No, of course you don’t.
At least not if you’re a serious person. Sure, it’s okay to dabble in it from time to time, to see a Broadway show when you’re in New York, or, if it happens to be on T.V., watch one of those old MGM musicals just to say you’ve seen it. But would you ever say you liked it? Would you ever say you loved it? Well, no. Not publicly you wouldn’t.
Don’t worry, I get your logic. All those clambakes and hayrides, they seem so ridiculous. Especially when life is full of so many problems. When people lose their money, get sick, go crazy, get divorced, and die, what’s there to get plucky about? And they do die every day, some horribly, and not in the Technicolor fields of Brigadoon, but all alone in fluorescent-lit hospitals with warm Jello dribbling out of their mouths. Some don’t even make it to hospitals.
And then there’s surrey with a fringe. Where’s the reality in that?
Thanks to All That Jazz, which turned thirty this month, we can have our Jello and eat it too. Easily the last word (to date) on the American movie musical, Bob Fosse’s autobiographical, metaphysical, meta-musical slip into showbiz semi-consciousness addresses non-believers head-on, taking everything we once thought impossible to sing and dance about, and turning it into song. Not that Fosse was the first to marry the great white way and the wild blue yonder (think of “Dancing in the Dark” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”), but he most certainly was the best.
What else would you expect from the man who, from the time he was a kid, lived his whole life either on a stage or within shuffling distance from one?
Fosse’s life, without a doubt, was a cabaret. But watching the film, we might wonder, where does that leave us? What does All That Jazzhave to do with those of us who spend our time, so to speak, in the audience? Well, to quote Fosse’s surrogate, Joe Gideon, “sometimes I don’t know where the bullshit ends and the truth begins.”
Happy birthday, All That Jazz.