The state of musical theater

Before I begin, I did not see Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music.  I am, however, interested in all the conversation surrounding her performance.

I watched the beginning of the New York Thanksgiving Day Parade where they showed a scene from Cinderella.  I was annoyed.

There is no reason why all musical theater shouldn’t be utterly breathless to watch.  I don’t think it’s about someone not being a triple threat.  I don’t think it’s about snobbery of the musical theater community. 

I think that we have become so accustomed to musical theater that is based in gesture and the broad imitation of a real human moment that musical theater actors and directors simply don’t know how to make the singing and acting come from an ability to bring imaginary circumstances alive the way an actor would in a Tech II emotional prep exercise.

There is simply NO REASON why it can’t be done.  We’ve seen it happen.  In the greatest musical theater performances the actors are completely connected and the music and their singing amplifies the connection.

I believe it’s a matter of everyone still accepting the old musical theater form that plays to the huge house without understanding how you can do that and still be emotionally full and vulnerable and alive.

I know a musical theater teacher who has a little flip chart with scores of photos of gestures that his students can choose from when they are choreographing their songs.  And he believes this is perfectly valid.  My God!  Send us back into medieval times why don’t you! 

And audiences who love musical theater love it (I get it) for what it was circa 1960 but the art form has moved past that.  It can be better than straight theater.  (The way some of the most moving drama I’ve ever seen is older Pina Bausch performances at BAM.)

So the concern everyone seems to have over Carrie Underwood’s performance should broaden into an outrage that bad teachers and directors and producers who only understand worn out prescriptive formulas are the ones being hired.  It begins with them.