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Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure? 
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Post Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Based on the cast recordings of modern musicals I have a feeling that because of some inexplicable desire to be reflect contemprary tastes many of them will feel out date in the future.

I'm not sure if this is true, but my friends with musical education claim that popular music earlier was richer in chords and melody than they are now. I can't say, since I am sort of chord deaf and don't know enough melody theory. But if it is true, it can explain why I personally am more drawn to earlier pop music, which partly represents a tradition kept up within musical theatre music today.

If it is correct, I think it also partly can explain why, say the Bernstein musicals and the Rodgers musicals feel relevant and fresh also today.

Take Candide - the relevance, humour and popularity of the original book was apparently as strong in 1759 as it was in 1857 and 1955. While the show was not an immediate success, I believe we can agree that the reason for it's failiure was rather unfortunate production circumstances and shaky dramaturgy than humour, relevance and melodic richness. Today it's failiure mostly seems like a mystery, as it still is extremely fun and still relevant. The music, obviously, doesn't feel either authentic 1759 nor authentic 1956. I think that timelessness is one of the reasons we can have as much pleasure from Candide today.

Do you think the same will be said about for example Rent, Spring Awakening and Next to Normal in sixty years?

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Wed Oct 30, 2013 2:30 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
I think Rent and Next to Normal might have some staying power.

Spring Awakening, not so much. If you look at the score for Spring Awakening, you'll find that the music is very, very repetitive. If I had to play accompanist, I'd probably get kinda bored. Rent doesn't have this problem as much - it does have much richer chords and its music is relatively complex (if we're gonna compare it to pop music). Next to Normal I can't speak for it from a musical standpoint, but from what I've heard it isn't quite as bland as Spring Awakening's, and at least its story is engaging.

Heck, Rent's been around for seventeen years and people still care about it.


Wed Oct 30, 2013 9:02 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
I shall admit that I'm overall rather unfamiliar with what I think of as "modern style" musicals. Partly it's embarassing, partly I blame the style which leaves me uninterested.

Today I bought Americal Idiot by Green Day (the original album, not the cast recording). I fail to recognise how these text can find resonnance in anyone's mind. Unlike the stringent, eloquent, clear and consitent texts we find in "classic" musicals, like those of Frank Loesser, Sondheim, Lerner and Howard Ashman, these text are even less coherent than those of Tommy.

In contrast to those classic lyricist I mentioned, it's like these reflect a mode of thinking and speaking that unlike normal thinking and speaking is not at all clear and concise.

I don't really understand the appeal of this, so I assume that the popularity of such sets of songs are due to many people being uninterested in song texts (which at least is the case among several of my friends).

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Wed Oct 30, 2013 9:37 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Hans wrote:
Do you think the same will be said about for example Rent, Spring Awakening and Next to Normal in sixty years?



Yes to Rent

and no to the other two. Next to Normal deserves credit for two things:

1. Dealing WELL with a very unusual plot for a play let alone a musical!

2. Alice Ripley's revolutionary performance


Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:26 pm
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Some of them will. A lot of them won't.

American Idiot and Passing Strange are fascinating shows that we will continue to find good things about in future productions and reimaginings. Spring Awakening and Next to Normal, I doubt that anyone will care 30 years from now. Rent seems to hold a place in many people's hearts and I suspect will hold up, if any other reason than the fact that it was the first AIDS musical.


Grey Gardens, Parade and The Light in the Piazza, from my point of view, are true modern classics that will be on the same level of Oklahoma.

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Last edited by Mama Rose on Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:46 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:33 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Agree on Spring Awakening. But N2N is, above all else, an insightful treatment of important subject matter that really is underserved. I'd say for that reason alone, it will at least find a place as seminal work.

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Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:43 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
I can't stand Next To Normal----generic, whiny lyrics and ugly music devoid of subtlety or nuance. Its views on mental illness is childish. I appreciate the good intentions of the authors, but I don't think earnestness alone is really enough to sustain interest in a musical over a period of years. Ripley is a great actress, for sure, but her performance will live on in the cast recording and memories of audience members.


Spring Awakening is a good show. I found it enjoyable enough but I don't think there is really a whole lot in it. Seven years after its opening on Broadway, you can see the hype is already starting to fade.

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Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:49 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Mama Rose wrote:
if any other reason than the fact that it was the first AIDS musical.


Falsettoland

Mama Rose wrote:
Grey Gardens, Parade and The Light in the Piazza, from my point of view, are true modern classics that will be on the same level of Oklahoma.


how depressing : (


Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:39 pm
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
I thought Falsettoland came after Rent..... wait no..... 1990, never mind :oops:

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Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:53 pm
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Mama Rose wrote:
I can't stand Next To Normal----generic, whiny lyrics and ugly music devoid of subtlety or nuance. Its views on mental illness is childish. I appreciate the good intentions of the authors, but I don't think earnestness alone is really enough to sustain interest in a musical over a period of years. Ripley is a great actress, for sure, but her performance will live on in the cast recording and memories of audience members..



Next to Normal is a very hard show to defend. Partly because it's sort of brilliant. The biggest mistake people make is thinking this show is about mental illness. It's not. It's about grief. You can certainly have your own opinion about the show but calling the lyrics "whiny" is could actually be more about your own personally or relationship with grief. The music is not remarkable (IMO) but for some reason it does not stop people from truly caring about Diana. So hard to talk about his show without spoilers!! I saw Ripley in the show many times and she was just INCREDIBLE!! Her facial expressions and movements were perfection. A real master class in musical theater acting.


Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:24 am
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
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The music is not remarkable (IMO) but for some reason it does not stop people from truly caring about Diana.


It stops me from caring about her. Or rather, I would care about her more if the music was more varied. But the songs don't really convey the complexities of mental illness. They certainly don't have the psychological texture or emotional reach of those in The Light in the Piazza or Grey Gardens. Alice Ripley is such an impressive actress, she could probably make any character interesting. But subsequent productions show that the play really does not hold together well without her. The words are so idiotic, it makes me cringe. All the "yeah yeah yeahs" and cliches of "you don't know how much I'm hurting" blah blah blah. The show, quite simply, needed a more mature writer.

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Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:14 pm
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Post Re: Will the relevance of contemporary musicals endure?
Well, the 'poor' lyric writing you just quoted in N2N is also present in Rent just as much, if not exponentially more. It's the style. It's rock and roll. People relate to it. I saw Next to Normal three times. It's a Pulitzer Prize winning musical for a reason, and will be relavent to the canon for many years to come based on that fact alone. Furthermore, there are many moments in the show, structurally, musically and/or directoraly to praise. I can draft them up if you like. Let me know.

I have to say though, I find it funny that you champion the writing of a musical such as Light and the Piazza, that deals with mental illness in a single line about a donkey at a birthday party. I mean, It's a good thing Victoria Clark can sell any line she's given. In the wrong hands, as well as on paper, it's a laugh out loud moment. At least for me, anyways.

But we can agree to disagree. The show is still fantastic, I just have to scoff at the thought of it handling mental illness 'well' in its writing.

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