let the missed notes slide by unnoticed. Maybe she also would have found the incongruous nature of the songs endearing. Maybe she could have really enjoyed the dance numbers (which I found myself enjoying, in spite of myself).

I think it's safe to say that going to something with someone who hates that something will very likely ruin it for you. I am thinking of art films and old boyfriends. You just sit there and see it through their eyes. And it's not good.

And what is it about the musical genre that lends itself so easily to spoofing? I felt like I was watching either an episode of the Simpsons or a Christopher Guest movie. Except I love the Simpsons and Christopher Guest.

This one really nailed the musicalness of musicals: the distinct sound of the band; the relentless bursting into song; the sporadic shining moments of real comedy or memorable harmonies; the addictive melodies that are really best left at the theater.

Given my childhood, the sound of those melodies should fill me with waves of unicorn-and-soap-bubble-colored nostalgia.

It doesn't.

But the scones? Made it all worth while.

(Marilee - I have never seen a musical Berke has played in. I am sure I would loathe it less than usual.)


Laggin said...

You know, I am a total sucker for a wonderful, PROFESSIONAL musical. However, I find myself wanting a gun whenever I see a amateur musical (unless I happen to know people in it...and then I can enjoy it because of them).

But I do love that plinky, catchy music...it follows me from the theatre and hums through my head. Forever.

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

It's hard for me to see any production (musical, kids' play, etc) and not view it as a Christopher Guest film. I guess once Waiting for Guffman got its hooks into me, things were never the same.

Rose Brier Studio said...

No, you would probably loathe it just as much. He likes them mostly cuz he gets paid. It's the musical genre I know more about than he does.

I never thought of musicals as an acquired taste, but maybe they are something you either love or hate. I love them (except high school productions with very bad singing). I love the smaltz, the hokiness, the bursting into song at the oddest times! But then, Disneyland is my favorite place on earth, so maybe that explains it.

Bella said...

how do you classify opera? it IS musical theatre afterall. and some productions are plinky but others can be grade A, rock the house. i can be picky when it comes to musicals...that being said i will never, NEVER ask you to join me in NY for a weekend of theatre since most likely it will include one muscial.

Susan said...

Laggin - I did see The Buddy Holly Story at the Kennedy Center and loved it beyond all reason. And you love getting those songs stuck in your head? Try this one: Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome.....

Steam Me Up - God bless Christopher Guest.

Rose Briar - I don't know why I can't embrace the hokiness. I think I just like loathing it too much.

Bella - But we HAVE gone to theater together in NY and nothing bad came of it! I could maybe go shopping while you get your musical fix on and then meet you for dinner.

Dana's Brain said...

I am with Laggin on this one. I love a professional musical - gives me goosebumps.

However, I can certainly understand the fact that there is a contingency that really don't like them.