A Good ol’ Sing Song
Anyone who has ever seen Mamma Mia would agree with me that without the sublime vocal talents of ABBA, the sub-par plotline would have made the movie a flop. This is strong evidence that adding impromptu musical numbers into any repetitive ol’ plotline makes it better by oh, about 200%.
There are so many classic musicals: Mary Poppins, High School Musical, West Side Story, Grease, Chicago, Hairspray, Les Misérables, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music. If you haven’t seen one of these, you are either a foetus fresh from the literal womb, or just genuinely fucked. It would be impossible to separate these films from the repertoire, existent in our collective cultural consciousness, of universally-known plots and songs. They exhibit the apex of human capability to make a catchy fucking tune. Don’t even get me started on a hippy-esque musical you may know called Hair. I live for that shit.
Not only that, but musicals are fantastic for their corny, yet smile-inducing positivity. Can anyone actually feel sad when John Travolta is thrusting on top of a 1948 Ford De Luxe Convertible, pumping out ‘Grease Lightning’? The answer is no, they can’t. The cheeriness and bright-side-of-life outlook of musicals are a great for overall positivity and mental health, something which is sorely needed in the monotonous rat race of modern mortal existence.
Being surrounded by a world of flash mobs, jazz hands and retro costumes is the kind of world I wanna be in. It reminds us that humans are fun, and unabashedly talented; we can take a joyful twist on the everyday, ordinary aspects of life which is otherwise impossible. It’s humanity at its finest. Music is life, people, embrace it.
Sometimes, simplifying things is good. Yeah, there’s small parts of plot mixed with the odd tap dance or sweaty shirtless solo (the musical numbers are what makes Footloose – beyond iconic) and the fact that dialogue often turns into a full-fledged ballad may trigger some people— but fuck, music is expression people. Is singing in the shower not fantastic? Wouldn’t life be filled with more joy if we sang and danced a little more? Musicals combine a story and an experience all in one. It’s a fantasy world; entertainment to a T. Adding that musical flair enhances a scene in a way that otherwise just can’t be done – think Troy pouring his heart out to Gabrielle. It creates a whole new level of feels.
Saying you don’t like musicals is akin to hating puppies; you have no soul.
There is, quite possibly, no one more abhorrent than someone who can sing, dance and act. We’ll use the word “act” loosely here, because in the world of Broadway, the hammier a line can be delivered, the louder the producers will quiver and coo. I could list thousands of scenes ruined by a clanging jazz number; billions of lines that would sound a lot fucking better, if the actor focused less on a campy vibrato, and more on a realistic hushed tone.
From an early age, I’ve sat through musical numbers with unshakeable annoyance. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the skill that goes into a well-choreographed dance routine. I’ll rise to my feet if I’m that impressed by a sweat-beaded cast of characters taking their final bow. Hell, if the vocal riffs last for hours, maybe I’ll ever shed a tear. But my absolute rage at the concept of musical numbers in movies and on-stage is insatiable because, quite frankly, they’re just a bit lame.
Hundreds of thousands of people work their whole lives to make their mark on the West End. The amount of money, time and energy that goes into producing these bedazzled clusterfucks is staggering. And the end result is never anything but more of the same; stock standard and predictable.
It is at this point that I must focus on the singular reason why I’ll never be convinced to like musical theatre. Not so much an “it”, but a “who”. Andrew Lloyd Webber (for those who are unfamiliar with the sod, refer to the following flops: The Phantom of the Opera, Evita and Cats) is perhaps the most intolerable git I’ve ever had the displeasure of retaining information about in my pop culture knowledge. The man is worth ￡715,000, has won countless Tony, Grammy and Emmy awards—yet acts as though his life is the saddest lived on this earth. He cannot muster even half a smile when fronted with a stage full of adoring celebrities paying tribute to him. In short, I don’t like him. And he serves as quite a fitting parable for the entire musical theatre industry – they’re a collection of outcast misfits, who have been shunned from the world due to their unsmotherable need to sing about their emotions. They spend countless hours slaving away on the rehearsal room floor, so that they can damage their vocal cords and feel slightly numb in front of a cheering audience (who could have watched what they just saw for free on YouTube and felt the same empty happiness). Musical numbers are painful and exhausting editions that piece together stories we probably didn’t care about in the first place. Perhaps it’s best to leave the entire thing on the writing room floor, and focus on something less melodic.