Listening Party: Modern Era Musicals

Following up on last week’s post, my love of musicals doesn’t stop with the golden era. In fact, I probably like just as many if not more musicals from the current “modern era.” Honestly, other than the date range (mid to late 1960s to the present), modern musicals tend to follow similar formulas to those of golden era musicals – speech, song, dance number, exposition, song, dance number, etc. In my mind, the difference comes in staging and storytelling (though it really depends on the show). Modern musicals tend to have more technical wizardry going on backstage and their staging is often more abstract (i.e. using scaffolding and minimal props as the set rather than fully realized backdrops that are meant to “feel” real). Story-wise, anything goes. Gone are the confines of a boy-meet-girl love story or happy endings. It’s not that golden era musicals didn’t cover complex subjects – at the heart of South Pacific is war and racism after all – it’s that they usually covered them up in lighthearted song and dance. Modern musicals are more likely to show humanity at its worst, and maybe, at its best, but always in song.

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