The Five Enemies of Broadway Musicals
My guess is that, if you are reading this piece, you have an affection (or at least an appreciation for) Broadway musicals. What's not to love: infectious music, larger-than-life characters, transformative and/or eye-opening stories. Musical theatre, for many people, is the ultimate entertainment experience.
Though many of us like to revere musicals and dissect them for their intricacies, there are other people out there who despise this genre of theatre and do their best to diminish its integrity. Today's blog explores the varying "types" who make it their personal mission to diminish that thing we love.
The Uninitiated Expert
These are the people who have never been to a Broadway musical and never intend to. Their decisions are based solely on stereotypes they've heard second hand or put together from the five minutes of The Sound of Music they watched before turning the channel. I include in this group the people who have deemed musicals as "dumb" because "people don't sing their thoughts in real life, so why would they do it onstage?" They have a million expertise reasons as to why they will never set foot in the theatre presenting a musical. We all know at least one of these people and wish we could get them into a theatre seat just once so they can see what they have been missing.
The Thespian Logician
The "serious" actor who can't be bothered with musical theatre because it is neither realistic or on a par with Shakespeare or David Mamet is likely someone you'll recall from a college acting class. They dismiss musicals for the heightened suspension of disbelief that is supposedly required to enjoy them and would rather disembowel themselves in emotionally overwrought monologues of pain and suffering. They accept only certain types of theatre instead of embracing the range and possibilities that variety can provide. They are entitled to their opinion, but they try to make everyone think like they do through their passive aggressive statements disparaging musicals.
The Self-Appointed Guardian
These are some of the most problematic enemies of musicals. These are the folks who crown themselves the aficionados of musical theatre, but use their knowledge as a way to wield superiority and to squelch open debate. They don't really love musicals, they love their own opinions about musicals and troll the sites where people are actually discussing ideas with enthusiasm and try to shut down free thought with glib, matter-of-fact statements of their supposed authority. They also dismiss topics altogether because they have nothing new to add or just because they feel a topic has been over discussed. It's about them, not the musicals they proclaim to love.
The Categorical Extremist
This offender is best described as a person who orders the same thing for lunch every single day. They "only like Sondheim musicals" or they "only like dance shows". There is nothing wrong with that per se, but the Categorical Extremist does it to the extent that they eliminate all else in their world, pushing that opinion on others. They do their best to shoot down other shows that might compete with the styles that they prefer.
The Un-Constructive Critic
Some theatre critics write delightfully, with honesty and color that help us decide if a show is one we want to see. A great critic writes a balanced review that leads the right audience to the right show. They realize that what they are writing is not just about their individual opinion, but about conveying the attributes of a musical to a reading audience who are potential ticket buyers. These are Constructive Critics. The Un-Constructive Critic only paints in broad statements that assert extreme love or extreme detest for a new production. They don't make the effort to see how a piece might appeal to someone else or to a different audience with differing criteria. They assume we are all on the same journey.