Monday, August 22, 2005

A proponent of the Good Old Days

New blog find Jaime Weinman took our post about dueling composers and riffed on it, concluding that he prefers the Good Old Days of Broadway musicals, going so far as to say that Chicago "is either the last great musical comedy or the last great serious musical comedy (and perhaps the last truly great musical, either way)"

That's a bold statement!!

Now, I totally get what he's saying about the recent crop of musicals that seem to apologize for being musicals. The fact is that we who love musicals laugh at certain numbers in shows like The Producers because of knowledge of all the other musicals they're parodying. It's an insider's laugh. But there is that hint of self-loathing isn't there? The "if you can't beat them" in mocking musical theatre "then join them" mentality. I rarely walk away from today's blockbusters, such as The Producers or Hairspray with the same enthusiasm that is somehow expected.

But I just don't buy the argument that the "serious" musicals that became more en vogue starting in the 70s are "ascetic, eat-your-vegetables 'serious' musicals." Just as I've never bought the argument that Stephen Sondheim can't write hummable melodies. I find sweeping romanticism and high drama in many late 20th Century "serious" musicals...hardly asceticism. From Sweeney Todd to Ragtime I believe there are great "serious" musicals. Yes, they may follow a more opera-like form, being more sung-thru than most classic musicals. But that's merely taking the breakthrough techniques of Showboat and then Oklahoma to the next, logical level.

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