The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #93.3: Musical Theater

General Introduction
- Skeleton crew
– Cold weather
– No listener feedback

Opera as Super-Art
- 16th-century Italy
– Its roots in humanism and classicism
– Connections to tragedy
– Grappling with pessimism
– Wagner’s return to tragedy
Gesamkunstwerk
- Changing tastes

The Development of Musical Theater
- Development from comic opera and operetta
– Differences between operetta and musical theater
Show Boat!
- Yiddish theater
– The rise, fall, and second rise of the film musical

Rodgers and Hammerstein
- Why are they so popular?
– Development of the story
– Accessibility and classicism
– The songs and the characters
– The Golden Age of the Middlebrow

The Rock Opera
- Making rock and roll worse?
– The jukebox musical
Les Miserables
- Emotion and musicals

Disney Movie Musicals
- A product of their times
– Back to Broadway
– Killing the musical
– Recitatives and Pixar

Biblical Musicals
- Biblical visibility, anyway
– Unorthodox
The Prince of Egypt
- Concerns over Veggie Tales

Other Stuff
- The countercultural musical
– Marginalized voices and outcasts
– Emotivism and the popular kids
– Anti-nihilism
– Two cheers for the movie musical

15 comments
BradWarfield
BradWarfield

In the religious category, a musical I like that was not mentioned is The Cotton Patch Gospel. There is a DVD recording of the stage show. On rock operas, what do you all think of rock albums that were intended to be if not operatic, then narrative, such as The Who's Tommy, Rush's 2012, and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime? Since there wil never be another musical podcast, I have to mention Springtime for Hitler from the Mel Brook's movie The Producers.

Charles H
Charles H

My reactions: 1. Minus seven?  LUXURY.  This morning I woke up to MINUS FORTY-FIVE.  Welcome to Saskatchewan, ya buncha weenies. 2. As a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, I would LOVE an episode dedicated to those guys.  My mother raised me on Pirates of Penzance, making me one of the few ten-year-olds who could express his anger by singing "Away away! My heart's on fire! I burn, this base deception to repay! This very night my vengeance dire will glut itself in gore, away away!" 3. My biggest gripe about Prince of Egypt is the pop song as the Hebrews leave Egypt. "We were moving mountains long before we knew we could." "Someone you will, you will if you believe."  Talk about missing the point!  Other than that, I enjoyed it. 4. I am a huge Les Mis fan, and you are about to face my wrath.  YOU DARE TO DENIGRATE ANNE HATHAWAY'S "I DREAMED A DREAM"?!  HULK SMASH!!!  That was an amazing performance!  And this is from someone who no only has seen the stage show several times, but also has the 1987 Broadway soundtrack CD memorized, sang Javert's "Stars" for my undergrad voice class, and has both the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts on DVD.  I RAGE AT YOU!  LOOK AT IT! LOOK AT THE RAGE!  At least wait until you have seen the movie before badmouthing her performance.  If she doesn't at least get an Oscar nomination for that, Les Mis fans will burn Hollywood to the ground and dance on its ashes to the tune of "Master of the House".  I ran this past one of the Voice teachers here, by the way, and she backs me up on this.  If you want to talk about bad performances, you should put your energy to better use by criticizing the block of wood that played Russell Crowe playing Javert.  This show is about Grace triumphing over Law, and Javert must be played as a good man who is passionate about The Law and genuinely believes himself to be doing the right thing in God's eyes.  You want to see a GOOD Javert?  Check out Norm Lewis' take on Javert in the 25 anniversary concert.  Here is a comparison video somebody made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Ym_uxLly8 (sadly, lawyers made people take down all the good videos of Norm doing Javert by himself).

MichialFarmer
MichialFarmer

Corrections department: I mistakenly said that Dafne was Orpheus's lover; that was Eurydice.

ngilmour
ngilmour

BradWarfield I remember seeing the production of Cotton Patch Gospel in Kingsport in the late nineties, and its take on the gospel narrative is certainly fun, even if the only musical number I remember is "Somethin's Brewin' in Gainesville," largely because both of my kids were in fact born in Gainesville. I'm not sure there will NEVER be another musical podcast.  After all, how many Plato and Aristotle episodes have come and gone since we were foolish enough to title an early recording simply "Plato"?

Charles H
Charles H

"Someone you will, you will if you believe." Sorry, that was "somehow you will."  Derp.

ngilmour
ngilmour

Charles H Getting Michial to talk for an hour about musicals was enough of a chore; I don't think I could swing an all-Gilbert-and-Sullivan episode. Yeah, the big Mariah Carey vehicle in Prince of Egypt was a throwaway, but in my view, so are most of the star vehicles in musicals.  Give me the Dog Eats Dog/Javert's Suicide sequence any old day rather than the big, emotive arias in Les Miserables.  In my view (and I'm sorry I didn't get this in during the episode), it's that sequence, combining the rebels' realization of their own futility with Javert's suicidal crisis and the contrast with the hellish mercenary amoralism of Thernardier, that's the real intellectual core of the musical. I don't remember whether Michial baited me into commenting on the Les Mis movie or not, but if he did, just know that I'm easily led astray. :)

MichialFarmer
MichialFarmer

Charles H I would think that Les Mis fans would be too busy pasting stickers into copies of Tiger Beat to care about the Oscars.

ngilmour
ngilmour

Charles H I'm familiar enough with the film that I read it as the lyrics I've heard so many times.  I still agree though--the star vehicle is largely worthless.

Charles H
Charles H

ngilmour Speaking of Gilbert & Sullivan, I just found out that my college's music department is doing the Mikado next year!  Happy!  It's a pity that I no longer have time to do stage productions, or I'd see about getting involved in it myself.

Charles H
Charles H

One positive thing I will say: I listened to the podcast while working out this morning, and y'all provoked such Les-Mis-Fanboy anger in me that I was filled with a rage-fueled strength for the workout, and I think that I burned some extra calories.  So my slowly-shrinking waistline thanks you, at least.  :^)

Charles H
Charles H

ngilmour Yes, one of the things that I did not like about the Les Mis film (aside from Russell Crowe) was that they cut out Thernardier singing in the sewer.  Apparently some performances do cut it, so it is technically considered an "optional" number (same with Gavroche's "Little People", which I do think can safely be eliminated from a performance).  I disagree, and wish they had left it in.  I was pleased with SBC's handling of Thernardier (and HBC was enjoyable basically playing herself as Madame Thenardier), and I think he could have done justice to the darkness in his comic character in that number. One bit that floored me was that they cast Colm Wilkinson as the bishop.  That was beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=039td1lNrwU

Charles H
Charles H

MichialFarmer Charles H   And you would be wrong. :P

Charles H
Charles H

ngilmour Cohen was good at being evil as Pirelli in Sweeney Todd.  I don't really recommend the film, as it was a weak adaptation and both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter played the same characters they always play (weird and creepy alongside weirder and creepier), but some of the supporting characters delivered.  After Sweeney Todd, I was willing to let SBC try his hand at Thenardier (that's right, I'm pretending that he needed my permission), and I thought he did a very good job of it.

ngilmour
ngilmour

Charles H ngilmour Fascinating and disappointing.  My favorite sequence in the musical begins roughly with the end of the barricade battle and ends with "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."  The figure of Thernard, when you can hear his voice but his body is a backlit silhouette, is one of the great Satan-moments of musical theater.  (Close behind is The Engineer in Miss Saigon singing "If you Want to Die in Bed.")  I've not seen any of Sasha Cohen's projects, but from what I know of him, he might have lacked the range to go full-on diabolical.