Love them or leave them? It seems a lot of people are divided on the subject of musicals. Musicals are basically plays that tell a story with song and sometimes dance. So what makes people so passionate about liking/not liking them?
I happen to like musicals. They are fun to me. I love music, singing and dancing so it seems right up my alley. In South Korea while we had lots of music, theater was for serious stuff like Shakespeare and Chekov. I think we were trying to prove that we were cultured too. I got my first peek at Western musicals with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
This American musical was on film and it came out in the mid 1950s. My Korean mother and I were captivated as we barely knew English and here were these happy pioneers singing AND dancing while chopping wood and raising a barn. Why were they so happy to do such difficult chores? We had no idea. But we knew it was vibrant, filled with beautiful actors/actresses and mom really liked seeing the different boys and girls fall in love. That part was stupid to me but I always jumped at a chance to be near mom when she was happy so I watched the bouncy sing songy movie with great interest.
By the end of it I thought it was a lot of hoopla for such a weak story, but I found the songs were stuck in my head. When I was outside doing chores I found myself humming some of the catchy tunes and skipping along without realizing my gender was being totally mocked in the film. LOL
South Korea grew and prospered and had their hand in all sorts of Western arts and music. In 1995 they debuted their first original musical about an Empress based on a historical novel by YI Mun-Yoi. The Last Empress played in SK and all over the world and had very favorable reviews. I have yet to see it as I just found out about it last night – that’s how aware I am anymore about the world of theater! LOL
The topic of musicals came up during a tutoring session last night. I am helping a Korean college student sharpen her English conversation skills via Zoom. I love it. I help her speak more fluently and I get to ask all sorts of questions about Korea 2022. She repeatedly tells me I will not recognize it since my last trip in 1981. I believe it. When my sister went to my Uncle’s funeral in the mid 1990’s she reported that EVERYONE had cell phones and she had no problems being understood as so many people spoke English.
If we look away from the controversial topics what about musicals turn people away? The very thing I love about it is what people dislike – the randomly break out into song and dance for no reason. I have heard people say, “Why do they have to sing that part? Can’t they just SAY IT?”.
People also are turned off by the fact that so many films and plays are being turned into musicals when they don’t seem to be a good fit. Who ever thought Dracula would be a musical? Koreans did. Who wants to watch American Psycho the musical? Americans do. There is a portion of the population that wants their classics to stay sacred. It pisses them off when you make Back to the Future a musical. Do people not realize what a masterpiece of film Back to the Future is? LOL
I’m fine with all of it. Have fun with it I say. It’s so cool to live in a society that is so wealthy that we can play around with theater. No one is forcing you to watch or like it. I also love that we have so many movie editions of the musicals. I don’t have to dress up and I can pause to go to the bathroom.