Friday, April 12, 2013

The Problem With Musicals

My wife and I went to see Disney's The Lion King at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center last night.  Allow me to thank the PAC for the media passes--allowing me and the Missus to enjoy a cheap date night.  Now let me tell you about the show: IT STINKS!

Allow me to preface my review by saying that I do not like musicals.  One of the most disappointing entertainment experience I ever had involves a musical.  On a high school trip to Europe, we spent four days in London.  Our tour guide asked us if there was anything we wanted to do in the city and I asked if we could get tickets to see Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap--a long-running mystery play that features an ending so surprising that everyone who attends is sworn to secrecy.  The next day our guide let us know that she had "something even better than that"--she had tickets to the hottest new show on the West End: Miss Saigon.

Whenever I tell this story, people who are really into Broadway shows are always like "Oh my goodness, you saw Miss Saigon with the original London cast?  That must have been awesome!!"  And I always reply, "No, it was terrible."  Imagine having to sit through two hours of anti-American drivel punctuated by sappy love songs.  Most of my group tried to stay out at the theater bar after the intermission, but our chaperone dragged us back in to be told how "evil and greedy" us Americans are.  As you can tell, I've never forgiven that tour guide for not getting us in to see The Mousetrap.

Now I have had positive musical experiences.  Monty Python's Spamalot and The Producers were both hilarious.  Mostly because they mock the self-serving seriousness of standard musicals--and were written by people who don't write Broadway shows.  (If someone actually did produce a full-length version of Springtime For Hitler I'd probably go and see it.)

For me, the biggest problem with all of these song and dance shows is that they aren't very good at telling stories.  The movie version of The Lion King is 100-minutes long.  The musical version is TWO AND A HALF HOURS!  (When you go to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, they have a stage version of Finding Nemo that features much of the same puppetry action and musical numbers--and it takes 45 minutes.)  And the songs really don't serve to move the action along.  You can tell that the writers had these 15-songs first--and then just tried to patch in the gaps with random snippets of dialog from the movie.

Anyways, that's all in the past now.  Hakuna Matata.

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