Have you ever read one of those polls on a musical theatre forum asking what your guilty pleasures are? I always struggle to participate in threads like those because I really do find worth in even the worst musicals. It’s possible to learn just as much – and sometimes even more – about musicals from a bad musical as from a great one. If I don’t like a particular musical, I simply don’t engage it with as often. And if I like a musical, I don’t really feel the need to apologise for my feelings. After all, liking a musical is a very different thing from commenting on its artistic success: the former is simply linked to one’s opinion; the latter has a foundation in technique, which makes the discussion far more complicated. As Stephen Sondheim wrote, in a lyric that I’m particularly fond of quoting in this regard: ‘Nice is different than good.’
So. Some confessions then.
Although I’m not supposed to like The Woman in White, I think it has a great deal more to offer than meets the eye, particularly when you come at it from the angle that what Andrew Lloyd Webber is doing is creating an atmospheric piece in the style of Benjamin Britten and that musically, the show largely achieves this. (That doesn’t make the lyrics any better, but it does keep drawing me back to the musical to see what it has to offer.)
Although many musical buffs lament the adaptations of movies into musicals, I just can’t get enough of Legally Blonde. It’s pretty much a 21st-century take on Jerry Herman musicals like Hello, Dolly! and Mame and offers, I think, equal pleasure.
And although it’s verboten to show any love whatsoever for jukebox musicals, I really enjoyed Mamma Mia! and think it is more intelligent theatrically than most people expect and it’s certainly a cut above the more dreckish attempts and crafting a show around a particular artist’s songbook. We Will Rock You, anyone?
Those are only three of many shows that convention says I shouldn’t like. But so what? Convention can’t dictate what I like or not, nor can it for you, dear reader. Perhaps you can use today to celebrate the musicals that others might force you to call guilty pleasures. I know I’m going to!
This post is inspired by and a response to “I’m Over Being Concerned About What I Shouldn’t Do” in Shirley MacLaine’s I’m Over All That and Other Confessions.