Thursday, April 16, 2009

Confessions Of A Musical Theater Snob

I have another confession: I am a total musical theater snob.

If I had to pinpoint a beginning, I would have to go back to early childhood. By the time I started kindergarten, I knew the score and most of the choreography to Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, and, of course, Sound of Music. All of these well beloved, very mainstream shows were wonderful to me. I had the movie versions literally memorized.

The highlight of this phase of my life was my senior year in high school, when I played Laurey in our school production of Oklahoma. Though my acting skills weren't on par with Olivier, or even the more talented Monkees, or even literal monkeys, I sang pretty well and was relatively famous in our town for a couple of years.

"I know you," the grocery store checkers would say, squinting at me.

"You do?" I would respond.

"Yeah. You're that girl. The one who sings. Huh."

Fame is a cruel mistress, but it is sometimes the price we pay.

All of this was fine. Loving musicals, after all, doesn't make one a snob, right? No, it's loving obscure musicals no one has ever made a movie of that makes you a snob. Loving musicals you've never technically seen makes you a snob. By the time I was 30, I was a bona fide musical theater snob.

It began when PBS broadcast a documentary called "Broadway : The American Musical," hosted by Julie Andrews. This 6-part series, available on DVD, traces the history of Broadway and the musical from the late 1800's to the opening of Wicked in 2004. By the time I finished watching this series, I was hooked. I bought books, CD's, and DVD's of all of these amazing shows. I learned the songs and performed them, if it was at all appropriate. Though my senior recital the year before contained a set of Sondheim songs, I now sought out original recordings of Pacific Overtures and Sunday in the Park With George. I developed a distaste for even hearing the name Andrew Lloyd Webber. I had to be physically restrained when I heard the following sentence:

"You know what musical I like? Cats. I like it when I don't have to think too hard."

The test, though, for the musical theater snob is when a musical comes along that is both cutting-edge and popular. Which side to take? This was the situation for me with the musical Rent.

Pro: It was very innovative, incorporating musical styles and theatrical conventions not seen before.

Con: The music was definitely pop.

Pro: It was political and relevant, embracing controversial topics.

Con: It was really popular, even getting on the cover of major magazines like Newsweek.

Pro: It featured a cast of edgy young unknowns, like Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Taye Diggs, and Jesse L. Martin.

Con: The theme song was recorded by Stevie Wonder and marketed as a pop single.

And on, and on it went. For years I just avoided it, refusing to listen to it, considering myself above the controversy.

And then.

I actually listened to some of the music. And loved it. Then the movie came out, and I loved it. I especially loved how they got so many from the original cast to come and pretend they were 10 years younger. It is now one of my favorites.


Ahem. I'll make sure to post after I see the show, but I have to say I'm looking forward to this very much. If at all possible, I'll get a picture of Adam or Anthony to post. If not, I'll get a picture of me looking at them, which is just as good, right?

Life is good.


Kristina P. said...

So, what do you think about Wicked? I sort of think that I should have my ovaries revoked, since I'm not enamored by it. I like it enough, but I don't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.

Deb said...

Wicked is funny. When it first came out, I absolutely loved it, because I'm a big Idina fan and the music was just so catchy. Now, not so much. I like it all right, but it's not my fave anymore.

Cassie said...

I hope you have fun seeing Rent in person! Mamma Mia was my favorite for a while until I saw Avenue Q. Loved it! Then I saw Rock of Ages which blew me away and it is now my current number 1!

Boy Mom said...

How fun! I must confess Adorable Hubby and I left Les Miserables, or how ever you spell it, at half time...oh wait, half time is a sports term right. Oh well...what do you expect from a girl who grew up hearing from her mom that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was only, the best musical ever! Can I get some Lonesome Polecat hear? yikes!

Barbaloot said...

Why do I see no mention of 'Meet Me in St. Louis'?!