With the UCD community musical, try Jesus Christ Superstar, imminent, Caitríona O’Malley hand jives to an exhilarating array of musicals. Do you hear the people sing?
It’s hard to ignore the derision heaped on musicals by certain snarky people.
‘All they do is sing,’ they lament, ‘and for no reason.’
Those people clearly need to crawl back into the crypt, because they are withered and dead inside. Musicals, be they on stage or screen, are joyous affairs. Admittedly, Les Misérables, which cleaned up at the 2012 Oscars, isn’t the most gleeful example of this. A prostitute dies; a man is imprisoned for nineteen years for a petty crime; a child is shot dead; a man kills himself….alright, a lot of people bite the dust. Still, the songs are wonderful. Les Misérables is an epic novel written by Frenchman Victor Hugo in 1862. It was adapted into a sung-through musical by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil and made its stage debut in the West End in 1985. Since then, it has enraptured audiences the world over and made new fans (including myself) in its 2012 film incarnation, under the direction of Tom Hooper. The cast of the film were praised for singing the songs live, rather than miming to pre-recorded tracks as is often done in musical films. The emotional range of the songs veers from rousing (One Day More as the revolutionaries prepare for battle), to bawdy (Master of the House), to devastating (I Dreamed a Dream). It occasionally groans under the weight of its own earnestness, but it’s hard not to feel your heart swell when everyone joins in for a chorus of Do You Hear the People Sing? in the final poignant scene. If you’re not waving a French flag and grabbing every bit of furniture available to build a barricade after watching Les Misérables, watch it again, and belt out every anguished word along with Anne Hathaway, because tears are therapeutic, and if you can’t be melodramatic whilst watching a musical, there’s something wrong.
If all that redemption and warfare has you feeling a bit delicate, there’s always Grease to boost your flagging spirits. Grease is a rare bird in that it started life on stage, was then adapted to the screen, and has been on stage on a fairly regular basis ever since. Having seen both the 1978 smash hit starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta and a stage version, I can confirm that it is irresistible in both mediums. Grease is about young lovers Danny and Sandy in 1950s Rydell High School, and the highs and lows of their relationship. From hand jiving at the prom to crooning on the porch, and everything in between (Beauty School Dropout, complete with clouds and a fancy staircase, is a highlight), Grease has endured through the decades for good reason. You might want to overlook the dubious message at the end (Sandy completely changing her image and personality for Danny), though. Chang chang changity chang shoobop!
With its rather prominent theme of Anschluss, or the Nazi unification of Germany and Austria, The Sound of Music is quite dark on paper. However, the 1965 film version of the musical of the same name, which is loosely based on the story of the real-life von Trapp family, is delightful. Julie Andrews is radiant as nun on the run (she’s not exactly on the run, but that rhyme was too much fun not to include) Maria. She teaches the von Trapp children not to be afraid in My Favourite Things and helps them to learn the musical scale with clever and catchy Do-Re-Mi. Meanwhile, Christopher Plummer makes eyes mist with the gorgeous Edelweiss as handsome Captain von Trapp. At around three hours, it’s a long one, but thanks to gems like Climb Every Mountain and The Lonely Goatherd (sometimes I pine for a goat puppet to put on my very own puppet show, just like the von Trapps. Someday…) It has been beloved for almost fifty years now. It was even parodied by Seth MacFarlane at the 2012 Oscars.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name is synonymous with musicals. In collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice, he has created such hits as The Phantom of the Opera, the aforementioned Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. I saw The Phantom of the Opera on stage last year and was very impressed. It’s based on the novel by Gaston Leroux and tells the story of a disfigured, volatile man who becomes infatuated with a young singer and desperately tries to woo her. The theme song, heavy on the organ, is ominous yet oddly alluring, just like the Phantom himself. Another standout song is Masquerade, which is boisterous and looks like wonderful fun to perform, as the cast sashay around the stage in garish masks, letting the audience know that nothing is as it seems.
As you may have guessed, I love musicals. There’s something enchanting, something magnetic about them which rarely fails to enrapture me. Whether it’s the Artful Dodger inviting Oliver into the shady world of the pickpockets in Oliver!, or John Travolta (there he is again) strutting down the street to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees in Saturday Night Fever, or the Major General hearing the approach of the pirates in Pirates of Penzance, I’m invariably hooked. If you’ve got some free time this weekend, settle down with a musical. And, if there’s no one there, sing along with it, and you might soon find yourself in a world of pure imagination.