Friday, September 12, 2014

Musicals, The Maligned Movie Genre

Mayor Shinn, of River City, shakes his fists from his podium as he reminds the townspeople of how much money "Professor" Harold Hill has taken from them for instruments, uniforms, and instruction books, promising to create a boys' band. When he loudly demands to know "Where's the band?" Hill is saved by the town's boys who have

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learned to play Beethoven's Minuet in G on their instruments. Although their technical expertise leaves much to be desired, the boys' parents are enthralled. The somewhat ragged boys' band marches out of the town hall. As they begin to march, they are magically transformed into a spectacular marching band dressed in resplendent uniforms, playing and marching with perfection. Seventy-six trombones, do indeed, lead the big parade.

While the aforementioned scene is a fun way to end a charming family movie, I, unfortunately, know people who cite this scene as evidence that musicals are a joke genre.  They point to an entire town spontaneously knowing complex choreography, and claim musicals are nothing but corn ball drivel for the low brow masses.

I disagree.

OK, there's no denying that musicals deliver a certain amount of fantasy based cheese.  However, in amongst the glitz and the high steps, audiences are given access to characters inner most thoughts and feelings.

In Grease, when, tough girl, Rizzo belts out the lines,
"I could hurt someone like me,
Out of spite or jealousy.
I don't steal and I don't lie,
But I can feel and I can cry.
A fact I'll bet you never knew.
But to cry in front of you,
That's the worse thing I could do,"

the audience understands the depth of the emotional facade she's been hiding behind in order to protect herself.

Even more poignant were the lines,
"The rain can't hurt me now,
This rain will wash away what's past,
And you will keep me safe,
And you will keep me close,
I'll sleep in your embrace at last,"

sung by Eponine as she dies in the arms of the man who never knew she loved him, in Les Miserables

Of course, this seen stirs the same feelings as when West Side Story's Tony lay dying in Maria's lap while she gently tells him,
"There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us,
Peace and quiet and open air,

Wait for us,

 knowing it to be a lie.

 With the possible exception of the narrated hard-boiled mystery, typical movies don't give viewers a glimpse into characters' motivations and thought processes, to the extent that musicals do.

What's our favorite musical?

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