Sarah Burke Vaughan responds to the ever-growing presence of the musical theatre ‘sub-genre’ in society today.
The time has come to address an issue plaguing today’s hallowed and sacred rite of theatre. We must discuss something so underhanded and despicable that it can just downright wreck your whole day, while simultaneously ruining the untouchable and infallible art of theatre. This is the kind of thing that would have made good old Billy Shakes sit right up in his grave and say, “not today you don’t! Not on my hallowed ground, the stage! A place reserved for only the highest brow and important of stories to be told! Take your kick ball changes and be gone!” I am talking, of course, about the disgraceful sub-genre known as ‘musical theatre.’
“No self-respecting actor should express themselves through jazz hands.”
I was personally victimised by this much lesser form of theatre recently when I attended what I assumed would be a hard-hitting drama about an underestimated law student, overcoming adversity and moving forward to defend the rights of women in a court of law. What I bore witness to was a ridiculous pink and blonde farce, full of people possessed by some unknown force that compelled them to sing and dance in formation, as though the theatre was the place for such things! Any respectable theatregoer knows that musicals are simply a lesser form of theatre. No self-respecting actor should express themselves through jazz hands.
“That kind of raw emotion can never be achieved through tacky costumes, coordinated dance numbers, and cheesy ‘breaking free of convention’ solos.”
Real theatre should be gritty and complicated. It should explore important themes and make the audience feel something deeply, to the point of being slightly uncomfortable. That kind of raw emotion can never be achieved through tacky costumes, coordinated dance numbers and cheesy ‘breaking free of convention’ solos sung by above average looking plucky brunettes.
It’s not as though there are any musicals exploring serious issues like race, sexuality, depression, sexism, religious persecution, the AIDS crisis, or child labour. Musicals are far too fanciful and frivolous to explore anything serious or important. Such things are reserved for the sanctity of true theatre.
The very idea that musicals use their expanded platform and extra tools in the music and choreography to convey deeper messages than we first see could make one laugh themselves to death, if the theatre were a place for laughter, which it is not. To all you character shoe wearing, toe-tapping delinquents out there, keep your jazz squares off my stage.