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Are musicals really worth the hype?

Written by Arts, Theatre

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For Musicals: Cayla Viner

Just last week, I went to see Alexandra Burke play Rachel Marron in a musical production of The Bodyguard. In September, I saw The Tina Turner musical in London. Both of these musicals are filled with timeless classics such as “I will always love you” and “Proud Mary” which you cannot deny are beloved songs. It is easy to play these tracks on Spotify or a CD and enjoy them for the masterpieces they are, however there is something very different about a live performance with an emotional story, that brings both characters and audiences together which a recording just cannot create.

When you go to see a musical on stage, you are immersed into a world full of dancing, singing, laughter and tears; for those 2 hours you are watching something real

While music and performance develops and changes as we move through the modern era, musical theatre still manages to encompass a huge part of the Arts. Hamilton tickets sell out minutes after being released and The Lion King is still filled at every show, 18 years after it premiered. They are clearly doing something right! When you go to see a musical on stage, you are immersed into a world full of dancing, singing, laughter and tears; for those 2 hours you are watching something real, something live and something so creative that it has captivated audiences for centuries. Musicals can be enjoyed amongst all ages too, making it a memorable past time that every family member can take some joy from. I have been to more musicals than I can count on my fingers but I vividly recall each one of those trips because the theatre experience is so unique from any other form of entertainment.

Against Musicals: Grace Dean

Musicals are often overrated.

By no means do I wish to issue a blanket statement proclaiming that all musicals are bad, but sometimes they are just unnecessary. When a play or production has a fantastic plot, brilliant cast and beautiful set, accompanying song and dance is often unnecessary.

When plays attempt to tell their plots through music, the storyline can often become muddled. For me this is the case with opera and ballet too – I watched the Nutcracker on stage and, while I enjoyed the dance, I struggled to keep up with the plot. Musicals not only distract you from the plot closely but also the very nature of the words being sung make it difficult to tell exactly what is being said, with convoluted rhymes diluting the meaning of each sentence.

Musicals, in my opinion, also require a certain frame of mind to watch them. Compared to plays, which I find you can enjoy in most moods, many musicals really necessitate a jolly mood to enjoy them. Maybe it’s just because I’m moody, but I find myself struggling to stay in a laughing and smiling mood through a two hour production.

What I am complaining about here is much more the twee, happy-go-lucky musicals that seem to be flooding theatres nowadays

That’s not to say that all musicals are happy occasions; some, like Les Miserables, draw on rather different emotions, and do so effectively. What I am complaining about here is much more the twee, happy-go-lucky musicals that seem to be flooding theatres nowadays. This has been caused by attempts to recreate the big screen on stage, with musical adaptions of books and films becoming ever popular; examples of these range from Stephen King’s Carrie to Shrek, Metropolis (ironically a black-and-white silent film) and Mamma Mia. While many of these have seen great critical acclaim, some of them do seem like superfluous attempts to capitalise off the success of an already well-established brand by just adding music to a pre-existing script. Musicals written for stage will always triumph over any mere adaptations. The influx of these has diluted the musical industry and led to some being sub-par, which has affected my overall perception of musicals.

Last modified: 30th March 2020

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