A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
A long time ago in a cinema far, far away, a wide-eyed pre-pubescent girl was sitting in the front row clutching her salted peanuts and Kia-Ora and waiting eagerly for a film about King Arthur to begin. At long last, the auditorium darkened, the opening credits rolled and …
Richard Harris burst into song.
Up a tree. In the snow. As one does.
Or, rather, precisely as one doesn’t – and that’s my main problem with musicals. I really can’t be DOING with people singing at me when they should be talking
In my entire life I have seen just six musicals – on stage and on screen – through from beginning to end: The Sound of Music, Cats, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Show.
I was about ten when I saw The Sound of Music – and even then was a bit bemused by all those people running around singing at each other. During Cats (where I was taken as a special birthday surprise by a friend who knew that I loved live theatre, but hadn’t quite got a handle on my preferences) I kept hoping that Rum-Tum-Tugger was going to fall off the stage and break something. I accompanied my cousin to Godspell when it was on stage in Oxford because she wanted to see it and didn’t want to go alone. I must have blocked most of it because my only memories are of a clown (shudder) a bouncy bunch of technicolour happy, clappy types and lots of ribbons. Or perhaps I imagined the ribbons? I know I didn’t imagine the clown.
I was dragged unwillingly off to the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which has unfortunately lodged in my memory as Godspell reimagined by Jerry Bruckheimer. For some reason a bunch of people prancing around singing in the desert is even harder to deal with than a bunch of people prancing around singing on a stage.
Over the years, I’ve pondered the question of The Musical and I, and I’ve realized that I don’t have a problem with ALL musicals. I love Rocky Horror – both the film and the stage version. I’m always happy to sit down and watch The Little Shop of Horrors, and something tells me, although I’ve never caught up with it, that I’d thoroughly enjoy Spamalot too (ironically enough). What Rocky and Little Shop have in common is, of course, fantasy. They don’t pretend to be real.
I also don’t mind those ‘musicals’ – like Five Guys Named Moe – that are really nothing more than revues – a flimsy storyline thrown together as an excuse for belting out some really great songs.
My beef is (mostly) with musicals where people sing when they should be talking. And it’s not that I don’t like the music – I have a vast collection of musicals in my CD collection. I’m word perfect on The King and I, Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls, On The Town, et al. I can even sing you all of the songs from The Flower Drum Song – and not many people can claim that. (“I Enjoy Being a Girl” was one of my party pieces when younger …).
It’s the absurdity of it all that makes my teeth itch. Take the end of West Side Story, for instance. There’s the mortally wounded Tony, dying beautifully in Maria’s arms and what does he do? Yep. He sings. There’s a Place for Us is a beautiful song, but as fellow Book Fox Kirsty said to me over a vegetable lasagne not so long ago: with breath control like that, he should be good for at least another six months.
Perhaps I need to lighten up. Perhaps I’m just the archetypal Englishman/woman, taking my pleasures sadly – or perhaps I need to unlace my critical faculties a little, suspend disbelief, stop thinking about the fact that Emile is spitting in Nellie’s face as he sings Some Enchanted Evening, and accept musicals for what they are: pure entertainment.
I actually appeared in a musical once you know. I was 10 years old. It was The Sound of Music and I played the bad-tempered nun who couldn’t stand Maria.
In real life, Moira is actually quite a cheery soul (in a po-faced sort of way). She’s been hiding in the Lake District for last 25 years, where she’s rumoured to be the manager of a small charity near Ravenglass, but as she spends most of the day lurking behind a door marked “Here Be Dragons” nobody feels too inclined to check it out …