An Apology to the World of Musical Theatre

Elizabeth Collins

  • United Kingdom Columnist

I denied it for years. 'No no no, I do see some musicals, yes- but mostly I see dramas and comedies- big musicals are too cheesy!' But yet- I went to so many musical shows and thoroughly enjoyed them. I went to many musical shows and felt happier for it. I went to musical shows and was moved to tears. I struggle to pin down the exact reason for my denial which lasted for years but I am now cured of that denial, and I make this apology to the world of musical theatre.

So, what were the possible reasons on offer? Maybe I thought people might not see me as seriously as I liked (being a teacher makes this quite an important impression to have)! Perhaps it was a genuine dislike of some of the cheesiest moments in the musicals I saw early on (no names). Perchance it was the cynicism of my partners in conversation- that raised eyebrow of judgement which so often appears when talk of musical theatre arrives into the lives of non-fans.

Luckily, I now feel none of that eagerness to fit in with the opinions of others or indeed, to be so uptight about how I appear to others- could it be that the messages in so many of the musicals that I have seen have influenced me so successfully? It seems likely. So slowly the realisation crept in...if I wasn't such a big fan of musicals, why was I paying small fortunes to see so many of them and why did I keep going back for more? I was a fool, of course- I am completely in love with musical theatre and I now own that love and proudly sing the praises of some of the best shows I've ever seen- many of which are, in actual fact, of course, musicals...

So for the record (and to redeem myself), let me specify the jewels in the crown of musical theatre. I love musicals for their joy, their tragedy, and their ability to lift you out of your own world and plant you into a grand, colorful and often majestic set with fabulous, jaw-dropping costumes and voices which make both the rafters and my heartstrings ring. Musicals time and again showcase the extraordinary capabilities of modern productions and the results are often incredibly moving-whether to laughter or tears, the often heightened, affecting nature of the gem cannot be denied. Musicals carry powerful messages and often provide important social commentary- 'Wicked', 'Memphis', 'The Color Purple' and 'Priscilla: Queen of the Desert' are prime examples. 

Musicals are powerful in ways which dramas and comedies struggle to rival; the medium of song seems to elevate every type of emotion and the quality of the music and the voices make musical theatre some of the most striking and memorable of all productions on stage. I love musical theatre for the very things I once offered as reasons for dislike- the jazz-hands, the over the top characters and yes, even the cheese; let's face it, sometimes cheese is needed! Musical theatre is fun, it is joyous and it is beautifully enveloping; it's a sure-fire way to lift a mood and get a whole audience up on their feet for a spontaneous flash mob.

I love having the cast albums in my car to keep me energised and to assist me with amusing fellow drivers with my uninhibited attempts to channel my inner Celie. I love musical theatre for the catharsis, the way it makes me think, and, to quote a poet-friend of mine, it demonstrates resoundingly that  for both characters and audiences alike, 'It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply' (Credit: David Jones). I love musical theatre for so, so many reasons and I have no real, solid idea of why or how I ever though otherwise. So, to the world of musical theatre: I whole-heartedly apologise for the delay in my open appreciation and I look forward to my next trip- the next of many!

P.S OnStageBlog readers: Feel free to follow me and my passion for all things theatre (of all kinds, including musicals!) on Twitter- @alwayst4theatre