at-painter-og-image.png


For anyone born before 1950 who was lucky enough to see or become familiar with American musical theater, those memories are alive today, likely among their favorite recollections rooted in childhood. 

If one just heard the soundtracks, they will remember the first time they heard the songs of South Pacific, Peter Pan, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The King and I, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Camelot, Porgy and Bess, Showboat, Brigadoon, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Paint Your Wagon, etc.  In those musicals, every song was memorable.  Every lyric made sense.  Those lyrics were literate and grammatically correct! The stories, those musicals told, had substance.  They were often historical, or based on great literature (West Side Story),  and they were all truly great.  One would walk out of the theater humming those timeless melodies.  Those days are over.

Along with the incredible technological changes since the 1950s have come the post-modern social and cultural changes, equally as cataclysmic for the world of theater. Take, for example,  Fun Home, currently on stage in Los Angeles.  It is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel (b. 1960) about growing up in her dysfunctional family in a small town in  Pennsylvania.   Her father is a closeted gay man and she realizes she is a lesbian once she is in college at Oberlin.  It is an award-winning production and is called a musical, but is not  in any way musical.  There is not a single memorable motif, let alone a memorable song.  Melody is banned from musicals these days; perhaps the fear is that a melody may interfere with the deathless prose.   No more do we leave the theater and buy the album in the lobby. We have also not properly understood the lyrics; too many words and too many notes.

Fun Home is an exercise in forced voyeurism.  The main character is a talented cartoonist who chose to spill the intimate details of her family’s tortured history onto the pages of her graphic novel.  There is no such thing as modesty, privacy or class in this new world she presents.  The play is very typical of this new world we inhabit, the more descriptive, the more emotionally graceless, the more personal details, no matter how revealing or discomfiting, the more likely to be gobbled up by the intelligentsia as artistic brilliance.  As for music; it absolutely must not be good or even remotely memorable. Then add to this recipe a subject matter rooted in race, class or gender,  especially homosexuality, and the theatre-going public responds with wild abandon.  Their support of the play will prove their progressiveness, their acceptance of  the new American culture in which no personal, private suffering or tragedy is off limits for public exhibition.

To see Fun Home in Los Angeles is to be catapulted into the present theatrical environment;  like finding oneself in a university class on the Scourge of White Men or the Primacy of Race when you just wanted to study Shakespeare.  . 

But don’t think this new alternative in playwriting isn’t selling somehwere. For Fun Home, the theater is packed, mostly with older people because they can afford the tickets and it’s a matinee.  At the end of the play, the audience leaps to its feet to cheer the play with joyous abandon.  Is this to prove to their seatmates how hip they are because they dare not admit it was awful?  Or did they really enjoy it?   Hard to say.  Nothing about this woman’s betrayal of her family bothers them a bit.  For two hours (no intermission) the theatergoers have surveilled the life of an unhappy young woman and watched her family disintegrate, while she survives intact and successful.  Time will tell if the very young child actors in the play (the young Alison and her two brothers) will grow up sane, having had their childhoods stolen from them for fame and money.  After the play, they were in the lobby soliciting donations for LGBT causes.

What is it about our culture and media today that demands not only the revelation of all things sexual but the normalization of all things sexual, no matter how negligible?  This is not to say that gay people are negligible, only that their numbers among us are small.  They are to be loved, valued, and cherished like every other human on the planet.  No one discounts their contributions to every aspect of our intellectual, scientific, and national life.  But must their sexuality be front and center in our culture so far out of proportion to their numbers?  It’s too late to argue about it.  It already is.  And by objecting to the unmemorable music and sexual content of such “entertainment,”  one would be pronounced guilty of of racism, homophobia, etc., the usual indictment of anyone who opposes the airing of all things sexual as spectacle.

The days of classic American musical theater are to be cherished and revered, for they brought such pleasure to all who were fortunate enough to see them – on stage or screen.  There is nothing, not even Hamilton, that comes close to the quality and brilliance that Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Jerome Kern, Gershwin, and their colleagues gave to the world as well as their choreographers and orchestrators.  The King and I was miraculously on stage in Los Angeles.  It was magnificent.   Fun Home was too, and it was just depressing on every level.

For anyone born before 1950 who was lucky enough to see or become familiar with American musical theater, those memories are alive today, likely among their favorite recollections rooted in childhood. 

If one just heard the soundtracks, they will remember the first time they heard the songs of South Pacific, Peter Pan, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The King and I, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Camelot, Porgy and Bess, Showboat, Brigadoon, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Paint Your Wagon, etc.  In those musicals, every song was memorable.  Every lyric made sense.  Those lyrics were literate and grammatically correct! The stories, those musicals told, had substance.  They were often historical, or based on great literature (West Side Story),  and they were all truly great.  One would walk out of the theater humming those timeless melodies.  Those days are over.

Along with the incredible technological changes since the 1950s have come the post-modern social and cultural changes, equally as cataclysmic for the world of theater. Take, for example,  Fun Home, currently on stage in Los Angeles.  It is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel (b. 1960) about growing up in her dysfunctional family in a small town in  Pennsylvania.   Her father is a closeted gay man and she realizes she is a lesbian once she is in college at Oberlin.  It is an award-winning production and is called a musical, but is not  in any way musical.  There is not a single memorable motif, let alone a memorable song.  Melody is banned from musicals these days; perhaps the fear is that a melody may interfere with the deathless prose.   No more do we leave the theater and buy the album in the lobby. We have also not properly understood the lyrics; too many words and too many notes.

Fun Home is an exercise in forced voyeurism.  The main character is a talented cartoonist who chose to spill the intimate details of her family’s tortured history onto the pages of her graphic novel.  There is no such thing as modesty, privacy or class in this new world she presents.  The play is very typical of this new world we inhabit, the more descriptive, the more emotionally graceless, the more personal details, no matter how revealing or discomfiting, the more likely to be gobbled up by the intelligentsia as artistic brilliance.  As for music; it absolutely must not be good or even remotely memorable. Then add to this recipe a subject matter rooted in race, class or gender,  especially homosexuality, and the theatre-going public responds with wild abandon.  Their support of the play will prove their progressiveness, their acceptance of  the new American culture in which no personal, private suffering or tragedy is off limits for public exhibition.

To see Fun Home in Los Angeles is to be catapulted into the present theatrical environment;  like finding oneself in a university class on the Scourge of White Men or the Primacy of Race when you just wanted to study Shakespeare.  . 

But don’t think this new alternative in playwriting isn’t selling somehwere. For Fun Home, the theater is packed, mostly with older people because they can afford the tickets and it’s a matinee.  At the end of the play, the audience leaps to its feet to cheer the play with joyous abandon.  Is this to prove to their seatmates how hip they are because they dare not admit it was awful?  Or did they really enjoy it?   Hard to say.  Nothing about this woman’s betrayal of her family bothers them a bit.  For two hours (no intermission) the theatergoers have surveilled the life of an unhappy young woman and watched her family disintegrate, while she survives intact and successful.  Time will tell if the very young child actors in the play (the young Alison and her two brothers) will grow up sane, having had their childhoods stolen from them for fame and money.  After the play, they were in the lobby soliciting donations for LGBT causes.

What is it about our culture and media today that demands not only the revelation of all things sexual but the normalization of all things sexual, no matter how negligible?  This is not to say that gay people are negligible, only that their numbers among us are small.  They are to be loved, valued, and cherished like every other human on the planet.  No one discounts their contributions to every aspect of our intellectual, scientific, and national life.  But must their sexuality be front and center in our culture so far out of proportion to their numbers?  It’s too late to argue about it.  It already is.  And by objecting to the unmemorable music and sexual content of such “entertainment,”  one would be pronounced guilty of of racism, homophobia, etc., the usual indictment of anyone who opposes the airing of all things sexual as spectacle.

The days of classic American musical theater are to be cherished and revered, for they brought such pleasure to all who were fortunate enough to see them – on stage or screen.  There is nothing, not even Hamilton, that comes close to the quality and brilliance that Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Jerome Kern, Gershwin, and their colleagues gave to the world as well as their choreographers and orchestrators.  The King and I was miraculously on stage in Los Angeles.  It was magnificent.   Fun Home was too, and it was just depressing on every level.



Source link

About the Author:

Leave a Reply


Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 134217728 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 65536 bytes) in /home/conserv/public_html/wp-includes/query.php on line 3663