I love musicals.
Oh, you hate musicals? Really? I’ll get to you and your opinion in a second.
First, I’m making a public confession: I am a white, heterosexual man who loves musicals. I don’t give a shit who knows. You are not your demographic. The people who make up focus groups are demented human beings.
I eat bacon cheeseburgers. I love pranks. I watch professional wrestling. Well, maybe that last one doesn’t prove anything. Pro wrestling is just Redneck Broadway.
But my point is this: “Defying Gravity” is a legit good song. Do I only listen to musicals? No. I’m not a monster. But I’m not here to defend my Dave Matthews and Electric Light Orchestra Pandora channels.
I know musicals can be cheesy. Some can be boring. There are plenty of awful musicals, too.
But any excellent example of anything is excellent. You have to understand that musicals are, mostly, an irony-free artform. There is no way to be ironic, or even cool, when singing a power ballad in the car or a torch song during a booze-soaked karaoke party.
Now, you. You with your opinion. Fuck your opinion.
I will argue with you using, simply, reason. Your opinion is wrong. You’re ignorant. I don’t have to respect opinions from stupid people. All I have to do is let you finish your undercooked thought. Now, you. You with your joyless opinion.
Shut up. Don’t finish your thought. I don’t care. Art doesn’t fail. Humans fail. You have failed art, you magnificent douche.
No one ever says “when I grow up, I want to be an emotional void.”
Let me address some of the basic arguments I have heard from dudes who hate musicals. These dudes, by the way, are always the sort who will punch a wall then run away to cry in the rain the moment fate demands they suffer, as all mortals must.
First: is it really weird that characters in musicals suddenly break out into song when the emotions become too intense? You know what’s weird? When characters in movies suddenly break out into shooting bullets or karate chops when emotions become too intense. Action movies are just musicals with knuckles. Of course the main difference, is action movies celebrate violence. So many explosions. Emotions are dangerous. Most civilizations pacify their citizens with displays of violence. Blood spurts are hypnotic. Distracting.
Feel something for a change. FEEL GOD DAMN YOU.
I have also, literally, heard to my face is that musicals are gay. I don’t know what to say to that. I’m a living thinking person who loves? Fine. Whatever. Then I am gay. I am gay. I am gay. I am gay. I am gay. Proud & loud!
“Musicals suck,” is another retort. Why do you hate your father so much?
You’re a tiny pink worm piloting a robot husk that looks like a human. If I cracked that shell open you wouldn’t last a day in the light.
I might be overreacting. No, I’m not. Think before you talk.
Musicals don’t get respect from most people, and that’s fine. I don’t watch hockey, and that’s okay. I don’t talk trash about it.
Just hear me out. Because I’m going deep. I’m basically singing to you right now. Man up. You can take the truth. I’m not suggesting we hug it out, because I think you’d be a crap friend. But, check it: the bar jukebox? You feed it money because your soul needs songs.
Musicals can turn my bones to wind chimes. They make me feel drunk. I know of few American artists who can gut you with a sad, beautiful song like Stephen Sondheim.
Here, step into the time machine of imagination and let’s journey back to when I first fell in love with musicals. Oh, you don’t have an imagination? Okay. Then I will just tell you the tale.
The first musical I ever saw was a production of “Les Miserables” at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. It was a high school field trip. I was 15. My Trapper Keeper was stuffed with love letters I didn’t have the courage to fold up into little triangles that could slip into her locker.
She was in love with someone else, anyway. He was a total puke bucket, with a car.
I spent the day leading up to the musical employing every single form of teenage emotional expression. All three of them. I sneered. I rolled my eyes. I stared off into the distance in despair. Repeat.
So when Eponine took to the stage to sing about her unrequited love for Marius, I could feel my heart try to claw its way up my throat.
I, too, am on my own! Holy Christ, just like her! I wanted to stand up and sing along with her. I didn’t know the lyrics or melody, but I would have bravely bleated along in solidarity.
Finally, as she lays dying in the arms of the SHIT HEAD WHO OBVIOUSLY SHOULD HAVE LOVED HER AND NOT THAT DOOFUS LADY COSETTE, singing the song “A Little Fall Of Rain,” I suddenly saw myself on my deathbed. The cause of death? Heartbreak, probably. Terminal heartbreak.
And there she was, sitting next to me, sobbing. Maybe someone had given her my Trapper Keeper? Maybe she had read my nearly illegible insane hobo cursive handwriting that covered both sides of multiple pages of torn out spiral notebook paper?
Had she broken up with the total puke bucket, with a car? It did not matter. I forgave her. Cough, cough.
“Les Miserables” is a sprawling singalong opera about a superstrong sensitive dude, an uptight maniac cop, and a failed French student uprising. It’s a musical that loves weepy solos, endless crescendos and synthesizers. So many synthesizers.
It’s great. So is “Phantom of the Opera.” That was the next musical I saw after “Les Miserables.” Look, to me, as a kid, “Phantom of the Opera” was basically “Singing Batman.”
A year later, my wonderful father begrudgingly took me to see my first Broadway show in New York City. IT WAS A MUSICAL ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR.
I have spent a lot of time sitting in theater seats. Not just for musicals, either. Plays, performance art, Shakespeare in parking lots. Theater is the original social network.
I love it. I also love, in no particular order, “Music Man,” “West Side Story,” “Fiddler On The Roof,” “The King & I,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Grease,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Hedwig & The Angry Inch,” “Chicago,” “Spring Awakening,” “Assassins,” “Book of Mormon,” and, honestly, it’s a long list that also includes musicals performed at midnight in basements in the Lower East Side, years before Manhattan turned into Bankhattan.
The American musical is the cradle of contemporary pop music. It’s an art form that connects us to the vaudevillian music halls of our shared past. The musical is what happens when the church meets the saloon. These songs are all pagan hymns to first kisses and lost loves. There is so much cruelty in the world, and the American musical knows that. Sometimes it tells us everything will be okay – the curtain will come down on dancing and singing and triumph. Sometimes it tell us everything won’t be okay and that kind of honesty can set you free.
Love what you love. This is a truth you can only read on a non-ad supported internet digital web blog platform. I’m not selling anything. I’m not telling you what to love. Just that you should love what you love. Love what you love. Bear hug it. Whisper to it. Cut any bitch who tries to diminish that love.
We cool, bro, and all that jazz?