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.
“Have you heard this crazy song?” the driver said to us sitting in the backseat of his car.
He slowly turned up the volume and yelled “It’s pretty awesome!” For moment all I could hear was the familiar “duh duh duh duuuh” rhythm of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. It took a moment for Kayne West’s “Gold Digger” to register. And as I listened further, I realized that I wasn’t listened to Beethoven’s classic wasn’t playing at all, but rather it was “A Fifth of Beethoven,” a less than favorite off of an otherwise great album, Saturday Night Fever.
The song concluded and our friend asked “Pretty cool, huh?”
Someone in the car responded “What was that?”
“A mashup,” came the simple answer, followed by “this station plays them all the time.”
And so it began.