18 Nov Billy Elliot: Music, Mood, and “Being a Man”

[caption id="attachment_2321" align="alignnone" width="660"] Prepare yourself for awesome.[/caption] When I hear “musical,” my mind jumps to bright colors, show tunes, dance lines, and laughter. This may be appropriate, considering the roots of musical theatre: travelling minstrels and small troupes performed music combined with slapstick comedy as entertainment during the Middle Ages (when everyone needed a good laugh). As these troupes became more common, theatre producers contracted them to insert short numbers between the acts of more serious dramas, allowing some comic relief. These interludes were expanded; eventually, writers began setting farces to music, emphasizing how music can complement dialogue, action, and plot. Fast forward a few hundred years, and you’ve got modern musicals, right? Not quite. Musical theatre’s path has taken twists and turns, and, though occasionally pertinent, the images that my mind creates can be misleading. For instance, musicals aren’t exclusively comedies (dramatic, romantic, or otherwise). It may seem obvious, but my preconceptions don’t address this fact. Take, for example, Les Miserables. The title itself hints that the musical probably won’t be a joyous affair. The Phantom of the Opera doesn’t sound very uplifting either: when was the last time ghosts were humorous (aside from Ghostbusters)? Clearly, somewhere along the line, the purpose of “the musical” changed course, splintering from comedy and adapting the more dramatic undercurrents of opera. What, then, is a musical? Clearly, it isn’t just about comedy, or drama, or action, or even the music. A musical represents the place...

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