Saturday, January 27, 2007

Behold the Power of Musical Theater!

Pop culture and musical theater junkie that I am, it's no surprise that I Netflixed High School Musical to see what all the fuss is about. What is surprising is how much I enjoyed it!

I'm always quick to shoot down people who criticize musical theater not because they don't like the style, but on the basis that it's unrealistic for people to burst into song. Well, it's also unrealistic for Superman to fly or Cylons to get pregnant or Denise Richards to be a rocket scientist or Tom Cruise to be a heterosexual, but we accept the fictional worlds in which those things happen, so why not one in which people sing? Using music to tell a story is as old as storytelling itself. That said, I find it hard to suspend my disbelief when people are singing about musicals being lame, or when the skinniest jocks in the world are telling their friend he's not butch enough because he likes to bake, while dancing around the cafeteria. But, really, one shouldn't look for realism in a Disney Channel TV-movie musical, and anyway who cares when the songs are this catchy?

I love that in the end (um, spoiler alert? really?) musical theater brings everyone in the high school together, across class, race, social and sexual lines. And not even the show, just the auditions! Okay, it's not like any of those lines really existed to begin with – this is clearly the wealthiest public school in America, where no one has sex, the jocks are smart, the nerds are pretty, the drama club president is the queen bee, and it's not weird at all for her to star as the romantic lead in a musical opposite her own gay brother (sorry, did I say gay?). The drama teacher can complain all she wants about sports being all anyone cares about in the school, but it's hard to take seriously when they do two original musicals per semester and the science club has a roof garden. It ain't Stand and Deliver. It's not even The Breakfast Club.

Boy observed, somewhat gleefully, that Disney is "making kids all over America just a little bit gayer." In all seriousness, I love that they might also be sparking a new generation's interest in an art form that people have claimed was dying for 20 years now (clearly, it's not), even if the songs aren't really showtunes, modern or otherwise. But I was surprised at how much I liked the music! I like plenty of smart music, but sometimes I just want a stupid infectious pop song, and I haven't found a lot of good ones lately. I expected HSM to be much more bland, but they're actually some of the best-crafted fluff since "I Want It That Way."

It does disturb me a little that I have the same taste in entertainment as my six-year-old niece, but at least now we'll have something to talk about the next time I see her.