Sunday, January 16, 2011

Something To Sing About

Yes, yes. I'm thinking about those truly great musicals... the ones you can't get out of your mind.
I've written about Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and Funny Face, Labyrinth, Beauty and the Beast, and mentioned several others in random posts here and there. But I've never really laid out exactly how I feel about the genre as a whole. My love for the musical genre is without bounds. Musicals translate to magic, and it's sad how long we go sometimes without a truly great one to make our hearts kind of burst out with that wonderful song that is just too memorable not to sing.

Okay, that came off a little flamboyant... but one runs that risk when discussing the genre in the first place. I don't care. If someone thinks musicals are prissy, they never had a childhood. Cause more than half the movies I remember from my youth were musical in some way shape or form.

The Disney Renaissance hit at the perfect time for me and my generation. I used to get a new musical every year! Man that would be exciting. So it's sad for me to watch the genre wain and fall away like it seems to do every couple years since Paint Your Wagon
gosh that seems like a terrible idea. I couldn't even get through the thing.

But I don't want to talk about the failures of the genre. I want to talk about it's numerous and unflinching masterpieces. Movies like My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Grease (yes Grease!), Top Hat, and Singin' In The Rain to name a few.

My Favorites:

Funny Face


Little Shop Of Horrors
I prefer it to the stage version. It's so charming and it's probably responsible for my entire childhood. Alan Menken wrote the music and was quickly pulled into the Disney system where he then cranked out hit after hit: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Pocahontas.

But he didn't do my personal favorite of the Disney flicks...

The Lion King
You know it. We all love it. It's magical. It opens with tragedy. And so what if it's a glorified animal version of Hamlet? That's actually really damn cool!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
More fun than most movies I can think of... and a serious twist on what the genre is capable of.

Earth Girls Are Easy
Yes it's a musical! And it's so damn fun to watch.

So powerful and yet so... it's almost not even a musical... but it is... Thanks Fosse. Thanks for being a friend and giving us something even better...

All That Jazz
So painful and wonderful and intriguing all at the same time.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
is a real influence on my vision of what is good and bad. The movie's not quite as good as the play, but it's still crazy and entertaining.

Living It Up

Buffy the musical... or Once More With Feeling!

I know it's a television episode, but oh so great.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut!

A Goofy Movie

I could honestly spend hours listing these, but I guess I really just want to say, "Watch these movies. I think you will feel the same way that I feel." There's a whole world of magic in movies that is being ignored. It's been proven that musicals can be very very successful... but there's so much preparation. More so I think than studios are used to. And it's hard to get people on board because we no longer have Fred Astaire or a true studio system. Most actors, understandably, want to do many different things, rather than being typecast. But no one who has done a musical recently has been thusly typecast as a musical actor... in fact, I think it's very hard for an actor to be typecast these days. Granted some comedians can't break away from comedy, but musicals can be ANYTHING.

There's no really convincing reason to ignore the genre. It would be nice to see musicals in theaters more than once a year. In the last decade we had Tangled and The Princess And The Frog and Enchanted, Chicago, Moulin Rouge!, a bad Phantom Of The Opera, an apocryphal Rent, a sadly misled Nine, and The Producers (which I personally like, against popular opinion). Maybe a few more, but those are honestly all I can remember from the naughts ('00s).

While it's impossible to return to the lower budget, charm-filled era of the studio system I don't think it's impossible to step back, find a musical that works, and put it together smartly, responsibly, and affectionately. A good musical is a beautiful thing. We can watch it over and over again because there is so much to enjoy. In the right hands, good music, good actors, good writing, good choreography can brighten our day like nothing else. Broadway's still alive. But it's seriously drained. I'd love to see a future for the musical genre in movies. I already know there's an audience out there. The success of Glee pretty much proves that (though I don't watch the show)...

People want to see musicals. So please give them what they want, Hollywood!!

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