Thursday, March 17, 2016

"A Fortuitous Reunion"

I am now into my ninth week of driving a Lexus “Courtesy Car” (after my own car was crashed into driving it onto the Lexus dealership lot.)  Last week, the Service Manager asked if I was interested in buying a new car, leading me to wonder about a possible, insidious marketing strategy: 

“We run into your car.  And then we sell you a new one.”

I tried not to laugh in the Service Manager’s face – which was unlikely as we were on the phone at the time – but I tried to not laugh in his face with my voice.  I am not certain I succeeded.

One of the numerous advancements included in my “Loaner Car”, as compared with my 1992 model which was basically a steering wheel and two pedals, is that “sensor” thing that isn’t a key, you just need it in the vicinity for the car to start, and a “backing up” camera, allowing you to see clearly on a dashboard monitor what exactly you backed into.  (Sparing the inconvenience of getting out of the car and looking.)

Also included was a subscription to Serius Radio.  (You know what that is, right?  Because I do not want to explain it.  And only partly because I have no idea how it works.)

Which brings me to the “Fortuitous Reunion” of this post’s title.  Notably faster than is my dawdling tradition.

When I originally started the “Loaner Car”, I was greeted by a station blasting a vibrating beat but no music.  (I believe it’s called “Radio Thump!”)  I immediately switched to a neighboring station, which turned out to be, “Broadway on the Radio.”

And I was home. 

My interest in musicals was fueled by my mother’s active enthusiasm.  Returning from visits to New York, she invariably presented me with the Playbill programs from the current hit musicals, most memorably My Fair Lady and West Side Story. 

Later, I would purchase the LP’s (long-playng records) of the “Original Broadway Soundtracks” and play them endlessly, enduring the inevitable scratches.

“Bed, bed, I couldn’t go to bed
Not for all the jewels
in the crow-own…in the crow-own…in the crow-own…in the…”

From then on, I was hooked on musicals for life.  Well, not life.  My excitement substantially diminished when, as it occurred in all entertainment, the “Musicals” genre evolved in an increasingly realistic direction, and I concomitantly lost interest.  (The absolute nadir for me was the musical Parade about Leo Frank, an Atlanta Jew who was lynched for a murder he did not commit.  That is a long way from Top Banana.)

I will not engage in a diatribe about “realism” swallowing “fantasy”, valuing the comparative intensions of “documentarial reality” versus “nourishing distraction” because it would be as boring as the sentence I am currently completing.  I just know that in the continued pursuit of “making it real”, something preciously significant is inevitably lost.

I am showing my cards here – as if you were not aware of them already – but seriously. How “real” do musicals have to be? 

(Or an animated feature, for that matter?  Shrek, man.  Have you ever seen a more realistic-looking ogre?”  {WITH BARELY SUPPRESSED SKEPTICISM}  “What?”)

This is not necessarily a “progress” issue.  For decades, “dark” and “light” musicals have arrived side-by-side.  West Side Story, a “musical drama” about adversarial street gangs came out the same season as The Music Man, a piece of classical fluff about a band-instruments-selling conman in a mythical Iowa.  (Not that Iowa itself is mythical, merely the way that they portrayed it.  Although that could be accurate as well.)   

Sometimes, “dark” musicals were leavened with spirited melodies.  Rogers and Hammerstein were particularly clever in that regard.  Oklahoma had a dead guy in it.  So did Carousel.  (By contrast, High Button Shoes did not.) 

However, Oklahoma also gave us, “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning”.  And Carousel broke loose with “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.”

Since the mid-fifties (and sporadically earlier, exemplified by Show Boat and Pal Joey), with musicals, there was never a “one style of show” monopoly.  This is not a issue of “They used to and now they don’t.”   They just don’t as much… make musicals steeped in magical, stagecraft-inducing delight. 

And I miss them.

Rather than trying to describe the excitement that lit up my developing physiognomy, allow me to offer what, to me, is the quintessential musical overture, demonstrating more than words could possibly convey the essence of this galvanizing experience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Overture from Gypsy. 

(Ignore the less than cheerful scenarios of a prototypically nightmarish "Stage Mother" based on an actual person.  Close your eyes and let it carry you away.   


Wendy M. Grossman said...

It sounds fun. I was fortunate to grow up in NYC in the 1960s, when many of the great musicals were running on Broadway. I saw in person the original casts of such shows as CAMELOT, MY FAIR LADY, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. I had a big Julie Andrews phase (and liked her even better when I became an adult she began doing stuff like VICTOR/VICTORIA and S.O.B.). I liked musicals up through THE ME NOBODY KNOWS, which was probably the most realistic musical ever, since it was based on the writings of actual children living in poverty.

That was also the first musical I ever saw with amplification. And that's pretty much where my interest died. A friend and I had a wonderful time at THE BOOK OF MORMON, which is brilliantly funny, but the amplification was loud enough that I spent the second half with noise-dimming earphones on. It's a quirk, apparently, that to me amplified music always has this layer of "amplification sound" over it that detracts enormously from the enjoyment, just as frozen vegetables always taste to me "frozen" first, whatever they are second.


Fred from Scarborough said...

Just wait until the promotional period for Sirius ends. The letters, phone calls and emails will provide fodder for at least one blog entry.

alan said...

And Karen Moore is....?