What’s the Matter? Don’t You Like Musical Comedy?

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 Jazzwhich 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.

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8 responses to “What’s the Matter? Don’t You Like Musical Comedy?

  1. I myself love msuical comedies from Little shop of horrors, the wiz, best little whore house in texas, working 9 to 5…ect there are many others as well, but these are the ones that hoped in my head.

  2. It’s a good thing (given how unhip it is to own up to liking musicals) that there’s this other guy – the one that even people who don’t like to admit they like musicals feel that it’s okay to love – Stephen something…?

    • Sondheim! (Or is it Schwartz?…I’m gonna say probably not…) Yes, Sondheim. Even the most musical-phobic people couldn’t come down against the great man, it’s true, but how many Sondheim movies are out there? And how many of those have been musical comedies? By the way, now that we’re on the subject, have you ever seen the Herbert Ross movie (written by Sondheim) “The Last of Sheila”? Worth a netflix.

  3. Surely you jest. Someone like me – or in fact, myself – HAD to have seen it, and I actually saw it in a theater during its original release. This was of course when dinosaurs still ruled the earth.

    • This is a wonderful post! Did anyone out there hear me? Read this post on Sondheim! (Mernitman, next time I see you, remind me to tell you my story about Sondheim…I had one interaction with him, years ago…)

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