Earlier today, I was at work with my Google Play Music on shuffle, and a song from the OBC recording of Annie popped up randomly. Weird, but whatever. It was one of my favorite musicals as a kid and I still have a bit of a soft spot for spunky red-headed orphans (see also PIppi Longstocking, Sansa Stark) Of course I listened to the entire thing, including a bunch of early mixes I hadn't heard before. I grew up in the time of tapes, and we were poor for a good portion of my life. I still remember my first walkman and the first two tapes - Amy Grant, Heart in Motion, and Annie. So I've listened to it a few times. (Eventually I also got an Ace of Base tape, a Madonna Tape, and some early 90s R&B, before moving on to CDs). Anyway, so I'm listening to some early mixes, and it hits me.
I love musicals.
This wasn't a revelation. But I love musicals because they are political. Every single one I've ever loved is political at it's very core. Annie - wealth disparity, the New Deal, history, Hoovervilles, all wrapped up in a shiny happy broadway theme. Rent - AIDS crisis, HIV stigma, poverty, wealth disparity, journalism integrity, the American Dream. Newsies - history - newsboys strike, Christian Bale singing with Bill Pullman, poverty, journalism, wealth disparity. Cabaret - rise of fascism while everyone parties. Les Mis, Chicago, even Mary Poppins has a liberal political message/history lesson in the middle of it. Sound of Music. Fiddler on the Roof. West Side Story. South Pacific. Avenue Q.
It appears that my favorite musicals (other than Mamma Mia, which we should just not talk about because I will fight you if you hate it) are the ones about living in poverty and doing the best you can with what you got. Not throwing away your shot, if you will.
Which brings me to a different memory.
I was talking to a guy on skype. He had lived next door to a very close friend, and he was dating a different "friend" of mine from high school. This was in the early 2000s and everyone was talking about the election, Bush V Gore, the Patriot Act, Ralph Nader, John McCain, and assorted topics. This guy was literally the first person who didn't even humor me with my "you should vote for x person in the local election." He was just "no. I don't vote." And even with his reasoning, I could not accept that. I still can not accept that. I don't understand that viewpoint, and I probably never will. It's been at least a decade since I talked to that guy, and I just don't get it. What do you do all day when you aren't political? What do you talk about? When you talk about "how to make the world better" what do you say? Is the number of people who hate politics at all correlated to people who hate musicals?
Which brings me to how does anyone hate musicals? I know they exist and are out there but why? Is it like my hatred of country music? They hear it and have the same full body uncomfortable feeling? That's so sad. I feel like I owe so much of my knowledge of history to my love of Broadway, as these groundbreaking musicals inspired me to study things in history that I probably wouldn't know about otherwise. I wouldn't have read Allan Ginsburg's Howl without Rent. I wouldn't have read The Berlin Stories without Cabaret. Fictional characters set during war time give the audience a grasp of what it was like for those who aren't Generals or State Politicians.
BTW. If Cabaret comes to your city, go see it. It's topical.