Musicals 1/12/20

Opinions by Richard Bleil

This might irritate some people, but I’ve never been fans of musicals. I know there are many (MANY) people who would disagree, and that’s okay. I’m not here to sway opinions, but I’ve noticed a trend that I do like, and I realize that I’m beginning to watch more musicals.

Now, let me explain a bit of why I’m not a fan. First, the music is unfamiliar to me, and frankly, I’ve never much liked musical songs. Okay, I don’t want to offend anybody here, but it usually feels like they are songs that wouldn’t make it on their own. If they become known, it would be because the musical itself was a success. Second, I really can’t understand how everybody in musicals just happen to be professional vocalists and dancers that in the midst of whatever is going on can just instantaneously break out into a perfectly harmonized song and dance.

Okay, I’m nitpicky, but like I said, I don’t expect my readers to agree or disagree with me. This is just my personal proclivity and I get that. But, seriously, fleeing from the Nazi’s with your entire family, and you’re going to sing on the way out? I kind of doubt that the Von Trapp family did much singing at all, at least not until they were safe.

By the way, the Von Trapp’s were a real family, they really did flee the Nazis, they really did settle in America, and their lodge is located in a beautiful little town in Vermont called “Stowe”. It was too expensive for me to stay there or actually buy anything, but it’s a great place to visit. If the Stowehof Inn is still there, THAT I would highly recommend. Maybe a topic for another blog.

As I type this blog, I’m watching a movie called “Love & Mercy”. This is a musical of sorts; John Cusack (wonderfully talented actor) plays an older and retired Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. That means that the movie has a lot of great music, naturally all by the Beach Boys.

This is why I’m enjoying musicals today. It kind of started with “Mamma Mia”. It is (as is its sequel) is a musical in the classical sense, meaning that suddenly, for no apparent reason, people start expressing themselves through song and dance, but the music was all by Abba. Now, again, you can disagree with me, but I like Abba. I always thought that their music was fun and beautifully orchestrated, and these two movies have kind of forced me to listen a little bit more carefully to their lyrics, which are beautiful, soulful, sad, and very personal.

There have been a few movies based on the Beatles music. I have to admit, I LOVE this, because I am, just between you and me, a huge Beatlemaniac. But don’t tell anybody; it’ll be our little secret. Now, the Beatles have made a series of movies themselves (“A Hard Days Night”, “Help”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, and the animated film “Yellow Submarine” which wasn’t really a Beatles movie, but they did license it and make a cameo appearance). These were silly movies, filled with one-liners and silliness that inspired the networks to create the Monkeys television series (seriously, watch “Help” and one of the episodes of the Monkeys and you’ll see it).

Modern movies have soundtracks by the Beatles, but the movies are stories built around the songs. Most recently, “Yesterday” (2019) is a fantasy movie asking the question of what would happen if the Beatles were suddenly wiped from history with only a few people remembering them at all. “Across the Universe” (2007) was a musical drama about two star-crossed lovers in the turbulent sixties and seventies trying to survive the protests and anger. In 1978, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” follows the story of Sgt. Pepper who brought music to the troops in WWI, and the struggle of his grandson to keep the tradition alive. There are more movies that I know I haven’t seen (such as “Nowhere Boy” from 2009 about a young John Lennon).

What I’ve noticed about these movies is that they have great music from my personal favorite era in music history. Yes, I love Jazz and Blues and Classical and all kinds of additional music, but when I’m naked and wet (or in the shower), I’m singing the songs that they are using in these movies. And, to tell you a dirty little secret, I can’t watch these movies in the theater because I always end up singing along with them. Even with the movie I’m watching now, I’m singing along, and although I like the Beach Boys, I’m not a huge fan. But these movies bring back comfortable and familiar (and excellent) music, wrapped around stories that may not make a lot of sense, but frankly, who cares? Maybe that’s the trick; maybe these are story lines that are not good enough to make it as a movie on their own, but, that’s okay.

The music ROCKS!!!

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