Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & What Would Barbra Do?


by Emma Brockes


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here's a Richard Greenberg play in which a character resents how the word "gay" has been hijacked -- it used to mean living joyously and in the moment while retaining full awareness that life can be horrible and cruel. That's the dream-like, cynical/romantic knife edge that musicals teeter upon -- and in her analysis-cum-memoir subtitled "How Musicals Changed My Life," British journalist Emma Brockes, 32, explodes the claim that musicals are nothing but chirpy artifice. The tacked-on happy ending of Oliver! is kitsch, sure, but "Everything's Coming Up Roses" in Gypsy and Tevye's earned insights in Fiddler strain for happiness because they want to escape the abyss.





People complain about the phoniness of musicals' breaking-into-song moments. But the switch from speaking to singing isn't a movement from realism to unrealism; it's like Shakespeare changing from prose to poetry, or, as Brockes suggests, "It's a metaphor, like David Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk is a metaphor for anger. Nobody complains about that."





Yet people who hate musicals insist on telling the rest of us all about it; they get looks on their faces like the ones you see "on religious people when they're talking about gangsta rap. It's funny." There's a "presumption of crappiness that attends most things valued by women," says Brockes, that contributes to the contention that "musicals are for people who are too thick for opera and too square for pop music."





Brockes' taste can be suspect: She actually likes Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and she defends the Mary Poppins movie on grounds that P.L. Travers' books were feistier and more feminist. Her concluding sections dwindle into random observations about Stephen Sondheim (he's growing on her), Neil Diamond in The Jazz Singer (better than you've heard) and the tackiness of Salzburg's Sound of Music tour. But her ability with one-liners (Mitzi Gaynor's name sounds "like the winner of the toy group at a dog show") is a strength.





Generalizing -- and aware of it -- Brockes says that straight men risk being considered effeminate, smarty-pants suck-ups if they like musicals -- and sexists if they don't. No wonder it's a clich & eacute; that only gay men like musicals. n

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest
  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest

    No, it's not as bad as in California, but drought is taking a hefty toll
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Call Mr. Yuk
  • Call Mr. Yuk

    Gov. Inslee avoids the "poison pill"; plus, pushing back against empty Kickstarter promises
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
59th Annual Spokane Highland Games

59th Annual Spokane Highland Games @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Sat., Aug. 1, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Rushing's Rant

    The Airway Heights City Council has asked the mayor to resign after posting a racist Facebook message
    • Jul 15, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation