and anyone else who hates on the musical theatre.
Like pretty much every child who grew up in the 80s, I saw a tour of Cats
. And I thought the theatre was magic to begin with, but whoa... theatre with singing and dancing
. Mind blowing. Even from Cats
, which, let's face it, is not T.S. Eliot's best work [not to mention Andrew Lloyd Webber's - I mean, no one's on roller skates, but...] and has very little to say about the world, the human condition, or anything but the imagination of children.
There is no way I could see enough high school productions of Into the Woods
in this lifetime (and still, you know, have a life). Something about the grown-up fairy tale seems to resonate so perfectly with kids of a certain age that they're just so there.
Because the music. It is a metaphor for emotion. And the thing with metaphoric emotion is, it can change you. Temporarily or, if it's really really really good, forever. The musical demands a type of suspended disbelief that most other popular theatre doesn't even attempt (Tony Kushner, who essentially writes musical theatre without music, is an exception), absolutely requires you to live temporarily in another world. With all the other people in the room with you.
Really good musicals go one better and evoke more than they tell. Hello, Dolly
, for instance, is all about the tell; it's prose - but Evita
is a dream about Evita. Tommy
(not as performed by the Who, but on stage) is visual poetry. Chess
straddles the fence; it is both a straight story and an implied one.Tommy
, in fact, is the mostly provoking and transformative piece of musical theatre I can currently think of. It's probably difficult to envision without being there, but the B'way production years ago dealt in broad swaths of color and movement that just swept you up. And the architecture of the show literally pulled the audience into the performance - it wrapped around you (which, come to think of it, Cats
had done when I was wee) and reflected back at you.
How can one sit in a dark room having the same experience with so many other people and not come away from it a little changed?