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Action movies are just musicals with knuckles.
June 8, 2014 12:02 PM   Subscribe


 
A little chin music, huh, wise guy?

I like a lot of musicals. Guys And Dolls and Tommy probably most.

"I got the horse right here, his name is Paul Revere ..."
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:04 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I'm actually getting dressed in a bit to go to the Tony Awards with my white, cisgender, straight husband, so thanks for this. Very timely!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:05 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Life is a lot more enjoyable once you decide not to pigeonhole your tastes, or let popular opinion dictate them. Do you like Creed? Embrace that shit.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:08 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Embrace it .... With arms wide open.
posted by The Whelk at 12:10 PM on June 8 [43 favorites]


Oh cool we can have another discussion on how there's no right taste in anything and everything is equally valid.
posted by Ferreous at 12:14 PM on June 8 [15 favorites]


hunderrrrrrr the sunlai
posted by threeants at 12:14 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]


how there's no right taste in anything and everything is equally valid.

Well, I think all artistic media are a priori equally valid--you can make great art sculpting marble or trash, I don't think it's prudent nor defensible to prejudge the means of artistic creation.

Having said that, many musicals are terrible. Just awful. Like most of all creative work. But the GOOD musicals, now those are something. The medium can be quite moving, and allows one to tell a story in some specific ways not available to just theater or song/music.

My personal taste puts Sondheim above all others in this medium. And Weill.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:17 PM on June 8 [13 favorites]


Love what you love.

But ... but I don't love musicals. I just don't "get" them on the emotional level that this guy thinks I should.

This probably isn't aimed at me - it seems to be aimed more at the type of dude who dismisses musicals for not being masculine or cool enough. Still, he seems to be using a shotgun sort of strategy here ... not aiming all that carefully.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:21 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


No no mr tumblr writer, fuck your opinion. Seriously, call it up, ask it out, flirt over appetizers, get to know each other over spicy Thai eggplant and then invite up for a nightcap. Talk. Make out. Respect its decision to wait and then go fuck yourself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:21 PM on June 8 [48 favorites]


Oh man, I've said for YEARS that Jackie Chan movies are the equivalent of Fred Astaire musicals -- the plot moves forward and then is interrupted for several minutes of highly choreographed filmed movement by people on the screen, which then stops and then the plots moves forward again, repeat.

At some level, what movies can do (used to do, maybe not as much now that most of the biggest movies are created in a computer) is provide a document of how humans are able to learn and execute complicated movements which create a sense of awe in the audience. Whether it's fighting or dancing doesn't matter. It's about how the movements make the audience feel fascinated and like they are seeing something rare. Even if it is deeply rehearsed, the camera is pointed at that small group of humans who bothered to rehearse this thing and learn it to the point where it feels astounding and spontaneous when you watch it.
posted by hippybear at 12:23 PM on June 8 [28 favorites]


It's because I'm not dead inside that I can note that indeed musicals suck. I'm sorry people make fun of him and call him gay, neither of which should ever happen, but that's an art form that actively turns me off and reading some random's blogpost isn't going to change that.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:27 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Not liking musicals is akin to not liking books or paintings. It doesn't make sense.

Even if that's true—and I'd debate that—who cares? I'm entitled to dislike books or paintings, and it doesn't have to "make sense" (i.e., I don't have to justify it) to anyone but myself. It certainly doesn't make this guy's judgmental, self-important browbeating any less tiresome.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:31 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


You Hate Musicals Because You Are Dead Inside: correlation, causation, etc.
posted by misteraitch at 12:32 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Having a daughter has allowed me to admit that while many possibly most musicals are awful there is nothing inherently awful about liking musical theatre and show tunes. For a good percentage of the 20th century show tunes comprised a massive percentage of the American song book and some of the most talented song writers worked in musical theatre.
posted by vuron at 12:34 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


The analogy isn't just between musicals and action movies, but between all movies that alternate plot with "set pieces": musicals, action, some comedy, even drama with monologues; and also pornography (which, if you get Freudian, you could say is the model for all the rest).
posted by vogon_poet at 12:35 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


I hate musicals because they make no sense. Most premises for film/theatre require so much suspension of disbelief, that any added luggage just pushes it over. Here are people just breaking out in song and dance at the weirdest times and then have a group of people pondering how to solve a problem and then all singing the same words at the previously elusive solution.

I don't mind talking animals. I don't mind aliens. I don't even mind superpower/supernatural productions. If there is a movie with lots of songs, I can be talked into watching, but when characters just start to sing and dance in a completely contrived and choreographed manner, you just lost me!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:35 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


I like musicals just fine, but Andrew Lloyd Weber gives me the dry heaves. What does that say about my soul?
posted by uncleozzy at 12:35 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Theater is the original social network.

Now, that is an interesting thought. I don't think it's right, exacty, but it's in the ballpark.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:37 PM on June 8


Not liking ALW means you have actual discerning taste.

(His work with Tim Rice was excellent, though.)
posted by hippybear at 12:38 PM on June 8 [11 favorites]


What does that say about my soul?

You are a human being.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:38 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Most musicals are emotionally touching in the same way a Dorito tastes good. I'm not going to hate someone for waxing rhapsodic about Doritos, but it would depress me to find out that they eat them with every meal, and I probably wouldn't trust their restaurant recommendations.
posted by threeants at 12:38 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]


If there is a movie with lots of songs, I can be talked into watching, but when characters just start to sing and dance in a completely contrived and choreographed manner, you just lost me!

So, you should watch the Les Miserables movie. No dancing at all.

But really, the thing to realize about musicals is, the musical numbers are the equivalent of Shakespeare monologues or Greek theater chorus moments. They comment on the characters' internal emotional state or on the action of the story to that point. You aren't supposed to look at the songs as a part of the actual action of the plot, but rather as breaks where people sort of break character to explain their motivations or meta-moments where the action of the plot suspends itself to reflect upon itself.

Sondheim musicals break this convention quite often, and are pretty much sui generis.
posted by hippybear at 12:42 PM on June 8 [14 favorites]


It's weird to see solipsists duke it out.
posted by Etrigan at 12:44 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


there's no right taste in anything and everything is equally valid

If you consider Sturgeon's Law, almost everything is equally crap.

My participatory involvement with musicals consisted of a high school productionl (30+ years BEFORE High School Musical) of "The Music Man", playing clarinet/saxophone in the 'pit band' after sitting onstage for the opening 'rap-style' number on the train (Yes, I was the guy who said "But you gotta know the territory!"). I liked the show and enjoyed my participation, but later when my college was auditioning non-theater-majors for small roles, I was relieved to see they had no musicals planned. Still, between scenes of a dress rehearsal of "A Man for All Seasons", I, in costume as Cardinal Wolsey joined another kid playing Archbishop Cranmer in a rousing rendition of Tom Lehrer's "Vatican Rag" that nearly gave the faculty director a stroke... Ah, the theater.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:45 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


Dorito tastes good
posted by The Whelk at 12:46 PM on June 8


Singing is fine, and theater is fine, but when they are mixed together the common outcome tends towards a very particular experience -- Oklahoma or West Side Story or one of those awful Disney productions, say. There are other kinds of musicals, but they aren't the mainstream of that genre and aren't what people tend to be criticizing when they say they don't like musicals.

I did like that musical movie with Bjork where she is going blind, although everyone I saw it with hated it, but I'm hard pressed to think of any others I've liked.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:46 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Sondheim is the fucking man. Otherwise, about 95 percent of the musical universe leaves me absolutely cold. So I'm not sure if I'm dead inside or not.

But it is the same with Miyazaki. Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite directors, ever, and I can watch his movies over and over again without tiring of them. Other than that, I don't get anime at all.
posted by Mothlight at 12:47 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Personally I have no problem with the inherent qualities of musicals; it's just that most of the musicals that exist are embarrassing and flat. There may well be an underground musical scene producing really raw art that I'm not aware of.
posted by threeants at 12:48 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


but they aren't the mainstream of that genre and aren't what people tend to be criticizing when they say they don't like musicals.

Two of the musicals (of the four) nominated for Best Musical tonight are absolutely not at all what you are describing, and there's a Tupac Shakur musical opening in a few weeks that is the favorite to take several awards next June. They are absolutely the mainstream of modern musical theatre.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:48 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


The longer I've been in theater, the more I find that the idea of the musical-hater is overblown. Musicals sell like crazy and almost every actor has at least one musical that they'd really like to do some day (I want to direct Into The Woods and I want to star in The Music Man).

Now, getting a musical fan that's obsessive to go see a show that isn't a musical? Or getting many musical theater performers to audition for non musicals? Forget about it.

Musical aficionados, you are winning. People prefer your product. To put it in terms you'll understand, don't get all whiny because some few people don't get it because it's like listening to Glinda complain that she has tons of friends but doesn't feel good about herself. Let Elphaba go and be herself. Jeez.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:48 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Wow. I don't get the "take that! I hate musicals!!" attitude. For context, I grew up on musicals--RKO, Warners, MGM, 20th Century Fox. I waited for them to come on the local channels on TV and watched the shit out of them. One of the great contributions to 20th-century world culture is the American film musical.

To say, "huh, who breaks out in song like that?" evinces an almost-disingenuous literalness. Yes, and I don't think most people sing with their dying breath, but, whoops, entire art form known as "opera." Or that people are followed around by a group of commentators who engage us on a different level than the protagonist, but, whoops, Greek tragedy.

I mean, really? That's the stumbling block? The Great American Songbook, which is predominantly and in equal parts stage and screen music, is another of this country's gifts to the world. To not only hear these songs being sung by some of the country's foremost interpreters, but also to see them singing them and, by the way, to be surrounded by some of the most imaginative mise-en-scene committed to nondramatic film? If you don't like it, you don't like it. I'm not much of a fan of Westerns myself. But to dismiss it by saying, "who breaks out into song?" would seem to be a...misguided critical take on the musical genre.
posted by the sobsister at 12:49 PM on June 8 [26 favorites]


I like musicals just fine, but Andrew Lloyd Weber gives me the dry heaves. What does that say about my soul?

Your poor soul has developed a case of Cats scratch fever.
posted by jamjam at 12:50 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Thanks, it's been a while since I was given such a clear examine of what cocaine sounds like.
posted by belarius at 12:51 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Not liking musicals is akin to not liking books or paintings. It doesn't make sense.

What a bizarre thing to say. Lots of people dislike books or paintings—or for that matter, ballet or ice cream or skyscrapers. There are lots of different kinds of everything. It's not remotely unusual to dislike a particular form. I'd bet five bucks you dislike one or two yourself.
posted by cribcage at 12:53 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I love musicals, as long as they were written by Trey Parker.

Outside of that... nope.
posted by delfin at 12:53 PM on June 8


Poor Matt Stone. Kicked to the curb yet again.
posted by hippybear at 12:54 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


...and EGOT winner Bobby Lopez. Sheesh.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Not liking musicals is akin to not liking books or paintings. It doesn't make sense.

This seems odd to me. Musicals are a form, not a medium. Disliking musicals is not like disliking books or paintings, it's like disliking bildungsromans or triptychs. Which might be unfair in a different way, but; not the same thing.
posted by threeants at 12:56 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


It's weird to see solipsists duke it out.

It's kind of like a self-regarding musical with knuckles, eh?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:00 PM on June 8


Of course there are good musicals. (And a lot of the best jazz standards are from musicals.)

But musicals are the only art form I'm familiar with that sometimes make me say to myself, "Please, just shoot me now." I'll sit through a subpar play, an average movie, or read a book that is good, not great. I'll poke my head into an art gallery and know I'm not going to dig it. But sitting in an audience at a musical…there's something so aggressive about what's happening on stage, something that screams "Enjoy this thing we're doing!" that I'm not sure I find in other art forms.

I don't hate all musicals, and it may be stupid of me to be prejudiced against an entire genre, but the "breaking-into-song" bit, the lack of irony (most of the time), the banality, the artificiality…

Some people will never like jazz. I get that. This guy does not get why some people don't like musicals.
posted by kozad at 1:02 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


It's weird to see so many people in one thread stand up and say they don't like The Wizard of Oz and Fiddler on the Roof and stuff.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:09 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I hate musicals because they will never again make one that compares to what is on this recording.
posted by bukvich at 1:12 PM on June 8


I mean, I liked Wizard of Oz and Fiddler on the Roof when I was 10. Now I can think of them sort of fondly but I expect more complexity from art now. It's not like Fiddler on the Roof makes me angry. Different strokes, I guess.
posted by threeants at 1:14 PM on June 8


Before his throat problem, Christian Bale already got in my wife and I's bad graces for badmouthing Newsies. Just wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
posted by kmz at 1:15 PM on June 8


People seem to be saying "musicals" in the same way that others think Africa is a country.

Musicals vary hugely from one composer/lyricist to another, from one film or stage director to another, from one cast to another. A Warner Bros. musical of the early '30s, e.g., 42nd Street, is light years away from an MGM musical of the late '40s, e.g., Good News. Sondheim has similarities with Rodgers and Hart, but Rodgers and Hammerstein are just as close a comparison (and just as different as Richard Rodgers' work with Larry Hart). Help! isn't The Sound of Music (my least-favorite musical ever), and TSOM isn't Flying Down to Rio or The Wizard of Oz or Hedwig and the Angry Inch or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you really don't like any of these because they involve singing and dancing, then I don't know what to say. Sorry?
posted by the sobsister at 1:16 PM on June 8 [20 favorites]


I'll go on the record and say there is no 10 year old on Earth that understands the craft in Fiddler.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on June 8


More emotionally complex than Fiddler? Like what?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:18 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


Art criticism and taste criticism are different, perhaps opposite things.

You know its taste criticism when the object of the conversation is a medium or "this person's entire body of work," i.e. "musicals suck/are great" "Miyazaki sucks/is great!" These necessarily involve ad hominem arguments and/or groupthink mentality, and should be avoided if you actually enjoy discussing art.

Whereas art criticism uses specific works as the object of discussion.

That said, the proper way to respond when someone begins a taste criticism discussion like "musicals suck, bro" or "anime is shitty" or "Stephen King is the best american writer living" is to fucking ignore it like you would ignore 'AFJ'AFJ'SLJFAL;SJF'HKG[H3HNFG because it's meaningless text, except its worse than meaningless, its also harmful. The author of the FPP didn't ignore it and now he's contributing to the madness.
posted by Taft at 1:19 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


It probably says something that the only musicals I can stomach are the ones that are actively subverting the genre in some way and/or more about straight-up comedy than about Let's Put On A Show! Parker/Stone products, the concept of Avenue Q (haven't seen the actual show yet), Rocky Horror, Little Shop of Horrors, Oh! Calcutta / Let My People Come, Meet the Feebles, early Marx Brothers films, several Mel Brooks films, and so on.

Musicals are like Glee. There are people who are predisposed to enjoy Glee, and people who recoil with horror from the concept, of which I fall into the latter category.

I have absolutely no idea why anyone would pay thirty cents or more to watch anything with which Andrew Lloyd Webber has ever been involved. Ever. Zero exceptions.
posted by delfin at 1:20 PM on June 8


I don't know, maybe emotional complexity isn't the attribute I'm trying to get at; maybe, like...rawness? There really is no accounting for taste; I'm only here because some dude told me I was dead inside.
posted by threeants at 1:21 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Fiddler isn't simple. It's just accessible. It's easy to look down on because its imagery is right in the open (in what other work does a character shout-sing an explanation of the central metaphor: "Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof"?) I can also see why it's off-putting that all of Tevye's emotional struggles are sung or spoken out loud, but that doesn't mean they're not there.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 1:22 PM on June 8


That said, the proper way to respond when someone begins a taste criticism discussion...

You apparently enjoy discussing art. Is it unthinkable to you that another person might enjoy discussing taste?
posted by cribcage at 1:24 PM on June 8


"Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof"

Yeah but it's way more complicated than that. Tevye begins by posing the rhetorical question which paraphrased is 'Why the fuck would you do something as risky as fiddle on a roof?' and then answers it by saying 'Because it's tradition!' but then by the end of the intro song he says 'Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof' because over the course of the song Tevye completely forgot the point he was trying to make.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:26 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


It's not that he forgot, it's that he's proving the ultimate truth of the entire story. Traditions are fragile.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:28 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


As a theater director, my dear departed mother in law once opined "Musicals are trying because they bring together actors who can dance or sing, singers who can't dance or act, and dancers who can't act or sing".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:31 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


another person might enjoy discussing taste

Of course some people love talking about how they are different or similar to other people and appraising the value of those distinctions. I'm saying its meaningless in the context of discussing art.
posted by Taft at 1:36 PM on June 8


The piece is asking you to examine why you don't like musicals. Not liking musicals is akin to not liking books or paintings. It doesn't make sense. There are lots of different kinds of musicals.

Musicals are a genre of theater. They are not the equivalent of books or paintings - which are media (mediums). This comparison does not makes sense.

I don't like most musicals. I find people breaking into song unexpectedly to be as odd in a story as for people to suddenly start painting a mural on a public street - what? I sort of get it... but it just doesn't work for me - most times.

When it comes down to it - I think I prefer for my musicals to involve a lot of damage to Illinois Nazis &/or to my local mall.
posted by jammy at 1:40 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Alexandra Kitty: "I don't mind talking animals. I don't mind aliens. I don't even mind superpower/supernatural productions. If there is a movie with lots of songs, I can be talked into watching, but when characters just start to sing and dance in a completely contrived and choreographed manner, you just lost me!"

If this were criticism, it would be silly, but I understand it's just your taste. Still, it seems odd to me, and feels like it's based on a distinction that is almost tragic in its implications. Is singing in life really so incomprehensible? Singing is an awesome thing; it's an extension of all the power and eloquence and sonority our voices are already capable of. Every time we talk to other people, we're singing; we do it with relatively few notes, but our voices rise and fall, our words have a particular flow, a rhythm and meter. Nowadays it's popular to do musical episodes of TV shows, and people always do this meta thing of talking about whether someone's likely to break into song; but I like the innocent old musical theater idea that people might break into song at any moment.

It's worth noting that this seems to have developed slowly. The first "musicals," on Broadway and the like, were just a bunch of songs strung together from vaudeville. There was no plot, no narrative. People went for the music. Later plots were added, which was not unfamiliar to vaudeville itself, and which was sort of an extension of what opera had done for many years anyway.

In any case, I do like the idea of people just singing when they feel it'll better communicate what they have to say. If that's not realistic, then it ought to be.

But even I have a limit, I will confess. It can be hard for me to get through The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. That's a hip 1960s French musical with a bright, jazzy soundtrack that takes the immersive operatic approach - every single line is sung, whether they're buying gas at the gas station or whatever. It's just too much; I get overwhelmed. But that overwhelmed feeling itself can be interesting, I guess.
posted by koeselitz at 1:45 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


I like going to the theatre, and have ended up seeing a fair few musicals. I have seen some interesting plays with songs: "The Universal Machine" about the life of Alan Turing, "The Lightning Child" (a loose adaptation of Euripides "The Bacchae"), "London Road" the verbatim theatre musical made from real life statements from people living in the same street as a serial killer.

But I have to say I think there are big creative problems with the major musicals in the West End or Broadway. Ticket prices have climbed to levels where a lot of the audience are people looking for a rare treat. That means quite reasonably that they don't want to take risks. They don't want to risk seeing something too different in case it ruins their one trip a year. That's left a lot of the musicals (not all) stuck in a kind of moribund timewarp, with a style of music decades out of date, a particular kind of melodramatic plot.

This guy reckons "musicals are an irony-free artform" (I guess he hasn't seen Avenue Q). Well, I think an artform ought to be capable of being either ironic or literal, serious or comic. He seems to be in love with a particular kind Broadway musical. That's fine for him, love what you love as he says. But it's a problem for the artform as a whole if all you can manage is one kind of mood and one kind of song and one level of literalism.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:47 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


jammy: "When it comes down to it - I think I prefer for my musicals to involve a lot of damage to Illinois Nazis &/or to my local mall."

Blues Brothers is just as much a musical as anything else. If you like that, then you like musicals.
posted by koeselitz at 1:47 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


The songs don't interrupt the plot, the plot is there to give you an excuse for the songs. That bit at the beginning of Music Man mentioned upthread, where a bunch of salesmen do this acapella bit made up of repeated sales-talk that serves to introduce the main character, that is fucking genius. I hadn't seen the musical since I was a kid and had forgotten that scene altogether, and was blown away on re-watch.

(now the creepiness of the central romance, that is much more problematic. In fact, most musical romances of the classic era seem to involve stalking, abusive, dismissive, or deceptive behavior towards the female lead. Some talented actresses manage to subvert it by sheer force of personality, but there is some seriously ugly gender politics in most classic musicals, and a lot of modern ones).

I don't know if hating musicals makes you dead inside, but I do think you are probably not appreciating the amazing amount of talent and skill that goes into the good ones. Which doesn't mean you have to like them, just not hate on those who do. I think most Mefites already manage that though.
posted by emjaybee at 2:20 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


I may hate musicals, and I may be dead inside, but I'm pretty sure I don't hate musicals because I'm dead inside.
posted by Flunkie at 2:22 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Blues Brothers is just as much a musical as anything else. If you like that, then you like musicals.

Didn't say I didn't. I said "I don't like most musicals." I like Muppet movies too (for the most part) and all of those are musicals. And, y'know, right there: I have no problem with understanding and flowing with *puppets* suddenly and unexpectedly breaking into song.

And when I say "I don't like most musicals" by "most" I mean: "the vast majority of those things that fall under the term 'musical'". It's a genre, it has a mainstream. I don't think "Blues Brothers" falls into this mainstream the same way "Cats" does.

It reminds me of country music in some ways: formal, sentimental, lyrical, romantic, reactionary. I cannot stomach for more than a few moments the majority of what is termed "New Country". But I could listen to Dolly Parton all day long. You got some old time Appalachian tunes to play? I want to hear them. Do I like country music? How much of a music do you have to like to "like" it?

If this were criticism, it would be silly, but I understand it's just your taste. Still, it seems odd to me, and feels like it's based on a distinction that is almost tragic in its implications. Is singing in life really so incomprehensible? Singing is an awesome thing; it's an extension of all the power and eloquence and sonority our voices are already capable of. Every time we talk to other people, we're singing

Is singing in life really so incomprehensible? No, of course not. A lullaby to an infant at bedtome, friends sitting at a fire, someone waiting at a bus stop crooning the latest hit, early morning shower stall sound booth - but this is *not* what most mainstream musicals portray. They portray people in the middle of normal conversation/exchanges/situations suddenly sweeping their arm to the side and "La! Listen to My Song!"

I really don't think singing is talking - or at least I think that making the two the same erases important differences between the two as forms of communication and expression. The two might partake of each other to a certain degree, but I think there's real reasons why we distinguish between the two. And this is not even to get into "poetry".

I think this is one of the reasons why many folks find rap so challenging as a "legitimate" musical genre - a confusion of what is "just talk" and what is song/music.
posted by jammy at 2:24 PM on June 8


My wife can't stand musicals because she doesn't get why people break out into song.

Now, that's all well and good - but she loves opera.

I've tried pointing out that this is inconsistent but she won't hear it.
posted by madcaptenor at 2:26 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I find the overwhelming majority of musicals insufferably schmaltzy, groaningly saccharine, over-produced to the point of being uncanny-valley-ish, or just dopey. Others I object to less. One or two I would probably go see in a theatre, given the chance. Based on this knowledge about me, it'd be fair for you to say I don't like musicals. I'm not sure why this (my not liking musicals) is worthy of censure.

(jammy said it better)
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:28 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


And since the author mentions Miss Saigon, it's worth pointing out that lots of Asian-American folks are not fans of its treatment of Vietnam or its people.
posted by emjaybee at 2:28 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I've seen a few musicals that I liked. I've seen quite a few that I didn't like. Ditto opera. I can say that I'm more likely to enjoy a record of an opera I haven't seen than one of a musical I haven't seen.

I'm a bit of a snob because I was trained in classical violin and played professionally in an opera pit orchestra, but I know that about myself and try to open my mind more all the time. This means that I listen to a lot of music that I end up not really liking. But at least I listened.

I really like plays where they don't sing, too. I think if I had to make broad statements about my taste I would end up as one of those who for whatever reason says "I generally don't like musicals. I generally like opera. I generally like stage plays."

I don't think this means I'm dead inside. I think this guy's basically describing his own tastes as complex and informed, and others' tastes as simple and uninformed. It's a common mistake.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 2:32 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


You have to understand that musicals are, mostly, an irony-free artform.

What the actual fuck.

I mean, he's wrong about people who don't like musicals being dead inside (they're not, any more than people who don't like coffee or curtains; tastes differ), but he's way, way wronger about musicals not being ironic, to the point that I'm actually kind of suspicious about whether he has actually seen any.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:33 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


I liked Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. And some of Into The Woods was okay.

Otherwise, meh.
posted by Foosnark at 2:33 PM on June 8


Musicals are not my favorite genre but I could definitely list a lot of stuff I like from it.

The only major art form I've never experienced one thing I like from is graphic novels/comics. Every time I try I feel like I would rather be reading a book or watching animation instead of halfway doing both. It stinks because I like super hero stories, but I never had the experience of really loving a hero from outside TV or the movies as a kid. Now I'm in love with the serial story Worm that creates a comic book world only in text and I kind of realize even more I'm missing something big time from not encountering more stories like this, to say nothing of the non-super hero narratives you can find in comics. Missing out on a genre that big because even the best stuff doesn't appeal to you stinks.

So, people's tastes are their own, but hating a whole genre is not something I think someone should be proud of.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:33 PM on June 8


Lots of things happen in movies that don't happen in real life. So what? Why is that any kind of test?

Art is heightened reality. The sky doesn't really look the way Van Gogh painted it. Even in Shakespeare's time people didn't speak in fluent iambic pentameter.

If you want all art to be a direct and faithful reproduction of reality, why do you want that?

I think people dancing or bursting into song is a great thing. It's lovely, it lifts the feelings. Unless the song or the singing or the dancing are no good. But not because they're "unrealistic." That's just sad.
posted by argybarg at 2:37 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


The majority of musicals make me cringe, aside from ones which are clearly laughing at themselves the entire time, as with Gilbert and Sullivan. I enjoy opera but a large part of that is based in the glorious spectacle of it, combined with the fact that I am not entire sure what they are saying. Opera in english would be like watching the Xanadu video over and over and over.
posted by elizardbits at 2:41 PM on June 8


Porgy and Bess is in English.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:50 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


With a few exceptions (The Music Man, West Side Story, Blues Brothers, a few others probably) musicals don't tend to work for me. I think the sudden transitions from dramatic scenes to song and dance are too jarring most of the time.

That said, I don't like it when anybody claims to hate something, from genres down to individual films. Every work has something to offer.
posted by brundlefly at 2:51 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I can also see why it's off-putting that all of Tevye's emotional struggles are sung or spoken out loud.

Yet it doesn't seem to bother people any when Hamlet or Macbeth does it. Most of the attitudes here, pro or con, are based on cultural context. I grew up in the 60s, when just about every home with a phonograph (including my lower middle-class one) also had showtunes albums, when going to a musical show or movie or watching them on TV was a commonplace activity, when the film version of Oliver! could (rightfully) sell a bazillion tickets at every podunk movie theater on the planet, when TV variety shows, of which there were many, routinely included performances from current musicals or standards drawn from them.

Hell, the first movie I can clearly remember watching is Easter Parade. So of course, I love many musicals, and, in fact, I often do break out into song in real life.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:52 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


And, for the record, I don't find the transition to music jarring because it's not "realistic". Realism is intensely overrated.
posted by brundlefly at 2:52 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Porgy and Bess is in English.

no, i mean i would find it cringey and awkward to hear non-englishly-written opera translated into english unless done so by a cartoon rabbit
posted by elizardbits at 2:56 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Musicals test the the iimits of Sturgeon's Law.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:57 PM on June 8


Yet it doesn't seem to bother people any when Hamlet or Macbeth does it.

Bothers me a little in the same way that movies with extensive voiceovers do. Telling me what you're thinking is okay, but it's better to show me what you're thinking through more or less normal human behavior portrayed by skilled acting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:02 PM on June 8


(Thanks for the Tony Awards reminder. Go Ramin! too bad it's not for a better part.)
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:03 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


All I got from the first several comments above is that someone is going to the Tonys. I hate you. No I don't(yes I do).
Greatblog to read on this day in particular.
I'm a music theatre nerd from a ways back; Sondheim and his predecessors are especially my people. In college I wrote a music theory paper on Use of the Tritone in West Side Story.
So tho I'm not a fan of some more recent hits I still can't understand someone who's never been stirred by ANY 11 o'clock number.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:26 PM on June 8


Telling me what you're thinking is okay, but it's better to show me what you're thinking through more or less normal human behavior portrayed by skilled acting.

Yes, because "to be or not to be that is the question" etc has such clear analogues that can be portrayed through behavior depicted by an actor.
posted by hippybear at 3:28 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


My wife can't stand musicals because she doesn't get why people break out into song.

I've heard that before and it never makes much sense. If you confine drama to only the things that people do in real life, you'd be stuck with a pretty darn boring canon of performing arts. People don't generally break out into song but characters in musicals do because it's not real life. People don't generally fight with light-sabers or throw rings into volcanos either but nobody complains that those things aren't realistic.
posted by octothorpe at 3:39 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Yes, because "to be or not to be that is the question" etc has such clear analogues that can be portrayed through behavior depicted by an actor.

Of course it can. That's the whole point. That's what makes it such a great line/moment in theater. It can be enacted and the truth of it can be conveyed by so many different means.

None of which, at least for this particular example, will likely involve any breaking into spontaneous song. Some moments are bereft of song and of music, and rightfully so.
posted by jammy at 3:43 PM on June 8


Oh look, someone has a blog. That's nice. People should GTOFB when they have things that they want to say very emphatically, and this fellow has done just that.
posted by desuetude at 3:52 PM on June 8


About the "irony-free" comment: I think he's wrong about that, but I do think there's some truth in what he's getting at, namely that musicals are an 'earnest' art form. Even the ones that are actively subversive or satirical (Avenue Q, Book of Mormon, etc.) have an earnestness to them--no matter how subversive you are, there's no way to sing out like that without wearing SOMETHING on your sleeve--that isn't common in popular media these days and that puts some people off. I've always felt that to be one of the big dividing lines between people who like musicals and people who don't.
posted by Kosh at 3:59 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


My folks just went to see Carrie: The Musical for their anniversary (go figure!) and they loved it. I just love the fact that someone was deranged enough to make Carrie into a musical.

I thought this was a fascinating article about Stanley Donen (director of Singin' in the Rain, among others) which touches (among many other things) a little bit on why nobody does musicals anymore.His theory is basically that because we're not used to musicals, they are jarring to us; but if you had watched lots of movies and plays where people spontaneously burst into song (like audiences of the 40s and 50s), it wouldn't be jarring to watch a movie where people spontaneously burst into song. Of course the other factor they mention is that musicals don't translate into other languages well, whereas action movies sure do. Me, I like a good musical, and tend to quickly forget a bad one, but the same is true about me for action movies, too.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:03 PM on June 8


"Action movies are just musicals with knuckles." — that is exactly the stylistic premise of Bunraku
posted by Tom-B at 4:07 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Seems a bit old-fashioned criticism. The hardest part for me was thinking "but I don't hate musicals."

The American musical is the cradle of contemporary pop music

Huh. Somebody name the most influential American musical of the past 5 years. Quick.

no matter how subversive you are, there's no way to sing out like that without wearing SOMETHING on your sleeve

What's the difference between musical theater and any other lyrical music (aside from relating to the story/narrative for theater songs)? Every song that says anything wears it on its sleeve. (Sure, a lot of pop songs are nonsense but so is Shipoopi.)

My wife can't stand musicals because she doesn't get why people break out into song.

That criticism makes no sense. The actors break into song because the audience wants to hear songs. THAT'S WHY WE GO TO MUSICALS.

Disclaimer: 42 yo. white, hetero, married male, and I also love musicals. My all time favorites are Nine, JC Superstar, Evita, the Music Man, Chess, Hair, Hedwig, Les Mis (very guilty pleasure) and anything with Bernadette Peters (except Annie ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 4:10 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Telling me what you're thinking is okay, but it's better to show me what you're thinking through more or less normal human behavior portrayed by skilled acting.

Anything that works. "Normal human behavior" is fine. So are monologues, colors, dances and yes, sometimes turning right to the audience and speaking (or singing). If it works to make the audience feel, then it works.
posted by argybarg at 4:10 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Anything that works.

Exactly. Why is it necessary to put limitations on art?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:11 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Reality needs more people spontaneously breaking into song.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:13 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


Reality needs more people spontaneously breaking into song.

I would agree with you, if the percentage of people who can actually sing worth a damn in reality was anything close to the percentage of people who can sing in musicals. Sadly, it is not.

It's been my experience though, that a lot of people who are really awesome, trained singers (especially ones who are also actors) do have a tendency to just burst into song a lot in real life. Which is usually pretty awesome, if also pretty often hilariously inappropriate.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:18 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


About the "irony-free" comment: I think he's wrong about that, but I do think there's some truth in what he's getting at, namely that musicals are an 'earnest' art form. Even the ones that are actively subversive or satirical (Avenue Q, Book of Mormon, etc.) have an earnestness to them--no matter how subversive you are, there's no way to sing out like that without wearing SOMETHING on your sleeve--that isn't common in popular media these days and that puts some people off. I've always felt that to be one of the big dividing lines between people who like musicals and people who don't.

But as it pertains to musicals, that still all strikes me as the opposite of the truth (musicals are not more earnest than any other medium, and other media is not less earnest), and the opposite of the reason people don't like musicals.

Musicals are often schmalzier than other media (especially in the Over the Rainbow what-I'm-longing-for number), but that's not the same as being earnest, and indeed tends to come across to many people as tremendously cloyingly phony.

And that's another thing: Musicals tend to be very formulaic.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:19 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I am perplexed by the number of people here saying that they dislike musicals except for the musicals that they like.
posted by kyrademon at 4:23 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Now, getting a musical fan that's obsessive to go see a show that isn't a musical?

I love musicals. I will see a musical before anything else, not because I dislike other theatre (I don't), but because theatre is expensive and I love musicals most. I just went to NYC in order to see a whole bunch of plays, and all I saw were musicals. I know lots of people don't like them for whatever reasons, but I often find there's a weird dismissiveness towards it -- it makes me think of the YA thread.
posted by jeather at 4:24 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


I'm cool with musicals on stage in a theater. It's something about watching musical movies that makes me want to pull my hair out. I haven't been able to articulate the difference but it's a pretty strong feeling.
posted by xmutex at 4:29 PM on June 8


Reading through the comments, I wonder to what extent the musical-dislikers are on the other side of a generational gap. Growing up, as I noted upthread, I was a huge fan of musicals. This was reinforced by the '30s and '40s cartoons I watched on TV, which often parodied musical numbers or featured musical numbers. Beyond that, variety television--another lost genre--reinforced the notion that the musical was the source of music. How many times did The Ed Sullivan Show feature the stars of the latest big Broadway show singing a number from it? Beyond that, AM radio, at least the station my mother listened to, featured the big vocalists of the day singing songs from the hit shows as well as numbers for the original cast recordings.

Before 1960, Broadway and, to a lesser extent, Hollywood provided the songs that were American popular music. Competing versions of the new show's/movie's songs would be released. Even jazz combos would "do" a Broadway show's score instrumentally on record. Every other genre was secondary, from country to rockabilly to rock'n'roll. The British Invasion finally put paid to B'way/H'wood's dominance of the popular music discourse in the U.S. But songs from musicals had had a good 40-year run by that point. Is dislike or misunderstanding of musicals and their conventions simply a function of a lack of familiarity with, and consequent non-acceptance of, the form?
posted by the sobsister at 4:33 PM on June 8


The fuckin' Beatles even covered a song from Music Man.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:36 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


The only musical I've ever liked is Blues Brothers. I'm not even into Motown music all that much but the droll comedy and the musical interludes fit so well.

My wife likes musicals, and after watching Chicago and recently Mamma Mia, I hit upon what t is about them that doesn't work for me. I'm generalizing, I'm sure there are exceptions, but I don't like how they insult the audience's intelligence by telling them what to feel. Musicals pull and push and say "ok NOW you have to feel sad" and "this part is really, really funny!" and "NOW you feel HAPPY HAPPY! Don't you? Don't you?"
posted by zardoz at 4:37 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


I'll bite. I strongly dislike musicals. I love opera, I love straight plays, even some monologues. I used to hate musicals until my spouse (who I strongly suspect is actually living inside a musical) dragged me to see Company.

It was the first musical that, for me, evoked a sense of empathy and anxiety. There were several exchanges that made me feel awkward and confused. From the linked article - "I know of few American artists who can gut you with a sad, beautiful song like Stephen Sondheim."
The music was good.

I am still suspicious of musicals. But I suppose I'm a Sondheim fan (I have seen, and recall enjoying, Sweeney Todd.)
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:41 PM on June 8


Mamma Mia is largely a Skinner Box more than an actual show anyway.
posted by The Whelk at 4:43 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Now let's all talk about Top Hat for a while.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:01 PM on June 8


[returning to thread after obligatory Les Mis march]
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:20 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Top Hat? Best Astaire-Rogers flick ever?
posted by the sobsister at 5:23 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I thought I hated musicals. Then I saw the movie version of Rent, and damn. Now I see that I was only watching boring musicals like Wizard of Oz. Then I rediscovered Phantom of the Opera (Which I still haven't seen all the way through, despite hours of listening to it on tape as a kid), and discovered Les Mis when I was in first year. Now I see there CAN be good musicals, and they don't have to be annoying dancing things.

That said, I think ones where they hide the plot by singing are annoying, I much prefer things like how Rent does it.

Crazy idea: Why not do a musical action movie, where they sing while having shootouts and car chases? Crazy drums and deep bass voices singing as Vin Diesel leaps from one car to another....
posted by Canageek at 5:23 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I will say the most confusing thing is a movie that's a musical that you don't expect is a musical. The top example of this is Popeye.

It's really confusing that Popeye is a musical!
posted by Ferreous at 5:24 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Also, Into The Woods is my absolute favourite musical and I am very worried about the movie adaptation.
posted by jeather at 5:26 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Canageek: I think that's a lot of Bollywood you're describing, right?
posted by argybarg at 5:28 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Musicals are one of the great American contributions to art, along with jazz and rock and roll, and dismissing them as a whole, or making blanket statements about their quality, doesn't mark you as an educated sophisticate. To those who know, it sounds exactly like when somebody says they don't like hip hop or they don't like country. It sounds ignorant.

I'm sorry people don't like their tastes challenged. You don't have to like musicals. But when you claim you don't like them because they are a bad art form, or you only like a particular artist and every other musical is awful, or you declare it all pablum ... Well, you're not even wrong.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:31 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Top Hat? Best Astaire-Rogers flick ever?

100%.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:31 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Art criticism and taste criticism are different, perhaps opposite things.

You know its taste criticism when the object of the conversation is a medium or "this person's entire body of work," i.e. "musicals suck/are great" "Miyazaki sucks/is great!" These necessarily involve ad hominem arguments and/or groupthink mentality, and should be avoided if you actually enjoy discussing art.

Whereas art criticism uses specific works as the object of discussion.

That said, the proper way to respond when someone begins a taste criticism discussion like "musicals suck, bro" or "anime is shitty" or "Stephen King is the best american writer living" is to fucking ignore it like you would ignore 'AFJ'AFJ'SLJFAL;SJF'HKG[H3HNFG because it's meaningless text, except its worse than meaningless, its also harmful. The author of the FPP didn't ignore it and now he's contributing to the madness.


I'm sorry but I have to quote this entire thing because it is good.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:34 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


"annoying dancing things"?

Like the best seduction on film ever?

Or this classic comic dance number?

Or how about this epic of surrealism?
posted by the sobsister at 5:40 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Has "not even wrong" finally been watered down enough to just mean "wrong"?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:47 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


However, I think I can make a legit argument for musical films simply being a higher form on the form ladder than theater musicals. Every theater musical I've been to see has fundamentally been sort of like a film musicial but with less cool tricks. I saw the Broadway version of Mary Poppins a few years back that really illustrated this. They spent millions trying to recreate the special effects and goofy art deco sets of a movie made in the 60s with a green screen and papier-mâché. Hedwig is a great example too where the film was able to go so much further than anything you could do onstage--especially in the scenes where Hedwig was supposed to be performing in a series of cheesy nightclubs. Going to a theater is fun and all, but in the end even Bergman's Magic Flute manages to add something to Mozart that wasn't there before. We need more film versions of great stage musicals and Operas is what I'm talking about. What about a Gilbert and Sullivan film directed by Edgar White?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:48 PM on June 8


Musicals pull and push and say "ok NOW you have to feel sad" and "this part is really, really funny!" and "NOW you feel HAPPY HAPPY! Don't you? Don't you?"

So does every theatrical piece of any sort. The whole point is to make the viewer feel emotions in synch with the on-stage action. Do you also hate all dramatic and comedic moments?
posted by beaning at 5:50 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


To be fair to people who hate musicals there are a lot of people who go on and on about really terrible musicals. It'd be like some form of literature where everyone couldn't shut up about the 2/3 of the genre that only was aimed at teenage boys which starred crimefighting wishfulfillment muscle mens in tights while the other 1/3 of the form that dealt with memoir or surrealism or history or noir or adult feelings of any kind were basically ignored but that's hard to imagine I know.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:01 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


It's kind of a weird feeling reading this thread when a musical I co-wrote and co-directed opened yesterday.
posted by kyrademon at 6:02 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I don't like how they insult the audience's intelligence by telling them what to feel. Musicals pull and push and say "ok NOW you have to feel sad" and "this part is really, really funny!" and "NOW you feel HAPPY HAPPY! Don't you? Don't you?"

This is actually much more true of the normal incidental movie music in almost every film than it is of the songs in musicals. When characters break into song in musicals, the very artificiality of that calls attention to itself, and most songs in musicals are examples of lyric poetry: first-person expressions or declarations (sometimes subtle, sometimes overt) of the character or characters' state of mind or emotions. They're part of the dramatized characterization -- essentially just sung dialogue or soliloquy.

Whereas movie music is generally instrumental and serves to reinforce or enhance emotions the scene is trying to invoke in the audience. For instance, if a killer is sneaking up on an unwitting victim with a butcher knife, the creepy music underneath doesn't reflect either of their emotional states. It's designed to enhance the viewer's feelings of discomfort and dread.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:02 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Gilbert & Sullivan didn't write operas, they wrote operettas.
posted by carping demon at 6:16 PM on June 8


I mean sure. They're all freakin musicals though. There was probably some stick in the mud Greek sitting around watching Oedipus chanting while stabbing his own eyes out going "Ugh this is so cheesy and fake, why can't they just use reason to figure things out before they marry their parents & now theyre covering up the plot holes with pretty chanting ugh ugh ugh" and it was definitely Socrates.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:35 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]


Every theater musical I've been to see has fundamentally been sort of like a film musicial but with less cool tricks.

Counterpoint: The Producers.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:52 PM on June 8


Counterpoint: musicals are awful, cheesy, unwatchable dreck spat out for narcissistic, emotionally stunted babies who are incapable of understanding anything even in the vicinity of subtle, you horrible garbage-person.

Now can we please stop telling each other how we should live our lives on The Internet?
posted by Itaxpica at 6:54 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Any other fans of Cop Rock out there? Anyone?
posted by No Robots at 7:14 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


THE ONLY LEGITIMATE GENRE OF FILM IS THE BODY SWAP FILM

YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND THIS UNTIL WE BOTH HOLD THIS ENCHANTED STATUE AT THE SAME TIME
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:14 PM on June 8 [19 favorites]


> The American musical is the cradle of contemporary pop music

Huh. Somebody name the most influential American musical of the past 5 years. Quick.


I think this, exchange, right here, pretty much explains why this argument keeps happening - musical theater is indeed the cradle of contemporary pop music, in that it was the means by which a lot of pop music, and pop culture, was spread - in its heyday. But time moved on, tastes moved on - and in a lot of cases, musicals didn't.

When people say that they "don't like musicals", lots of times what they're responding to are some tropes that a lot of musicals are still hanging on to from either the 1940's, when Rodgers & Hammerstein were really putting the genre on the map, or the 1970's, when Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber were re-configuring it. But it's kind of a vicious cycle - the reason so many musicals are still hanging on to these tropes is because so many producers like doing things that way, because over time, the audience for musicals has become older; people who were young when these tropes were new often don't want to see things that don't feature these tropes. (Yes, there are also kids going to see musicals, but these most likely are either kids being dragged by their parents, or they are stage-struck kids who would see literally anything.)

The thing is, as I said to a friend once, there are musicals, and there are musicals - and then there are MUSICALS! I think a lot of the people who say they don't like musicals actually mean that they don't like MUSICALS! and I'm kinda right there with them - and that's why I'd suggest they check out something like Passing Strange or Book of Mormon or Urinetown, because they actually innovate things a bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


> "I think a lot of the people who say they don't like musicals actually mean that they don't like MUSICALS!"

And I also think at least some people who say they don't like MUSICALS! don't even consciously know that they like, at least in some cases, lower-case-musicals, because they think if it isn't a MUSICAL! it isn't a musical.

A friend of mine who is a very talented actress once told me that she despised musicals. This may be explainable by the fact that she lives in what is probably the one place on earth where Starlight Express is a long-running hit, but anyway.

At the time, we were co-producing, and she was starring in, a project she was very excited about. It was a modern retelling of the The Eumenides by Aeschylus, which incorporated a lot of song and dance elements as a major part of the show.

She hadn't made the connection in her mind.
posted by kyrademon at 7:24 PM on June 8


I do have to say that while I do love musicals, I can't think of one written since about 1970 that I like and most of the ones that I like most are much earlier than that.
posted by octothorpe at 7:27 PM on June 8


I mean, the Producers is not a great example since the original movie is incredibly brilliant and touching and the stage version is (so I hear) lovely and well made and the film version of that was a dud. Mama Mia might be a better example but I bet Jersey Boys the film is watchable while Jersey Boys as a theater experience is dudley so that's a double counter example score and I win.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:38 PM on June 8


Watching Anchors Aweigh right... now!
posted by No Robots at 7:40 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The internet would be so much better if there weren't so many people trying to get me to like what they like.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:42 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The internet would be so much better if there weren't so many people trying to get me to like what they like.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:44 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


This is a really interesting thread to be reading while the TONY awards are on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 PM on June 8


I'm pretty sure all anyone needs to do is to watch both the Hedwig number and the Rocky number from tonight's Tonys to realize the issue is not "musicals" being good or bad. The comparison is pretty instructive - when musicals are good they can be very very good, and when they are bad they are horrid.

(Sondheim forever. If Finishing the Hat doesn't make you cry when sung by Mandy Patinkin, it is possible you have no soul and/or have never dated an artist.)
posted by Stacey at 7:46 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Top Hat? Best Astaire-Rogers flick ever?

Clearly you missed Flying Down to Rio.


(prepare for the Astaire flame war folks! ; -)
posted by sammyo at 8:05 PM on June 8


What! They only have one dance together!
posted by shakespeherian at 8:23 PM on June 8


Growing up, my home was filled with the sound of Broadway cast recordings...Oklahoma, Guys n Dolls, Music Man, West Side Story, and on and on. Musicals were almost literally my childhood soundtrack.

I fucking hate musicals. I just don't get them. Lord knows, I've tried. Been to a few as an adult. It just doesn't click for me. Sorry.

But, you know what? I don't care much for action movies, either.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:25 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


argybarg: I wouldn't know, I've never seen any. Care to recommend some that would be a good introduction?
posted by Canageek at 8:25 PM on June 8


Has "not even wrong" finally been watered down enough to just mean "wrong"?

No. It still means somebody doesn't have enough information to be wrong.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:30 PM on June 8


I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like all musicals.

Most people who say this have a few specific musicals that they really like - The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cabaret, Willy Wonka, Mary Poppins, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Tommy, whatever... - and it's merely the generic "musical" that they don't like, not the musicals they actually like, which are in some unspecified fashion "different" from all the others.

And honestly, if you really don't like ALL musicals - including Rocky Horror, Porgy and Bess, Cabaret, Hair, all of them... well, I feel sorry for you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:03 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I hate musicals because I had to sit through "Love Theme (When Love Explodes)" in "Hurt Locker: The Musical".


Ok, that's why I *love* musicals!
posted by mazola at 9:05 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


mazola: I'm enspousenating you for that. Really.
posted by hippybear at 9:14 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


This is a really interesting thread to be reading while the TONY awards are on.

Especially how it didn't become a Tonys liveblogging thread. :(
posted by booksherpa at 9:21 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Seriously people I'm so disappointed.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Playbill: Hurt Locker: The Musical.

Read it. Seriously. (Reload if it doesn't immediately show up)
posted by mazola at 9:42 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I hate musicals because I had to sit through "Love Theme (When Love Explodes)" in "Hurt Locker: The Musical".

The Hurt Locker is one of my favorite movies, so when I saw this I got all excited that there might finally be a musical I would like.

That was a cruel, cruel joke.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:54 PM on June 8



I mean, the Producers is not a great example since the original movie is incredibly brilliant and touching and the stage version is (so I hear) lovely and well made and the film version of that was a dud

It's worse then that. The original Movie is a wonderful gem, the only Mel Brooks movie with an actual ending and the musical play is an actually zany, madcap Looney Tunes version of the story with catchy ass songs. I saw it three times. Great. But the movie version of the musical is something I use to teach how directors can fuck shit up. Like "Here's how you can have virtually the same cast, script, and structure, and FUCK IT UP ROYALLY." The direction and editing steps on every. single. joke. It has no sense of comic timing or momentum. It is objectively worse than watching someone's camera phone recording of the filmed play. The whole this embarrassing to watch cause you know if you just had them do a cold table read of the script it would be SUBSTANTIALLY BETTER then this lifeless mess.
posted by The Whelk at 10:02 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


in a nutshell, THIS

(wow I am still angry about that movie wow)
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I don't like musicals. And I can name a half dozen (or perhaps a couple more than that) that I really enjoyed. For many of the reasons articulated above (by folks that don't enjoy the genre).

I feel the same way about country music (as stated above, leaning towards KD Lang, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline).

But this conversation reminds me of I've had on numerous occasions...

When I was in my late teens and couldn't stand metal music, but had friends that loved it. They pounded an appreciation of metal into me (think 12 hour road trip - 'were controlling the music, you'll like metallica after this trip!).

I've been on the giving side of this shit as well ('this shit' being - "how can you not love this genre that I love, you're not being reasonable")... I've tried on more than one occasion to 'give an education' in hip-hop: introduce folks to hip-hop that would be coherent with their political perspective, lyrically rich, etc... I would find myself saying things like "it's poetry, spoken word, set to music - if you don't like any rap, that's like not liking poetry".

All that being said, I disagree with the basic premise - Action movies are just *dance movies* with knuckles (and yes, some musicals are also dance heavy, but dance movies are their own special genre).
posted by el io at 10:21 PM on June 8


Top Hat? Best Astaire-Rogers flick ever?

< cough >Swing Time < / cough>
posted by wabbittwax at 10:56 PM on June 8


Canageek: I wish. I'm an outsider to Bollywood too. I'm just going by what I've heard and little bits I've seen.
posted by argybarg at 10:56 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


This is a terrible article, really. If someone is going to defend musicals, they ought to (a) have taste that isn't crap and (b) know something about actual musicals. If saying "I like musicals" means "I like Andrew Lloyd Webber and being sappy and ridiculous," well, I hate musicals too. But Andrew Lloyd Webber is not the acme of the musical-making art. He's pretty much the nadir. If your idea of musicals is Cats, and you have any taste at all, you'll hate musicals.

The whole reason for this back and forth - the reason a precious few people like musicals, and a bunch of people hate them - is because people don't know shit about musicals. The problem is that almost every musical made in the past thirty years has been terrible.

So I guess it's not a big deal. It's just American ignorance about the past. And you can't blame people for not going digging for history lessons when they've got lives to live.
posted by koeselitz at 10:56 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Growing up, my home was filled with the sound of Broadway cast recordings...Oklahoma, Guys n Dolls, Music Man, West Side Story, and on and on. Musicals were almost literally my childhood soundtrack.

I had a similar childhood, but with a different outcome. I love musicals, not all of them, but I do. We had the Original Broadway Cast Recording of everything, and when we figured out how to work the turntable we would play some of them just over and over and over again (Once Upon a Mattress and Camelot were big hits.) We would song the songs, we would dance, we would fight over who would get to play the Best Character.

Yep. We were raised on musicals and folk music. The most earnest and uncool of genres. We were openly mocked for it.

I think one of the main things, if not THE thing, that this experience gave me was a willingness to approach music of any genre on its own terms, regardless of whether or not it is socially acceptable to do so - and if you think about it the reason that people tend to reject a particular genre out of hand has more to do with what that type of music signifies socially than the quality of teh art itself.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:59 PM on June 8


I like my musicals like I like my everything else: good.

I don't like the bad ones. I reserve the right to decide which ones those are.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:00 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: “The internet would be so much better if there weren't so many people trying to get me to like what they like.”

The article above was lame, and it was being pointlessly insulting and defensive, but I think I can say this sincerely:

If you truly hate it, thoroughly, when people love something and are excited to share that thing that they love with you, then you are dead inside. Maybe not dead inside. You might just be really hungry. Or tired. But if you go off and get a nice night's rest, then have a nice big breakfast, and are all set and ready to face the day, and you find that you still hate it when people want to share the things they love with you – then, well, I submit that perhaps you just don't like people. Which is fine – everybody's got their own likes and dislikes – but you can't blame the internet or the human beings on it for wanting to share things they love with other people.
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


and you find that you still hate it when people want to share the things they love with you – then, well, I submit that perhaps you just don't like people.

That's a lonely place to plant a flag, I think. I've reached an age where I'm perfectly ok with my tastes, and I like to be challenged when it comes to creative work, but I have no time for people who pass judgment on differences in taste. Life's too short to waste on that type of misery.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:00 AM on June 9


You really don't like talking with people about music?
posted by koeselitz at 12:06 AM on June 9


(Or other art forms?)
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 AM on June 9


I don't like talking with people who get judgey about differences in taste. Nobody should have to justify what they like. I've found that people mostly want acceptance more than they want to be corrected, and when it comes to inconsequential things, it's far better to let people like what they like rather than trying to convince them their taste is somehow incorrect. Seems presumptuous and not respectful.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:18 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I am dead inside because I do not share one particular preference of a moviegoer. Whatever, oh mighty arbiter of taste.
posted by Decani at 1:01 AM on June 9


I will say the most confusing thing is a movie that's a musical that you don't expect is a musical. The top example of this is Popeye.

I got caught this way with 'Robin and the 7 Hoods'.

Mistyping that is making me think I should suggest a Dr Who story.
posted by biffa at 5:10 AM on June 9


How did we get this far into a discussion of musicals without mentioning any of the flagship Disney animated movies?
posted by yeolcoatl at 6:03 AM on June 9


And only a passing mention to Bolliwood?
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 6:18 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


What about a Gilbert and Sullivan film directed by Edgar White?


I feel like Scott Pilgrim essentially is a musical, and by that I don't just mean that it has really great musical pieces, although it does, but the very artifical nature of fights being used to describe emotions (and the wonderful visual splendour of each one of them) is basically a musical in everything but name. I wonder if thats why it bombed, because as someone who loves musicals I just went with it, and maybe some people bounced off it for the same reason others bounce off musicals (why are these people suddenly fighting to the death?). I mean admittedly the central romance in Scott Pilgrim is a bit borked, but thats a discussion for another day.

I am genuinely surprised that so many up thread proclaim hatred of musicals. I am not going to tell people what to like, but it seems such a shame to me that the whole "oh hey these guys are singing now!" put people off enjoying things like, fer instance Sweeny Todd, South Park the Musical, Guys and Dolls, Little Shop of Horrors, Into the Woods, Once More with Feeling, Singing in the Rain, Cabaret, The Producers, excetera.

That said, I went to see Chicago live the other day and it occured to me that this was a musical that really lived or died on its songs, as its plot was inane and involved completely unlikeable protagonists. Fortunately, the songs are great!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:25 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I may have to put together an AskMe looking for recommendations, because I've been googling for video of many of the musicals people are suggesting here and so far it's consistently not floating my boat, but I'd be the first to admit that my exposure to the genre is limited. I feel like someone who says "I don't like jazz" when all I've heard is Kenny G, but I'm hearing a lot of Kenny in the clips I am finding. There really is a consistent style of singing (at least on video, maybe it's different in the theater?) that is very much the belting to the back rows style and the whole thing seems very hammy, which maybe is the point? (Avenue Q song, for an example of what I mean.)

Surely there are avant garde or experimental musicals as well, no? Or does that get labeled as something else, "modern opera" or "musical burlesque" or something instead? I need the 101, but ideally without having to sit through hours of Oklahoma.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:46 AM on June 9


Potomac Avenue: “What about a Gilbert and Sullivan film directed by Edgar White?”

Given that he's approaching the age of 85, I'm not sure he'd be up to it. Maybe if it were Pirates of Penzance, he could be coerced into it, since sailing is really his claim to fame; but honestly I'm not sure he's been on a boat since the 1960s.
posted by koeselitz at 7:05 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


So it occurs to me that there are musicals that introduce their music diagetically (as part of the narrative) and some where they just start singing. In the Blues Brothers, for instance, all the songs fall fairly logically: the majority are performed by the band. For a recent film example, in Once all the songs are sung by the band. So the reason I mention this is no-one pays any attention when non-diagetic music turns up in films, for the most part. Most people aren't bothered when an orchestral sound track follows James Bond around, and gets more excited when he fights people.

I was about to continue that thought with the idea that no-one is bothered by the surreal notion that people in a sitcom appear to be followed by a crowd of sycophants who laugh at their every gesture, but some people are genuinely hostile to that format these days. Perhaps some people just really hate non-diagetic elements?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:08 AM on June 9


Dip Flash: “Surely there are avant garde or experimental musicals as well, no? Or does that get labeled as something else, ‘modern opera’ or ‘musical burlesque’ or something instead? I need the 101, but ideally without having to sit through hours of Oklahoma.”

You're asking for Stephen Sondheim or Kurt Weill, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 AM on June 9


Dipflash: if you want musicals without the consistent style I think you probably would need something with more diagetic singing. So Once and Blues Brothers should work fine for you. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? would work too.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:15 AM on June 9


(Sondheim is prolific, but probably the most popular modern example of his work is Sweeney Todd, though I haven't seen the recent movie version and thus can't say if it's good or not; Kurt Weill's best-known work is the excellent Threepenny Opera, from which you probably know the song "Mack the Knife.")
posted by koeselitz at 7:16 AM on June 9


no-one is bothered by

I assure you that for all the things listed in this thread that nobody is bothered by, which are only the soft lapping beaches of an angry sea of things people who don't particularly like musicals because of the breaking into song and dance might putatively not be bothered by --

Some people are bothered by them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:24 AM on June 9


The movie version of Sweeney Todd is not a great introduction. The PBS version of Into The Woods with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason is a better one.

(Also, as a fan, I know some musicals are good and some bad. I just like the form enough that I generally enjoy even the bad ones.)
posted by jeather at 7:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


The problem is that almost every musical made in the past thirty years has been terrible.

Oh come on. Just off the top of my head: A New Brain, Parade, Scottsboro Boys, Ragtime, Falsettos, Batboy, Light in the Piazza, Once (film), South Park BL&U (film), Next to Normal, Nightmare Before Xmas (film), Dreamgirls, Hedwig, Dancer in the Dark (film), That Thing You Do (film), Urinetown, The Singing Detective (TV), Assassins, Once on This Island. . . .
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:46 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


The movie version of Sweeney Todd is not a great introduction.

Oh, I don't know. Admittedly, the movie cuts quite a bit of the songs, so you don't get quite the full effect. The thing that really sells it for me, though, is that while Johnny Depp isn't a fantastic singer, he acts the hell out of the songs and really gets the emotion and story across.

Conversely, the 1982 DVD of the Broadway cast has all the songs as you'd expect, but...hoo boy, it's kind of a slog, and I say this as someone who loves Sweeney Todd for the musical Victorian pseudo-Elizabethan revenge tragedy it is. George Hearn as Todd sings really well, but the style is more...presentational is the word I think I'm looking for, and it keeps taking me out of the story. On top of that, the actor playing the young sailor Anthony is in his mid-thirties, and Johanna is goddamned insufferable.

For my money, the best version so far was the recent production with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton. I wish there were a DVD of it and not just the cast album.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:56 AM on June 9


I am a diehard musical fan who is so, so bothered by all sitcom laugh tracks, and often by overly intrusive orchestral scores. I contain multitudes.

Sweeney Todd is either my favorite or second favorite musical, but I wouldn't recommend the movie as the place to dive in. I'm willing to open the floor to a brawl about which of the filmed staged versions you ought to try, though, Cariou V. Hearn.
posted by Stacey at 7:57 AM on June 9


There's no easy way to link to this, but Google "Sondheim YouTube", click "videos", click "search tools" and change "any duration" to "long (20+ minutes)"

There are a lot of Sondheim musical stage performance filmings available there.

Personally, I recommend Sunday In The Park With George, but I'm a bit obsessed with that piece, so I'm probably biased.
posted by hippybear at 8:17 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Alexandra Kitty: I don't mind talking animals. I don't mind aliens. I don't even mind superpower/supernatural productions. If there is a movie with lots of songs, I can be talked into watching, but when characters just start to sing and dance in a completely contrived and choreographed manner, you just lost me!

While I have no intention of disrespecting you for your preferences, and where you draw the line on "willing suspense of disbelief".... I find it interesting that you are more willing to accept talking animals (which never happens IRL) than spontaneous dance and singing (which happens IRL, expecially if you hang around with theater professionals or song & dance enthusiasts.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:20 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Personally, I recommend Sunday In The Park With George, but I'm a bit obsessed with that piece, so I'm probably biased.

Me too, although (heresy imminent) I wish the London production with Philip Quast had made it to video.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:31 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Brief Sweeney-related derail:

I really wish Burton had cast Christopher Walken as Todd. Like, a lot.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:35 AM on June 9


There really is a consistent style of singing (at least on video, maybe it's different in the theater?) that is very much the belting to the back rows style and the whole thing seems very hammy, which maybe is the point? (Avenue Q song, for an example of what I mean.)

Yes and no.

There's a bit of an exaggerated "style" to musical theater acting, because the function of a "song" in musicals is kind of like the function of the "asides" in Shakespeare; it's a character letting you in on their inner thoughts. And everyone's inner thoughts can get more dramatic and emotional than they let on - you know how when the schmoop object you've had your eye on agrees to go out to dinner with you and you're playing it cool on the outside but inside you're feeling like you're doing backflips and cartwheels all the way home because you're so happy? A lot of the songs in musicals are about moments like that - they're taking that feeling out of the character's head and letting us see that that's what they're feeling.

However, recently musical theater has been getting influenced by the "American Idol"/Mariah Carey approach to singing, which is to belt things out like whoa. That's more a matter of technique than anything else, but it's still been a bit of a troubling development. Actually, if you saw the TONYS they had a clip from the current Les Miserables production, with the cast doing "One Day More". Their Valjean sounded great, Cosette and Marcus were great, Javert was great, but Eponine....ugh. She was singing in a markedly different style from the others technically, and it just sounded way out of place - way too contemporary.

So I wonder if the "style" you're noticing may be more of a technical thing than anything else; and if so, it's a more recent development.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:35 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


spontaneous dance and singing (which happens IRL, expecially if you hang around with theater professionals or song & dance enthusiasts.

I sing all the time. Generally it's somebody else's song, but I tend to insert my own lyrics about whatever is going on. When I get bored in the car, I'll sing an established melody, but then just plug whatever I see in as the lyrics. So "Penny Lane" becomes:

On 13th street there is a sign saying no turn left
Red Ford Escort will that guy now cross the street
Is that a deer no it's a bike I thought it was a deer
Barber no crossing McDonalds Red stop sign.

I mean, maybe it's not Ira Gershwin as lyrics go, but I'm definitely living in a musical.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:37 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Actually, speaking of style, I'm kinda curious about how Sting's musical is gonna fly. I'm actually intrigued, from what I've heard so far, because it sounds like it's inspired by a lotta folk music from the North of England. They had Sting do one of the songs, and he sang it with a real heavy Northern accent and that kind of rough-hewn voice you'd find in a rocker also fits for a folkie. That's a case where it wouldn't make sense to have the more classically-trained singing style, to my mind; they're supposed to be folk songs, let 'em sing folk style.

I have the sinking feeling that you're gonna get the Mariah-Carey treatment or the operatic treatment and that just ain't gonna fit.

Okay yes I like Sting too shut up
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on June 9


I generally don't like Sting, but that was a pretty good song. I think the show (preview) opens tomorrow, so the verdict should be in soon about whether it's Spider-Man Redux.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:07 AM on June 9


I really wish Burton had cast Christopher Walken as Todd.

I really wish Burton had fallen into a fire pit in about 1995.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:09 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


This thread made me think a lot about why I "dislike" musicals, and I realized that there are actually a lot of them that I love, and they're all comedies.

With a comedy, you think, "wouldn't it be funny if they just broke out into song right now?" Then they do, and it fits nicely. Everything's supposed to be strange and surreal anyway. It even works with dramas that don't take themselves too seriously. Buffy was never a comedy show, but "Once More with Feeling" worked because the show had precedence for goofy.

Serious dramas, though, they're trying to convey some sort of gravity, and then they just break the tension with a song. It's like watching the Sopranos, and as Tony's got some betraying underling looking down the barrel of his gun, he just jumps up and starts dancing.

So yeah, give me more Avenue Q and Book of Mormon. Y'all can have your Cats (longest running Broadway musical, why?), Les Mis, and Phantom of the Opera.

Hedwig also works for me, and isn't really a comedy, but it is very weird, surreal, and since the protagonist is a musician, the musical numbers feel more in-line with the story, rather than an interruption.
posted by explosion at 9:30 AM on June 9


I am entirely okay with being dead inside.

But I'll still sit down and watch "the Sound of Music" with my wife.
posted by malocchio at 9:32 AM on June 9


Stop everything, some guy has an opinion about something.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:36 AM on June 9


Stop everything, some guy has an opinion about something.

And you won't believe how they've choreographed his opinion.
posted by jeather at 9:39 AM on June 9


Y'all can have your Cats (longest running Broadway musical, why?)

To be fair, Cats is less a musical and more a dance recital. Seriously. Yeah, there's music and singing and a minimal plot, but the musical numbers (and there are a ton of them) are all about the dancing.
posted by hippybear at 9:41 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


* gasps *

I just had this nightmare vision of what an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with Bob Fosse choreography would look like.


the horror



the horror

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I just want to get this out and I apologize in advance.

Fuck musicals.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 9:55 AM on June 9


There are so many musicals... I hope you are taking your vitamins and using quality lube and lotion to prevent chafing.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Stop everything, some guy has an opinion about something.

Is it... is it you?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:57 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Y'all can have your Cats (longest running Broadway musical, why?)

Second longest after Phantom, actually. Cheer up, though: the world's longest running musical is a freaking masterpiece with a $900 set.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Fuck musicals.

Been done.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:55 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


As an actor, I will confess to not liking musicals much, because, to me, the roles felt painted in broad strokes. On a technical level, I understand the discipline required to perform in a musical, and I respect that, but it just wasn't my preferred genre.

As an audience member, I can only enjoy musicals if I'm going into them with absolutely no desire for narrative linearity or complexity. Basically, if I can force myself to ignore the story, I can enjoy them for the spectacle they are. If I can't force myself to ignore the story, they make me nuts. Because OH HEY ARBITRARY SONG NUMBER.

In the end, as a performer, though, they're simply different disciplines, and it's important to train for them, because you want to have as many tools in your toolbox as possible. It's like the difference between opera and recital.

In the end, I think someone saying "I hate musicals" is kind of provincial and simplistic. If you're going to hate them, try to have a better reason than "I just don't like them", you know?
posted by scrump at 12:12 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


As an audience member, I can only enjoy musicals if I'm going into them with absolutely no desire for narrative linearity or complexity. Basically, if I can force myself to ignore the story, I can enjoy them for the spectacle they are. If I can't force myself to ignore the story, they make me nuts. Because OH HEY ARBITRARY SONG NUMBER.

But they're not arbitrary! Usually all the songs demarcate where you are in the plot and what the current scene is about, and introduces the characters and their motivations. Redundant, yes -- they often just repeat or elaborate on stuff that was just said or done or could be inferred easily enough -- but not arbitrary. It's not like Yentl's singing Tutti Frutti.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


...although I would pay good money to watch that.

I think what I meant by "arbitrary" is that people don't just burst into song spontaneously. So I can enjoy Fiddler if I don't pay attention to the plot, because then it's just fun, versus WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE SINGING JESUS IT'S A POGROM, RUN AWAY!
posted by scrump at 1:02 PM on June 9


... which is why so many musicals, and more to the point, so many successful musicals, are set on-stage. Kiss Me Kate portrays songs that occur onstage during the play-within-a-play, and offstage; I think the "spontaneous songs" like "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" seem less incongruous beside more explainable onstage songs.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:20 PM on June 9


mstokes650: I would agree with you, if the percentage of people who can actually sing worth a damn in reality was anything close to the percentage of people who can sing in musicals. Sadly, it is not.

When your friends play volleyball, are you the one repetitively chanting, "It doesn't matter... it's just for fun!", while quite obviously being the most point-obsessed player on the grass?

Because outside of loud drunks, IRDC if someone can't sing. Life's better with singing.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:41 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


When your friends play volleyball, are you the one repetitively chanting, "It doesn't matter... it's just for fun!", while quite obviously being the most point-obsessed player on the grass?

Alright, this is almost completely off-topic, but since you since you picked volleyball, of all things, for your metaphor: One summer when I was working as a camp counselor, I somehow wound up getting assigned to teaching volleyball with an Olympic-level Estonian volleyball player. Now, mind you, I didn't know the first damn thing about volleyball. On top of the knowledge disparity, I was a nerdy awkward beanpole of a kid and she, well, she looked exactly like what she was: a tall blonde pro-volleyball player. We were quite the odd pair. Anyways, we eventually settled into a kind of a good-cop/bad-cop routine: I did a lot of offering moral support to kids who were being hard on themselves for being terrible (this was a natural fit because I was very obviously also terrible), while she snarled at the kids who were just there to goof off and wouldn't take it at all seriously or try to learn anything (a natural fit for her because she was ridiculously badass and took volleyball very, very seriously). Of course she also did the actual teaching-of-the-mechanics-of-volleyball; and I did a fair bit of translating from broken English to intelligible English, which I think was the real reason I was put there. But no, when I told the kids the points didn't matter, I legitimately meant that the points didn't matter. Because they were learning, not competing. Similarly, I would never discourage anyone, ever, from learning how to sing, or practicing to get better at singing. Life would be a better place, for sure. But you know, self-awareness is a wonderful thing. If you know you're terrible at singing, you probably know where and when to practice. If you just think you're good at singing when you're actually awful, and you have no interest in improving, by all means, still sing in your shower and in your car, but not in a subway car, and not while walking down the street at 2am.

I will also say that (long after my time as a summer camp counselor) I lived for four years in a ground-floor apartment three blocks from Fenway Park, so my perspective is strongly influenced by overexposure to loud drunks singing while walking down the street at 2am.

posted by mstokes650 at 2:43 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I will say the most confusing thing is a movie that's a musical that you don't expect is a musical. The top example of this is Popeye.

Surely you mean The Wicker Man?
posted by Grangousier at 3:51 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Grangousier: "I will say the most confusing thing is a movie that's a musical that you don't expect is a musical. The top example of this is Popeye. "

There are times when I'm convinced that I'm the only person who likes that movie. And, shamefully, I like it because of the sets.

I had the same bizarre reaction to the miniseries "A.D.", which was otherwise forgettable: the sets were so magnificent I immediately wanted to go where they were filming. Can't remember a damn thing about the miniseries.
posted by scrump at 4:04 PM on June 9


(I was quoting someone else above re: Popeye, though I do quite like it. I just added the Wicker Man comment)
posted by Grangousier at 4:05 PM on June 9


When I was a kid, I thought that classic Musicals were out-of-date, old-fashioned and irrelevant (except for Jesus Christ Superstar, which rocked).

I started to get into the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein when the Bebop Jazz dudes played cool covers. I first got interested in the dancing art of Ginger & Fred and Busby Berkeley from reading about them in film school. Now I'm totally crazy man about all of that stuff.

Here are people just breaking out in song and dance at the weirdest times and then have a group of people pondering how to solve a problem and then all singing the same words at the previously elusive solution.

I feel exactly the same, except the opposite. That crazy breaking out in song and dance event is a surreal moment when the willing suspension of disbelief is pushed past it's natural limits, and over into another level of reality. I think I really started to get it when we were watching 'Can't Stop The Music' with a gang of stoner beatniks back in the dark ages. When the Construction Worker in The Village People said that he always watched those old MGM musicals on the late show on Channel 3, I was just like, hey, can I tune into that channel?
posted by ovvl at 8:29 PM on June 9


While I would generally be hesitant to post Buzzfeed links, this list of the 43 best musicals since 2000 is pretty good. There's been a tremendous variety of musicals in the last 14 years, from the traditional to the experimental.

Like someone said early in the thread, there are lousy musicals just there are lousy examples of any genre. But there's also some great stuff out there.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:37 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


In the spirit of balancing out the small beating it's taking in this thread, i'm going to stand tall and speak for those guilty voiceless among us:

I like Cats. I do! It is weird as shit and I love it.

By god, do I understand why other people don't. But it is a hilarious acid trip of a thing and I adore it, even those dance numbers that go on too long. There's just so much that's odd and endearing about it, y'know?

(And part of the fun of it is that you sound like an absolute nutter talking about it. You try explaining to someone who's not seen it that your teenage crush on a 6 foot tall cat named Rum Tum Tugger is not only totally reasonable, but practically inevitable.)

We are among you, Mefites. Cats fans, silent and insidious and we are singing the songs of our people.

(I'm so sorry, you'll have that in your head for days.)
posted by pseudonymph at 9:59 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


As an audience member, I can only enjoy musicals if I'm going into them with absolutely no desire for narrative linearity or complexity. Basically, if I can force myself to ignore the story, I can enjoy them for the spectacle they are. If I can't force myself to ignore the story, they make me nuts. Because OH HEY ARBITRARY SONG NUMBER.

Actually, Sondheim's Passion sort of solves all this for you: 1) it's sung-through (no arbitrary breaking into song), 2) it's narratively linear, 3) it's deeply complex. It also isn't a spectacle -- there aren't any song and dance numbers. There are just characters, as subtle as anything written by Chekov, tangled up with each other and trying to figure out their solitary and collective emotional landscapes.

It wasn't well received by audiences, but it won Best Musical and critics love the piece. Mr hippybear loves it deeply.
posted by hippybear at 11:18 PM on June 9


You try explaining to someone who's not seen it that your teenage crush on a 6 foot tall cat named Rum Tum Tugger is not only totally reasonable, but practically inevitable.

May I point you at the furry thread? You may find something there that resonates with you. :)
posted by hippybear at 11:20 PM on June 9


hippybear: May I point you at the furry thread? You may find something there that resonates with you. :)

Cackling, because just seconds ago I finished reading that thread and thinking 'Oh man, I totally get so much of what you guys are saying, in dynamic if not specifics. My people!'
posted by pseudonymph at 11:25 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


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