Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Do you agree?

“The ascendancy of the British musical ['Cats,' 'Phantom of the Opera,' 'Les Miserables' and 'Miss Saigon'] has been the most significant theater phenomenon in the world over the last twenty years, and has given the British theater far more than a financial boost. You can't argue with the success of these shows; and such is their near-universal popularity and the power of cultural relativism, that it must seem churlish to observe that the shows are simply not as good as, for instance, 'Oklahoma!,' 'South Pacific,' 'Carousel,' 'Pal Joey,' 'Guys and Dolls,' 'Gypsy,' 'West Side Story,' 'My Fair Lady,' 'Kiss Me Kate,' 'On the Town,' 'Annie Get Your Gun,' 'The Pyjama Game,' 'Brigadoon,' 'Paint Your Wagon,' 'The King and I' and 'Sweeney Todd.'

“'Les Miserables' and 'Miss Saigon' advance on their audiences laden with weighty subject matter, portentous thin-framed machines for giving you generalised rather than particularised feeling, unmitigated by irony. They give the impression, rather than the reality, of feeling, like Victorians scattering water on letters to look as if they'd been written in tears.”

-- Richard Eyre and Nicholas Wright, in their book “Changing Stages: A View of British and American Theater in the Twentieth Century”



erasmusa said...

i think it's just a changing of the guard. of course, neither a show's financial success nor its technical achievements are enough to indicate artistic superiority. but feeling is not enough, either. the criteria is more complex than that. and this is why "avenue q" and "spring awakening" thrive and "lestat" and "the pirate queen" didn't.

stevie said...

Yeah right! Those musicals are from another generation, and I mean more than one generation removed. Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, West Side Story. If not for the movie versions (and DVD), then we wouldn't have any idea what these guys are talking about. Go High School Musical!

exie abola said...

I'm not in a position to judge, not having seen many musicals of today or of yore, though I'm familiar with a little of the music. But I remember thinking, as I watched Miss Saigon at the CCP some years back, "Gosh, our performers are awesome, but why do they have to do this drivel?"

I had never looked up the story, and when I finally saw the play performed, I was dismayed by how trite it was. Yet another tale about the White Man's Burden, in this day and age no less? Without them we Asians are nothing. Right.

But man, the stage design and performances were amazing.

I don't know if this is to the point, but I thought it might help.

beektur said...

my chain of reactions consists of disbelief, anger, pity, etc (my own 12 steps) until finally, amusement at realizing how narrow is the world of eyre (air?) and wright (right!). given the book's subtitle is on british and american theater, it is sheer arrogance to note that (i supplu: any development) in either theater "has been the most significant theater phenomenon in the world over the last twenty years". in terms of what? attendance? commercial merits? trumped-up self-advertisement? suddenly, not only is the world un-flat again but it has also shrunk to west end and broadway. must have seen 5 broadway shows this year alone plus 3 national tours in chicago, regional theaters in chicago, south carolina but the most significant theater experience for me was the touring group from south africa (amajuba, like doves we soar) and china (terracotta warriors). west end and broadway ARE the victorians scattering water on letters. they give impressions on what theater can be. for real experience, watch an off-off-broadway. or noh. or dulaang talyer (is it still around?) or even a street performance in a kilusang mayo uno rally. THEY are emotional experiences, not impressions. broadway and west end are the hollywood of theater. and as outside hollywood, there are far more substantial, thought-provoking, emotionally-resonant productions than these commercial entertainments. now, i am back to angry. :)

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

juice ko, who is that person you're quoting? to mention victor hugo's les mis and miss saigon in the same line is utterly tangengot!

gibbs cadiz said...

ERASMUSA, i agree that, to a certain extent, changing tastes and standards will account for the disparity in appreciation. :)

STEVIE, haha, which is a good reason, i think, to begin discovering why those old titles became classics in the first place. what you'll find out might just surprise you. :)

BEEKTUR, haha, breathe, breathe. obviously, they're doing a comprehensive, birds-eye survey of mainstream world theater, which, whether we like it or not, find its vortex in broadway and the west end. we might argue against their rampant hype and commercialism, but we can't deny--for now, at least--that they do set the agenda. so when they made 'cats' an everlasting hit, for instance, naturally the rest of the world had to sit up--even if for many the operative question might have been, 'jeez, why?' on another matter, i do agree with their central thesis: that the classic american book musical is still superior in many respects to the british and european facsimiles. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search this blog or the Web