Gulity Pleasure Thursday - "Style" from The Magic Show
A delightful Stephen Schwartz score that people are not as familiar with as they are with Wicked and his other hits, The Magic Show features some poigniant character numbers and inventive melodies. Very few people remember that The Magic Show was one of the longest-running musicals of the 1970s, but it was, in fact, as popular as Stephen Schwartz's other musicals of the period: Godspell and Pippin. So, if the score is respected and the show was a hit, why doesn't anyone produce The Magic Show anymore? Surely this report card would have producers clamoring to revive the piece. The answer is simple: the musical was less of a reason for musical theatre and more a reason to show off the magic tricks of popular magician Doug Henning. Schwartz just happened to concoct some great music for a star vehicle that was almost absent of plot.
The Magic Show features two outstanding songs that we hear now and again at auditions and on compilation albums: the cynically charged "West End Avenue," and the delicately introspective "Lion Tamer." Both pieces reveal Stephen Schwartz at his very best. Also, in the score, is "Style" a cheesy, tacky, even abrasive number that features Stephen Schwartz at his most corny. This is why I love it and have made it my "Guilty Pleasure" for this week.
"Style," sung with pompous grandeur by the expert at pompous and grand David Ogden Stiers, is essentially a list song of name dropping. An aging magician is giving advice to a young upstart, deigning him worthy of his recipe for success: that style, flair and "je ne sais quoi" are the only ways to succeed in show business. He continually mentions all the celebrities he's boosted to stardom with his sage advice. The orchestrations ooze with a 70s seediness that is equal parts toupeed game show host, Vegas elevator muzak, and avocado kitchen appliances. You can't listen to the song without feeling a little dirty, but why not revel in the synthesizer sounds and the mirror ball lights and give "Style" a try. This is what the phrase "Guilty Pleasure" was invented for.