Friday, June 8, 2012

In defense of the showtune

Some may think that Broadway is reserved for gooey showgirls in flashy gowns, and dare I say it..frivolous musicals!
But au contraire. 
Broadway can be home to some of the most meaningful messages (that just so happen to be set to music)
Here's a list of some of the shows I think carry a heavier story.


Summary: Rent tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The Lyrics: "How can you connect in an age where strangers, landlords, lovers, your own blood cells betray?"-Rent 
"There's only us. There's only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road. No other way. No day but today."-Life Support

The Message: Most of the musicals I'm going to talk about with you here are going to have pretty straightforward meanings, that being said, the message of Rent is exactly what it sounds like. Coping with the difficulties of real life whether it be external or internal. Most characters, along with struggling in relationships, sexual identity, and finances, are also diagnosed with AIDS. A heavy-hitting virus both in Rent's time-setting and the present. The message (that applies to those not diagnosed with a fatal disease) is that life may be full of shit, but its what you make of it that counts.

2. Ragtime

Summary: Ragtime tells the story of three groups in America- represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Harlem musician; Mother, the matriarch of a white upper-class family in the New Rochelle, NY; and Tateh, a Latvian Jewish immigrant.

The Lyrics: "Give the people a day of peace. A day of pride. A day of justice we have been denied."-Till We Reach That Day
"With the promise of happiness, and the freedom he'll live to know; he'll travel with head held high, just as far as his heart can go" -Wheels of a Dream

The Message: This musical is full of joyous moments and sorrowful ones, but every song is still designed to hit home and get the message across on what the characters are experiencing. Can I reveal the message of this amazing musical without spoiling it? Well I'll try. This musical (set in the early 1900's) is all about the struggle of living in America as any class, and expresses the horror of racial segregation and discrimination. This probably doesn't sound like a musical that would be enjoyable, but for those who like to feel that chill down their spine when they hear a piece of true music.. you wont be sorry if you give it a listen.

3. Hair

Summary: Defined as an "American tribal love-rock musical"..At first glance, this show is about a bunch of hippies insisting on the legalization of pot and the outlaw of violence. But NO. It is much more than that...or at least an expansion of that with deeper meaning (and sweet brass & bass)

The Lyrics: "We starve-look at one another; short of breath. Walking proudly in our winter coats, wearing smells from laboratories; facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy. Listening for the new told lies with supreme visions of lonely tunes."- Flesh Failures(Let the Sunshine In)

The Message: This show never fails to make my heart feel like lead. Whether it be on the screen or on the stage, Hair has a heavy message to provide- War is an unbelievable mistake man has made. Unfortunately, this concept can be applied to every date from the 60's (when this was written) to now. And, I can guarantee that while walking out of the theater after a production of Hair, you will want to punch war straight in the face!
(whilst shouting rock opera, perhaps?)

I highly recommend each one of these musicals. Thanks for reading. (Part 2 to come)
*lyrics provided by*

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