Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The musical: the Wal-Mart of theatre

Before I launch into today's rant, Jennifer E. over at sent me a link to this video, outlining some media reactions to Barbara Walter's picks for her Most Fascinating People of the Year list. I especially like the quote about Elizabeth Hasselbeck - it really does explain a lot. Thanks Jennifer!

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And now, today's topic: why does every goddam movie need to be turned into a f*cking musical? News that the new $65 million Spiderman musical previewed on Broadway this past week, with the production coming to a grinding halt numerous times due to technical difficulties  really, as Family Guy's Peter Griffin would put it, "grinds my gears". 

Now, I know there are many fans of the musical out there, and I respect your love of this particular type of entertainment.  However, when movies like Shrek and Legally Blond are translated from film to musical, I start to wonder about the total lack of original ideas out there. 

A line must be drawn somewhere, I mean, come on. Spiderman, the musical, costs $1 million a week just to operate. Really, this is where our priorities are in a time of high unemployment and recession? And this is coming from a playwright! I'm certainly not against the masses being entertained and given a reprieve from their worldly troubles since some of that entertainment will one day consist of scripts written by yours truly.

However, a theatre production that relies so heavily on technical stunts seems to strip the art form of its content, of its very soul. Gripping, entertaining theatre is about compelling stories, characters and relationships, not about harnessing actors in high-wires to fly above crowds. Leave that to Cirque du Soleil - they do it best.

Whose genius idea was it to turn a superhero comic strip into a musical? (That was a rhetorical question - I know the answer but used it merely for dramatic effect.) Is nothing sacred? Can't certain art forms simply remain in their original format without being converted into some flashy, dumbed down version of their former selves destined for mass consumption?

The musical is becoming the Wal-Mart of theatre. It's grotesquely large and forces its suppliers to make an inferior version of their original product.

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