I love Musicals, but I find them frustrating, or at minimum, they require work. For instance, in preparation for Wicked, I bought the cast album to review several times. As it turned out, it got me through to about intermission. I still got lost somewhere in the second act.
That’s the way stage musicals go for me, though. I’ll sort of follow it and catch some music, but then I’ll get the cast album and study the liner notes and try to piece together all to write an essay. Maybe part of the reason I enjoy my son’s theater group’s shows so much is that I have several viewings to absorb them.
There’s at least two problems. One is imperfect hearing or listening. Part of the listening challenge is that there is so much to take in on the stage. In a movie, the director’s camera and microphone will make sure that essential details are amplified for the audience. The other problem or difficulty is that songs in modern musicals are meant to move the plot along, but they also are expected to be longer than thirty seconds. It makes for some odd pacing. Some twists and turns in Wicked, for example, take place in a few lines. As a result, you find yourself going, “How did the Witch get a boyfriend?” or similar. Therefore, because the notion of Glinda helping her green friend become popular makes for such a cute and entertaining song, it gets far more attention and time than other very useful ideas in the show.
Further, I think that musicals are more acceptably schizophrenic (or shall we say multifaceted) than other movies. Of course, we all accept the premise that characters, who in all other ways represent normal human beings, will break out into song and be joined in unison and synchronization by everyone else nearby. We won’t question the masculinity of the cowboys who hoop and holler in time when the music starts up. It’s all part of the fun. And yet that’s the trick, too. It’s gotta be fun one moment and serious the next.
I marvel every time I think of Oklahoma! If you only know it from clips or distant memory, you probably think of it as light romance, a good-time sweet little country story. And yet it references the following topics: promiscuity, pornography, nudity, suicide, impalement, death by burning, rape. Then comes the end and everyone’s happily singing about statehood. Somehow, I love it. I stood before it’s star, Shirley Jones, last year for a screening and autograph session. (Frankly, she’ll almost be Shirley Partridge to me.)
So, I love getting into a good musical, but it never happens just by going to the theater and watching it. I’ve got to listen to the CD, read the notes, research online, and refuse to be satisfied until I get it all, or at least most of it.