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Hey, I have no shame

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For reasons that escape me, I’ve had songs from Man of La Mancha stuck in my head. I tried to explain this to a friend of mine, and I suddenly came to the realization that he had no idea what I was talking about.

“It’s a musical.”
“A musical? You like musicals?”

And there it was–the question, hanging out there. “You like musicals?” To admit liking musicals in this society as a straight male is, for whatever reason, to accept the status of social pariah. But to hell with that. I proudly proclaimed my love of musicals, without hesitation.

And my friend looked at me funny and changed the subject.

Well, screw society. I love musicals. Yes, they’re silly, and frequently pretentious as hell. But what an art form! Because the thing is, music, done right, can convey emotion better than the greatest actor or writer. Sure, it’s ridiculous to think of people spontaneously bursting into song at emotional moments. But musicals aren’t a realistic art form–they’re an expressionistic one. And the use of song can enable an audience to get into a character’s head and viewpoint in an overwhelming and unique way.

Think of Man of La Mancha, for instance–can you think of any better way to capture the character, viewpoint and idealism of Don Quixote than “I, Don Quixote” or “Impossible Dream”? And take a look at other musicals, too. Do mere words express the agony of Christ begging for his life from his Father better than the music of “Gethsemane” in Jesus Christ, Superstar? Could the best acting performance in the world convey more compassion for the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera than the song “Music of the Night”? Answer: no.

To be sure, there are some wretched musicals out there. (“Cats” springs instantly to my mind.) But then, musicals are subject to Sturgeon’s law, just like everything else. So just admit it already–you like musicals. There’s no shame in it.

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About Alex Knapp

  • Oh, God, thank you for having the courage to speak out! You can’t really enjoy the South Park movie unless you’re hip to the genius of its parody of the genre. The problem, though is this: Hairspray, on Broadway, decent seats? $250 per.

  • yes, let’s hear it for musicals! btw great list, i just have to add Cabaret — blows Chicago straight outta the water. And there’s Carousel, The Music Man, West Side Story, The King & I, An American in Paris… revive the musical, amen.

  • you forgot The Producers, just saw that last weekend, fantasticly hilarious musical.

  • Bravo, Alex. No list is complete without the Rogers & Hammerstein classic Oklahoma. I agree about South Park, and what would the ultimate guy movie “Blazing Saddles” be without its three hundred Cole Porter references?

  • As a rule, I generally do not like musicals. There are two “musical”-type things I’ve liked so far: The Producers, which I saw a couple months back, and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. You might be able to draw a comparison between the two as to why I liked them and no others.

    And don’t confuse liking music from a musical with liking musicals. I think musicals, in general, are pretty annoying, but there are some talented song-writers behind the songs. To say that liking a song from a musical = liking musicals takes it too far.