This is a quote from Voltaire. (French writer and philosopher. Should the mood strike you, you can find out about him here) A bright chap, I think he was right on the money in describing one of my favourite things in the whole world; Musicals.
I fell in love with the theatre at nine, at an amateur production of A Kidsummer Night’s Dream; a junior musical version of Shakespeare’s comedy. Entranced by the idea of being on stage singing, acting and dancing, I auditioned for the theatre group’s show the following year. With absolutely no stage experience of musical or dramatic training, I was given the role of Annie.
For those who have been living in a cave for a century or have simply been deprived of the experience of watching Annie, allow me to enlighten you. Annie is a curly-red-haired orphan living in an all-girls orphanage in New York in the 30s, under the care of a bumbling alcoholic, Miss Hannigan. Long story short, millionaire Oliver Warbucks pulls an ultimate PR stunt and takes Annie to live with him for the Christmas holidays. And in true musical fashion, they decide they make the perfect family and he eventually adopts her. (I take no responsibility for that spoiler, if you didn’t know the story you’ve got bigger things to worry about.)
But I digress.
The main ingredient that makes Annie so delicious is the fact that it is a musical. The ultimate premise of musical theatre is that despite the fact that these conversations are seemingly spontaneous, an entire orphanage of young girls or a household of servants can burst into perfectly choreographed, exquisitely harmonised song and dance and the drop of a hat. There is nothing more entertaining than hearing the notoriously nasty Miss Hannigan launch into a drawling version of “Little Girls”; in which she essentially claims to want to kill all the children she cares for. Not that she says it in so many words.
A sentiment such as this would of course be scandalous if she spoke it aloud, and she would be carted off to a padded cell quicker than you can say “Broadway”; but the fact that she so eloquently phrases it in song seems to make us say “Hmm, I can see where you’re coming from” rather than “That woman should not be in charge of young children”.
So good old Voltaire had a point. If you sing something rather than just dropping it into conversation, it seems to be alright. Probably because all those within earshot will be more surprised by your sudden melodic outburst than the actual subject matter.
The quintessential example of this has to be one of my favourite shows of all time; The Sound of Music. The premise of 90% of the songs from this show are COMPLETELY ridiculous. But for some reason, we all blindly tap our feet along to the beat of “The Lonely Goatherd”. Nuns and nazis alike break into song at random intervals, and we applaud it. If that’s not entertainment, I don’t know what is.
Keep up the good work, Voltaire.