The World Needs More Live Musical Theater

In my previous post, I made fun of “The Sound Of Music” and my desire to see the live version. Let me just state, for the record, that I love this musical. I listened to it over and over when I was a kid, then moved on to “Oliver”, then “West Side Story”. I remember putting the slightly warped records on the player, lowering the needle and then singing along. I used to sing “Edelweiss” to anyone who would listen, from an appearance on the Deputy Don show, to the times I rode the Greyhound bus with my brother on my way to meet my dad, three hours away. I have a folksy kinda voice and I was never cast in any big musicals. Well, I did play Squeaky Fromme in Assassins, but I’m not sure that counts. What I love about musicals is…they’re earnest. They’re so unbelievably hopeful. And even when the musical is cynical, they still come off as ultimately...I don’t know…pure.

Seeing a live performance of a musical, where everyone is singing and dancing and acting their hearts out, never fails to move me to tears. Even when it’s very bad musical theater. ESPECIALLY when it’s bad musical theater because, by god, they’re going to go out there and they’re going to sing without fear, and they’re going to sing LOUD.

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So I watched the Live version with Carrie Underwood and I am totally smitten. And I’m mad because people are being so mean and snarky about it. Was it a perfect performance? No. It was flawed. Parts of it hopelessly so…but watching it—because of those flaws—made me feel like I was watching something REAL. So much now is synthesized and Photoshopped and so damned polished that it’s mechanical. This was not. It felt like watching a soap opera crossed with the Laurence Welk show and I loved every minute of it.

When I watch the movie, I fast forward through the creepy goat song and the dialogue…but not with the live version. I liked the slight stumbles, the twitch of nerves. I liked when things sounded a little hollow. I liked the flaws because it was real. And there were moments of real beauty. The scene between Maria and the Abbess. Seeing actors (like Stephen Moyer) stretch themselves with song. Hearing Underwood use a different kind of voice than her superstar persona. Seeing people dance and twirl and spin in coordinated silk.

I write a fair amount of humor. I’ll tell you something with humor. It’s easy to be snarky. It’s easy to make fun of things or people and make people laugh. But it’s not genuine. So much of our connecting online is by being snarky, in place of being genuinely funny. Sometimes it’s just mean.

What’s wrong with watching a show that’s NOT cynical? What’s wrong with performers giving themselves over to a piece and not getting it 100% perfect? What’s wrong with watching something that’s earnest and hopeful?

There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s inspiring.

 

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The world could use a few more musicals right now. It needs some lovely, hopeful, innocent songs. We need harmony and duets. We need notes that soar…to offset the notes that don’t.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t force Kealoha to watch it. It’s not his thing, and I respect that. We’re going to watch a Sondheim special later and I’m great with that.

I think if you’re going to watch something like “The Sound of Music”, you need to watch it with an open mind and an open heart. Remember when it was written. Watch it with a child’s interest. That’s what I did.

And I turned the sound UP. Way. Way. Up.