One thing you were probably not expecting to find out about me: I fucking love musicals. Especially the classic 1940s-1950s ‘a million outfits, we’ll sing at every possible moment, glam to the max’-musicals.
People who don’t understand musicals often start to moan at this point ‘but I don’t get why they sing and dance all the time, why don’t they just talk?’
That’s kinda the point.
Song and dance are not done instead of talking, they are storytelling mediums that are utilised in this specific format alongside the more traditional ones. Song and dance tell the same that lines do, and more.
If teenage Ida wasn’t alt enough, she was obsessed with musicals to boot. I wasn’t invited to many parties but goddamn it, nobody gets to claim that I can’t say ‘Moses supposes his toses are roses but Moses supposes erroneously, Moses he knowses his toeses aren’t roses as Moses supposes his toeses to be!’
Inspired by my love for musicals I took up tap dancing. Another thing that most of you probably can’t imagine me doing as tap dancing is seen as something quite happy-go-lucky and I’m not. Jokes on you, apparently I had asked my mum for shoes that ‘clip clop’ after watching Mary Poppins.
The thing about tap dancing is that you do things you’d be doing otherwise. You just have to get over the fact that you’re wearing these magical shoes, otherwise the sound won’t come. Tell that to a self-conscious teenager with crippling anxiety. I don’t dance anymore but there is something about the sound of tap shoes that still brings something that resembles genuine joy to the lump of coal that is my heart.
So what do I like about musicals then?
Especially created to bring joy to masses during traumatic events of world wars, musicals seem to exist in a vacuum where other forms of film don’t seem to reach. You can go through basically three decades of film without seeing anything different about them: the songs are about joy and love, the plots are about sailors on the town or a young singer chasing their dreams; falling in love, misunderstandings, struggles and reunions.
They are void of unhappiness. Even though musicals get criticised for their naivety, they still offer attitudes that would be healthy to possess event today. The wronged fiance (usually called Orville) forgives their strayed partner as they see how much happier they are with the leading man. Love conquers all and lasts forever.
I think that’s why people are so apprehensive about them: other genres seemed to move on with the times and musicals didn’t. They fell out of fashion and were eventually pretty much forgotten. When you look at ‘La la land’ you can see that the ageless themes haven’t lost their power to draw in audiences. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Musicals don’t just display joy though. They portray every human emotion in existence. The thing is that it’s subtle. Portrayal of sex for example is done without getting half-naked and singing about how you’ve piped half of Manchester. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) Go watch the ballet sequences in American in Paris or the Pirate and tell me that isn’t sexy.
Speaking of sexy. I’ve had an immortal crush on Gene Kelly since I was a teenager. Of course a film is only a film but there is something about a handsome man with an arse like two honey-baked rolls who sings about how much in love he is and for whom the world is only his tap dancing stage that just tugs at my heart strings no matter how old I am.
Why am I talking about this? Because today I was feeling really low. I’ve had a stressful few days and a really hard counselling session this morning. For whatever reason I got into watching songs from my favourite musicals. I had a little cry at the ballads but by the time I had reached ‘Dig, dig, dig your dinner’ from Summer Stock I was already smiling. The timeless magic created to offer escapism to a traumatised nation still got it.
I am older, more cynical and now also ill but the musicals have remained the same.
Everyone has their niche. Everyone is odd in some way. I also believe that is there that part of us that remains in the vacuum, unspoilt and innocent just like musicals. Everyone has that one thing that makes their heart tap dance on the table. You’ve probably lost it at some point while you’ve been ill, along with your personality and what has ever made you human.
Go and get re-acquainted. It just might be the thing that gets you out of that swamp for a while. Go on, what have you got to lose?
“I think that you and I should get acquainted /
I’d just come up to you and ask your name /
I’ll tell you mine, I’ll say ‘isn’t the weather fine /
‘and aren’t you real glad, so glad that you came?’ /
And after you and I have become acquainted /
I’ll ask you if you’d like to stay a while /
you say you would /
you give me a smile /
oh, goody good, you make my evening worthwhile /
and before our little rendezvous /
we won’t be just acquaintances /
we’ll be the very, very, very best of friends.”
– Gene Kelly / What a way to go!