The Lowest Form of Entertainment

Musicals are inane.

First, the concept that a song is expected to carry the plot reveals a fundamental weakness in the dramatic narrative. Songs are intended to evoke emotion; to burden them with plot requires either an incredibly deft hand (for what it’s worth, most concept albums are unable to do this) or it is the refuge of the untalented. That is to say, playwrights cannot write narrative except in three-minute bursts, yet neither are the librettists capable of writing memorable music, so what such teams do is force the songs to advance the plot. Genius!

Second, most musicals are far too long for the endurance of the audience. I have seen some people weep and laugh over the overdramatic junior-high mentality of musicals, but why drag this out for three hours? Most movies barely clock in at two. Most albums are little over one. Yet playwrights think that live performances and dancing will magically extend the audience’s patience?

Third, why do musicals have the emotional maturity of your below-average twelve year old? Seriously, they are riddled with unbelievable scenarios, overdramatism, characters who are as three-dimensional as paper, themes written in crayon, and an understanding of human nature that rivals horoscopes. Can the audience for plays really be that immature?

Fourth, why is the quality of the songs in musicals so low? If you go to a musical in order to listen to live musical performances and you care nothing for plot, theme, or quality, then you would at least expect to enjoy the songs themselves. Yet, the songs – the very blood of musicals – are often disposable and forgettable. This is the case for plays that have been performed for some time. This makes no sense! You’d think that plays that had endured would have the most memorable music, or that the music would be above average in some way or form. I haven’t found this to be case. Musicals seem to be an artistic wasteland, a no-man’s land of broken narrative and awful songs. Still audiences attend them, weep, laugh, and give standing ovations to maudlin overdramatic emotionalism.

Musicals are inane.

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3 Responses to The Lowest Form of Entertainment

  1. I am a massive musical fan and do not understand why you think this way. In fact, they are filled with memorable songs. I do not believe that the songs moving the plot are a weakness like you said. The songs are shaped around the plot and not the other way around. The emotions in fact do become more mature as you get older. Kids get into musicals due to the whole spectacle and dance aspect, but as you get older the emotions matter more and more. I am only saying this due to my experience with them. The characters are more complex then you think they are.

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    • Poster says:

      In the musicals I have seen, the songs are not necessary from a plot or emotional perspective. They occur every 3-4 minutes as if the playwright thought that the audience’s attention was lagging and he needed some flash and sizzle to reel them back in. I can recall a handful of songs from those plays, and mostly because I’d heard them previously – not because they were great songs in themselves.

      I have seen South Pacific, Brigadoon, Ragtime, and How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying). The last one was the best of the bunch, mostly because the irony and sarcasm helped make it a touch more intelligent. This is not a hill to die on for me, so if you have some examples of good musicals, I’m all ears. I don’t really want to conclude what I’ve concluded, but my experience has left me no real choice.

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      • There are a lot of good musicals. You mentioned South Pacific and I love that one. Sound of Music is one with memorable songs. Les Mis understands the emotions so much that the songs truthfully make sense with the plot and characters and those emotions become real because of it

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