Image Credits: Matt H Wade / Wikimedia Commons

So you think musicals aren’t high culture?

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At the age of six, I was dragged into London by my determined mother. She would not rest until I, her only daughter, was as infatuated with musicals as she was herself. We were going to watch ‘Grease’ onstage and, like any other six year-old, I did not really know what was coming. But the curtain went up and that was it. I was hooked on musicals and have been ever since. I loved the show so much that I would not stand up to get an ice cream during the interval because I was scared I’d miss the rest. Now I probably see a new musical with my mum every year.

Out of all the plays I have ever seen, from Shakespeare to independent productions, musicals are by far my favourite type of theatre. A musical can captivate me in a way that other shows just can’t. It might be the catchy tunes, or the choreographed dance routines. Or maybe it’s the clichéd plotlines, filled with romance and misunderstandings. Regardless, musicals appeal to the everyman – men and women, the young and the elderly. The reason for their popularity boils down to one factor: musicals do not take themselves too seriously.

It might be the catchy tunes, or the choreographed dance routines. Or maybe it’s the clichéd plotlines, filled with romance and misunderstandings

For many of the artsy amongst us, musicals embody everything that is wrong with theatre. They’re loud, slapstick and, ultimately, very humorous. For many, this criterion alone makes them not ‘high culture’.  Add in some wacky characters and a load of singing and jiving, and you have the perfect recipe for disapproval from art critics.

So yes, musicals certainly do not fit the definition of ‘high culture’ drama. But – newsflash – this is probably why musicals are so well liked. West End productions are still unbelievably popular with the public today. Shows like Wicked and Mamma Mia continue to be enjoyed by audiences all over the world.

As brilliant as I have found some smaller productions, none of them compare to seeing musicals like The Lion King on the West End, or Mary Poppins on Broadway

Although some people really do enjoy independent plays, this is not the opinion held by the majority. As brilliant as I have found some smaller productions, none of them compare to seeing musicals like The Lion King on the West End, or Mary Poppins on Broadway. The atmosphere is electric. Musicals fill out massive theatres, with tickets selling way in advance of the performance date. There is something about them that draws people in, and I think it’s their feel-good factor. You leave a musical happy, entertained, and normally with a catchy jingle in your head.

In my opinion, there’s just too much misery in the world already. To actively pursue sadness in the theatre boggles my mind. Maybe I’m just not cultured enough to appreciate it, but in my experience, small productions focus too much on being dramatic, and not enough on audience happiness.

There’s just too much misery in the world already. To actively pursue sadness in the theatre boggles my mind

But if, like me, you are reading this and you also really like musicals, rest assured. Most people love them, that’s why they’re so popular. So if you artsy friend who loves macchiato’s and dresses all in black tells you you’re uncultured, smile and dance away singing Defying Gravity at the top of your lungs.

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