Monday, September 15, 2008

Kansas In August

I have a confession to make. This...

...still does it for me.

Yes, I'm as corny as Kansas in August. As high as a flag on the Fourth of July.

For I'm still in love with the musical.

The love affair began with an old Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire pic. I watched Holiday Inn about a hundred times throughout elementary school, before moving onto the slightly saucier Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairing in Top Hat.

Then came Julie Andrews electrifying those hills in The Sound of Music. Sweet Edelweiss! The obsession deepened. My friend and I made up our own lyrics to Do-Re-Mi (Ray--a name you call a guuuuuuy!) in middle school. My bedroom walls sprouted posters of My Fair Lady and The Phantom of the Opera. From that point until college, I was basically lost to modern music.

Smells like Teen Spirit? Whatever. I had no need for irony.

And maybe that's the point.

Musicals are escapist by nature. They’re not interested in the literal reflection of reality. Rather, musicals scrounge whatever sincerity they can from our world and tack it to the loftier longings of our ideals. It's a bridge as ephemeral as moonlight, but as potent, too. When characters’ emotions are so intense and driving that they cannot be contained in mere speech, they must be exorcised through song. What a beautiful, generous transparency to share that nakedness with another person! To be that corny, and not blink.

Which is why I kept watching, and listening. I wanted a part of the emotional bloodletting. A stage without self-consciousness. A purer state of being...yes. But also one in which the sunny optimism of Mitzi Gaynor from South Pacific could drain into the dark, desperate hope of Tony and Maria in West Side Story.

People are more in musicals. But they are still fundamentally true. There is brightness, and darkness.

And Somewhere, at least, we can slide across that spectrum without a second thought, or the slightest guffaw.

Haven't you heard?

The hills are alive...


So what's your favorite musical? Song?

Have you ever performed in a musical?

Or does the sight of a dimply-faced von Trapp make you want to pull a Sweeney Todd?

Let's discuss!


Anonymous said...

I never really saw the impact and purpose of musicals so clearly before. I think you're right. They (and many movies from the golden era) are an exageration of emotion. A purity. Something that glows brighter than the complexities and conflicting puzzles of true life. In a way, they are both escape and lessons. Perhaps they urge us to reinsert some of that openess and earnestness back into life.

I'll admit that I'm a fan of The Sound of Music. :) And Phantom of the Opera is very powerful in its themes and intensity.

Charles Gramlich said...

At the risk of showing my lack of breeding, I try "never" to watch a musical. I've never made it all the way through a single one, except maybe the Sound of Music, which I watched as a kid. I can suspend my disbelief for an alien busting out of someone's stomach, but not for the fact that folks break into song doing every day kinds of things. It's beyond me.

Aine said...

I love musicals, but I must admit I have trouble sitting through some of the older ones. I just can't get past the acting... :)

You did a great job of explaining the purpose of musicals. Music is probably the most potent vehicle for expressing emotion, so it makes sense that musicals showcase emotions (even if in an exaggerated form at times...)

If I had to choose one favorite... alright two: Grease (because it's fun and flirty) and Phantom (the music can't be compared...). I've never seen Cats, but I adore the soundtrack.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

I so agree with you.Musicals are quite something else!

I grew up listening to The Sound Of Music,fav of me and my mom :)

I love almost all the songs of the movie,the most favorite being the title track(both versions),Edelweiss,and I am sixteen ;)

Sarah Hina said...

Escape and lessons: very well put, Jason. That really is the crux, I think--not to live in a bubble, but to take some seed from a song, or film, and let it take root in your own life. That's when passive entertainment can inspire something more substantial.

And Phantom, with its Music of the Night, does have a haunting soundtrack. I'm glad I got to see it performed twice on stage. :)

Charles, that's okay. I appreciate the honesty. And I'm a fan of Alien, too. ;)

Watching musicals does take a suspension of disbelief. But I never had a problem with it. It felt like heightened living to me.

Aine, I'm with you on the acting. The old-fashioned style is harder for me to swallow than the singing. I recently watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers again on youtube, and it was a stretch. But that dancing! *sigh*

And I know you're my favorite Pink Lady. ;)

Sameera, The Sound of Music must hold a special place in your heart since it's connected to such fond memories of your mom. My mom and I watched it together, too.

I liked "Edelweiss" as well. And the soft, romantic interlude, "Something Good." :)

Lena said...

I love Phantom of the Opera, its amazing :)
Ad i love Romeo and Juliet, i guess just everything there, is always present on my playlist.

Hotwire said...

having played sports year-round i never go the chance to perform in high school productions but take my boys to the local schools each year and we all look forward to this big event - we've see fabulous productions (grease, 42nd street, guys and dolls, meet me in st. louis, wizard of oz, the wiz, how to succeed in business) by some very talented kids. my all time fave is oklahoma and from that show my favorite song is everything's up to day in kansas city and all er nothin'

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

Yes dear,you said it right.So thoughtful of you.Thanks :)

Sarah Hina said...

Lena, I'm glad you're a fellow fan. Suddenly, I'm hearing strains of "Wishing You were Somehow Here Again." :)

Hotwire, I've seen Oklahoma performed, too. "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" is such a great song. I'm glad you and your boys have the opportunity to share in that together.

Sameera, songs conjure shared moments like nothing else. I know you'll hold onto those poignant memories.

ChrisEldin said...

LOL at Charles! Yes, I guess if you think about people spontaneously breaking into song, it is rather funny.
But I *love* musicals! West Side Story of course, and Sound of Music. There are so many others whose pictures remain in my memory, but not the titles.
Oh, And I loved Jesus Christ Superstar. The message to me is powerful--a prophet more human and less godlike.