In my time being a fan of musical theatre, I have come across my fair share of what I’m going to refer to as “Musical Snobs”. These are the kind of people that might call you “basic” if you had the audacity to say something such as “Hamilton is my favourite musical!” or “Wicked is such a good show!”
It’s likely that we’ve all had an experience similar to this, and it is infuriating. Just because shows are popular or mainstream doesn’t make them bad shows. The truth is, they’re likely popular because they’re good shows that have spoken to many many people.
On the other hand, as someone who is quite active on the musical theatre side of social media, I often experience the other side of the argument. The internet has allowed certain modern musicals to become extremely popular with young people, and there’s little that’s duller than finding yet another person who claims to be “obsessed with musicals!!!” but only ever wants to discuss Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, Heathers, or Be More Chill.
That’s not to say these aren’t great shows, they’re fantastic, and I’m so happy that these shows are introducing new audiences to musical theatre. However, I feel like very few of these fans think to look into other musicals, the classics or even more obscure shows. (A few even consider Heathers to be obscure, due to it only ever playing Off-Broadway.)
What brought me to make this argument was a tweet I saw recently. A semi-popular youtuber was asking for musical theatre songs to sing for her exam. Personally, for her vocal style, I would have suggested something along the lines of “I’m Not Afraid Of Anything” from Songs For A New World, or “Get Out And Stay Out” from 9 To 5. Most of her fans were suggesting songs such as Waving Through A Window, or Michael In The Bathroom which are not only considered to be overdone at this point but are also songs for the male voice. The lack of variation in suggestions persuaded me to write this.
I have advice for both groups of people.
To the “new” musical theatre fans: broaden your knowledge. Look up old shows, new shows, popular shows, shows that never made it onto Broadway. Look up lists of “shows everyone should listen to”. I guarantee you will find hundreds of shows you’ll love just as much as Heathers.
To the “musical snobs”: be nice to the new fans. Just remember that they’ve probably only just realised their love of theatre, and instead of being condescending and patronising to them, try to help them find new shows! Suggest shows that are similar to the ones they love, lend them your DVD of The Last Five Years, talk to them about the shows you love… just don’t be mean!