Monday, January 14, 2013

Response to David Sexton

David Sexton: How can anyone who loves music enjoy musicals? 

Original article-
Sexton’s article header is clearly a rhetorical question, but as a fan of musical theatre, otherwise referred to ever so eloquently by Sexton as a “poor sap”, I am obviously too intellectually inferior to understand this and have therefore written him an answer.

While the majority of us who write about theatre aim to give fair and balanced opinions, Sexton feels that he and his army of musical theatre haters have been under represented, and so he has written a rather baseless and misinformed article formulated around the argument that acting, singing, and God forbid, dancing all at the same time is “embarrassing and stupid.” Those who dare to appreciate the years of hard work and dedication that go into a musical can only be described as “freaks”, so Sexton says.
I find watching a musical an immersive and exciting experience. The standard of performance on professional stages can be breathtaking, and only comes from genuine talent that has been shaped by years of training. Bearing in mind these performers are on stage almost every night and are expected to deliver the same standard each time, I would consider them just as impressive if not more so than the recording artists of today who are hardly ever required to do this. Singing and dancing at the same time may “repel” the likes of Sexton, but the stamina required is at a level a lot of us spend our lives trying to reach and never do. Of course there are those who don’t enjoy musicals, and they are quite within their rights to dislike it, but what is unprofessional and unnecessary is to insult those who are equally within their rights to enjoy this harmless form of entertainment.

Where Sexton reveals his lack of thorough knowledge of the performance industry is when he writes that the big musicals, claiming Les Misérables to be the notable offender, have “wallowingly melodramatic plots”, and later writes that anyone over the age of five with any taste cannot possibly enjoy the contributions of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Many will know that the plot of Les Misérables is based on a classic novel written by Victor Hugo, and so Sexton’s criticism actually relates back to the original literature rather than the musical adaptation by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. In fact, a considerable number of the musicals that are currently doing well in both the West End and on Broadway are based on literature (Wicked, Matilda), or film (The Lion King), or a true story (Jersey Boys), so Sexton is in fact degrading a whole host of different and, I think it would be fair to say, hugely popular art forms. He may find musical theatre “idiotic”, but a bit of background research into the subject before making a comment wouldn’t go amiss.

As for ALW’s contribution to the industry, let us use Phantom of the Opera (another musical based on previously written literature­) as the example. This musical has been running in the West End now for over 25 years… not bad considering it is apparently only the toddlers and the tasteless who are going to see it. For a show to last that long, each performance needs to be almost if not completely sold out in order to raise enough money to keep it running. I would be interested to hear Sexton’s reasoning for why people would be filling the theatres and spending their hard earned cash on shows such as this if they don’t actually enjoy them.
Sexton claims he would rather endure root canal treatment than sit through a musical, in which case I welcome him to all the dentistry operations he can imagine and suggest he write articles on them instead, rather than brandishing his ignorance of musical theatre and mindlessly attacking a highly successful and appreciated part of our culture.

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