Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Did You Get for Christmas?

Clothes and movies pretty much sums up what I got for Christmas. One of the movies I got was Mamma Mia!, which I watched for the first time with my family over the holiday. I also received the new biography of Stephen Schwartz (the composer and/or lyricist of Disney’s Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Prince of Egypt, Wicked, and Enchanted).

In addition, I just finished watching The Phantom of the Opera, and the other night I watched The Sound of Music. See a pattern? I love movie musicals. Along with those already mentioned, I have Annie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Singin’ in the Rain, Hairspray, Mary Poppins, Enchanted, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Funny Face, My Fair Lady, several Disney films, five Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, and five other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals besides The Sound of Music. There’s probably one or two I’m forgetting. . . . Suffice it to say, it is one of my favorite genres.

The Sound of Music has been my all-time favorite movie since I was a little girl, and I’ve always adored Disney films. However, I have to admit that I didn’t truly appreciate the movie musical until adulthood. My family might disagree with this conclusion. Apparently when I was little, I was obsessed with Annie. Perhaps the interest has always existed, but it just went unexplored.

Consider that I had never seen Singin’ in the Rain, Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, White Christmas, Oklahoma!, or several other musicals until my adult years. Although I do recall watching Carousel when I was younger, but only the one time, and in bits and pieces at that. It did make an impression, enough so that it got my attention when I encountered it again much later. But, the first production of West Side Story I ever saw was not until my later years in high school, when a friend of mine was playing the lead as Maria. My introduction to Fiddler on the Roof? College. And besides a vague familiarity with the song “Music of the Night,” I knew nothing about the story of Phantom of the Opera until the release of the Gerard Butler/Emmy Rossum adaptation.

It’s funny how little impressions and inclinations can influence you, how the things that you remember and loved as a child end up being the things you study in depth as an adult. In the space of a few years, my interest in and knowledge of musicals has expanded tremendously. It doesn’t hurt that Hollywood has taken notice, although none of the recent movie musicals, besides perhaps Enchanted, has ever matched up to the classics, in my opinion.

And the best part is, it’s just for fun. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I never studied theater or filmmaking. Movie musicals can be criticized for being too kid-friendly, too corny, too artificial, and even too happy, but if you really look into the genre, you realize that it can be diverse and deep. Occasionally you have those cringe-worthy moments when you also realize why musicals get a bad rap, but I am a firm believer that the more time you take to get to know a subject, the more you are able to understand its weaknesses and more fully appreciate its strengths. And don’t take it too seriously. That always ruins things. Just have fun.

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