I haven’t seen a musical in a long time.
That statement needs some caveats and clarification. Here we go.
As I’ve explained before, my childhood soundtrack had showtunes on heavy rotation. I’m no expert, but I imagine it isn’t every 10-year-old who looks forward to accompanying her mom to the laserdisk rental place* every weekend to pick up Aida or La Traviata, or whatever else they had on hand.
* Yes, you read that right. Did I not mention that my mom is Chinese? This wasn’t that strange. Well, except for maybe my choice in rentals.
As part of their program of spoiling me rotten, my parents would take me once or twice every year to see A Show, and while I wasn’t one of those girls who insisted on having the glossy, $30 program with pictures from the performance, we did inevitably end up coming home with a copy of the soundtrack, which I would then listen to essentially non-stop (on headphones, thankfully) for the next 3 months. Or maybe 6. Or in the case of Miss Saigon, maybe 24.
(Before you assume I’m crazy, you should know that an aunt brought me the London recording as a present well over a year before the show came to Canada. By the time I went to see it, I knew every song backwards, and even had a pretty good idea what to expect visually, thanks to the liner notes.)
It has been a long time since I’ve seen a show like that, probably over 10 years. Maybe even 15.
I know we’ve been to see Avenue Q, and Urinetown, and I’ve even been to the opera a couple times (including one of my favourites — The Magic Flute!) but… it’s not the same. I grew up on a steady diet of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Claude-Michel Schönberg: Phantom and Les Mis, Miss Saigon and Joseph and Starlight Express. I can’t even remember the stories or costumes from Cats (although I can still see the stage, and the way it moved) but I know every single damn song by heart, even now, eighteen years later.
I don’t think I ever got to the point where I was the kind of snob who knew the voices of all the Big Names, but I do know that in general I chose the London cast recordings over Broadway. (I think it has to do with their diction.) Life was good, if a little melodramatic. Over time, however, the shows that I really wanted to see grew further and further apart.
Even before I left Hometown, the shows we went to were becoming more… what? Watered down? Pop-y? I mean, obviously something like Mamma Mia! or Jersey Boys is going to be poppy, but in general, those shows are missing something for me. Avenue Q, while entertaining, just didn’t hit the spot. If I had to draw a line in the musical sands, I’d say that Rent was probably the last “modern” musical I saw that still met my criteria.
Maracas would probably have a good, logical argument (what with her actually knowing what she’s talking about and all) to explain why I’m on crack when I say that these new shows are just not as satisfying, musically, as the “old-school” musicals that actually verged on operetta. I don’t know what to say to that. I can’t explain it; I just know they’re not the same. I enjoyed Avenue Q, and I liked some of the songs but… they’re like songs on the radio, and I don’t go to the theatre for radio-fare, you know? I yearn for the soaring soprano solos, and the random, dizzying arias; the crazy 12-part choral pieces with awesome, layered harmonies, but all with lyrics I can actually make out, and a story with depth and fun details. (Those last two rule out “real” operas, with the possible exception of Carmen.)
As the shows we went to see drew further and further away from the ones I liked, I kind of gave up on keeping up to date on them. Honestly, I didn’t care that I wasn’t seeing them because I’d heard bits and pieces of the soundtrack and wasn’t inspired to go.
Until, in a fit of nostalgia, I put together a streaming playlist consisting of every favourite musical track I could remember, along with a couple “recommended” ones as well and found… Wicked.
Now, I don’t live under a rock. I know of the show, I’ve read (and own, actually) the book, I even considered going to see it while it was on in the theatre here. I don’t know why I made the decision not to, but now I sorely regret it because here — finally! — is a show I’m genuinely excited about (yes, I know, 7 years later), and I’ve been kicking myself since for not buying tickets to see it while it was playing in town.
At least I have something to plan for, I guess, if we’re ever on the road.
In the meantime, it’s been really nice to have ridiculous, overdone songs to belt out in the shower (complete with high notes that I can’t hit), to be listening to a story while trying to picture what’s on stage, to actually want to see a specific show again. I’ve missed this.
(P.S. The Boy? If you’re looking for something that I can unwrap in front of your parents, I don’t have the Wicked soundtrack. I’m just saying.)