It's Okay, I'm Not a Fan of The Sound of Music Either

Harriet Wilson

Why do we perpetuate this idea that some things never grow old? Everything does, including musicals. You might still enjoy them (maybe because they make you feel nostalgic), but don't expect everybody to feel the same. We've seen a whole new generation of musicals since the creation of shows like The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Oliver, My Fair Lady... And liking musicals doesn't mean that you like every musical ever written.

It's okay to think that some musicals are outdated. So, to all of you musical theatre addicts out there who feel like they know awkwardly few “classics” and enjoy even less: it's okay, I'm not a "Sound of Music fan" either. And there are plenty of other people who aren't.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that everybody treats “classic” musicals as if they are too fragile to touch. Why don't we spice them up a bit when we perform them, make them our own? I've always argued this with adaptations of Shakespeare – a production is stifled if the creative minds behind it don't own the text, and recognize that they should be entertaining, and brought up to date.

It's the same with musicals: just because a show has been kicking around for a over half a century doesn't mean that it's perfect, or that you shouldn't change anything about it, with permission of course. 

The frustrating thing is that when I tell people I enjoy musical theatre, it's still shows like The Sound of Music that spring to mind. A lot of people seem to think that musical theatre is just actors bursting into song for no particular reason. And that those songs are old and boring. Because all musicals sound the same, right?

We should show people that musical theatre is more than that. But, at the moment, we practically encourage the opinion. There is still a definite perception that you can't be considered “a theatre person” unless you intimately know a certain selection of older musicals. Which hardly creates an accessible, welcoming atmosphere for people who are dipping their toes into theatre.

So can we just accept that some people aren't going to enjoy older musicals? If, as part of the wider theatrical community, we could recognize this, I feel like the perception that other people have of musical theatre would change dramatically. And I – and a lot of other people – might feel a little less awkward about not liking “the classics”.