When most people think of musicals (and the people who love them), earnestness and over-enunciated love stories come to mind. And while those characteristics do figure prominently amongst shows from Showboat to Once, that analysis overlooks a lot of crazy stuff. Don’t let the tap dancing and orchestral swells razzle-dazzle you: The musical you’re watching might contain a screwed-up message. Here are just six examples:
This 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic will have you grinning like an idiot and clapping along to songs you probably performed in a school production. Everybody roots for Curly to win Laurey’s affections, and everybody boos filthy Jud Fry when he comes after the couple on their wedding day. But when Jud and Curly fight, Jud “falls on his knife” and dies in front of the entire wedding party. Awkward. So the town elders hold a hasty makeshift trial for Curly, pronounce him “not guilty,” send the kids on their honeymoon, and resume the singing and dancing. The real takeaway: If your fiancé might have accidentally killed someone, you should ignore it and make sure your wedding festivities still take place on schedule. Yeeow!
This is kind of an obvious one, but okay. Sandy and Danny don’t settle their differences until Danny dresses like a jock and Sandy shows up to the weird fair in a Catwoman suit. Danny starts freaking out (see: “I’ve got chills/They’re multiplying”), and they do a shoulder-shimmy dance to seal the deal. It’s clear that Sandy is going to have to keep dressing like Catwoman in order to hold Danny’s interest. The moral here: if your man doesn’t like you the way you are. . . change!
This 2000 adaptation of the British movie is very funny but very flawed. Down-and-out dad Jerry puts together an all-male strip show to raise money for child support so he can keep his kid. When the one-night-only show is a huge success, he has redeemed himself, and his ex-wife and kid are proud and stuff. What??? I guess we’ve all learned a valuable lesson: when the going gets tough, the adult entertainment industry is always a viable option.
Nebbish Seymour turns into an “overnight sensation” because of his “strange and interesting plant,” Audrey II. The only problem: Audrey II survives on blood. Seymour resorts to killing anyone who makes him angry, all the while knowing what he’s doing is wrong. But when his love interest, Audrey, finds out, she’s not at all mad. In fact, she thinks it’s sweet and demands to be fed to the plant herself. So, uh, murder-for-personal-gain is okay now.
The second act of this musical makes me want to leap onstage and shake Eponine. That boy (Marius) not only doesn’t want anything to do with her romantically, but he sends her away from the barricade to deliver a note to his girl Cosette. Sure, it seemed like he was doing a nice thing trying to protect Eponine from the impending battle at the barricade, but it isn’t very nice of him to ask her to go running around the city. By the end of the musical, we’re supposed to still care about this ungallant sir. No thanks.
If someone can tell me what the message behind Cats is, I’d appreciate it. For now, let’s just say that cats don’t talk or do ballet, and it’s screwed up to make people believe they do. Plus, those costumes give me nightmares.
What other musicals do you think are sending a twisted message? Let us know in the comments!