Monday, September 21, 2009

Musical Theater and Glee

Every time you think I've confessed as much as geekishness as one person can hold, I reveal more. I weigh in on the pirates vs. ninja issue (ninjas would win, even though I think pirates are cooler); I wax poetic about all things in the Jossverse; I miss playing Dungeons and Dragons (I didn't just play: I was a Dungeon Master years before that had anything to do with BDSM.) Today I must tell you probably the most shining example of what a Massive Geek I truly am: I majored in Musical Theater - in high school. I can belt out some Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Kern. I can do jazz hands and dance like a fool in a big group number. I read plays.

And so, I love the new show Glee! Between this quasi-musical style TV show, the resurgence of actually talented talent shows like American Idol and Britain's Got Talent, and the commercial success of the High School Musical movie series, I think America is ripe for a musical revival and I'm totally stoked! (Does *anyone* else still use stoked?)

Maybe it's because I grew up on black and white movies, or because the only non-church music I ever heard as a child was in musicals, or maybe it's because they're awesome - but I've never understood the marginalization and mocking of musicals. Sure, they're campy. That's the point. Musicals are all about heightened emotion; rather than going all British miniseries and merely quirking an eyebrow now and again, actors in musicals get to go all out - big arms, big voice, big dance number. And some of the most poignant, heart breaking, and achingly beautiful songs on love and loss I've ever heard came from musicals.

(The Pride and Prejudice footage is a fan's idea. This song is from the musical "Chess".)

(Here's another, clearer version sung by a different actress that has embedding disabled.)

Interestingly enough, the earliest lessons I got in race relations were from musical movies, like West Side Story and Showboat.

Okay, you have to admit - that's an *amazing* voice! When did we start mocking talent? It's time to stop that. This man was phenomenal, and it's not like no one in my generation has the ability. So let's get all excited about musicals together - okay? I'm sure there are Christians out there who think I'm all dark and evil now, since I'm an atheist. But I'm just so campy, so silly, so geeky - I can't understand how people can find me threatening. I public admit to loving musicals (and not in a "Oh, well, if I'm in NYC I'll grab tickets" way. In a let-me-take-two-buses-each-way-to-school-and-practice-four-hours-a-night-cause-I-wanna-be-on-Broadway kind of way.)

And look, so you don't think it's just a repository of sad songs, here's one of my favorite comedic musical bits. (I love every single musical except Oklahoma! That one sucks, but even there "Poor Jud is Dead" is pretty funny in a wooden-delivery kind of way.)

(You can skip ahead to 6:01 if you want, but I love this enough to watch the whole thing.) Frank Sinatra really was swoon-worthy, wasn't he? I got a thing for short guys, what can I say? Old Blue Eyes *sigh*...

Now tell me musicals aren't freaking awesomeness cubed?! And hey, if you just wanna tell me that I'm a massive dork, that's okay too. I'm a dork with good music :)

p.s. Yes, I sing all of these at full-throated I-went-to-school-for-this volume, in my tiny thin-walled apartment. It's decent payback for my neighbors keeping the talentless Kanye turned on all night, right? (Yes, he is talentless. The difference between the videos here and the crap on MTV is that these are real voices, not mixing and computer editing. The sound you hear came out of someone's body like it is. No distortion and hiding was necessary to make it sound good - it already did.)

p.p.s. Rachel on Glee! is my favorite. She's so earnest and intense and passionate and people aren't kind to those traits in high school. She's pretty much exactly what I was like on the *inside* in high school, while on the outside I looked like I should be shooting the place up. (What, didn't the girls you knew shave their heads and start wearing trench coats in tenth grade? Oh. Huh.)