Musicals, both in theater and film, were the main form of entertainment in the middle of the 20th century. Almost every movie on screen had a musical number, and in the theater communities, musicals thrived. Now, even a lot of my theater friends actively reject musical theater. One of the arguments against musical theater is the lack of reality in this art form. When in real life to people suddenly burst out into song and dance to explain their feelings and move their lives along? If this does happen in real life, it’s definitely not publicized well.
The other day in one of my film classes, we watched Singin’ in the Rain. Immediately, I was captivated by the brilliant performances from the actors as well as the involved musical numbers. For the entirety of this film I was entertained. There is somewhat of a nonchalance in a lot of theater, film, and television. Scenes are long and slow to make you focus on the dialogue and make you really think of the characters and emotional setting. Or they’re fast paced, meant to move the plot along, and occasionally someone will shoot someone else or something will blow up. There’s nothing wrong with this common type of entertainment, but it begs to ask the question just how entertaining are these stories to watch?
Tragic stories of death based on true stories help us understand the truth of our actions and put these events in a perspective that we can reflect on to change our ways. There are films and television shows that teach us lessons. We are meant to take away a greater understanding of something. Then with fantasy and violence, a form of escapism is apparent. The adrenaline from these action-packed films and television shows allows the audience to escape to the adventurous part of their imagination. But what about going to the theater or turning on the television for pure entertainment. Not to escape, or learn, or analyze, but to have a few laughs and enjoy the two hours or so.
This essence of entertainment is exemplified best through musicals. Although musicals exist for more than just entertainment purposes, the songs and dance numbers and overall jovial tone of most stories entertains the audience while also telling a strong story. When we watched Singin in the Rain’, it felt like we were experiencing an event.
Musicals are by no means the most vital of art forms and there is validity in the dislike of musicals. All theater and film and television does not need to turn back to musicals, but perhaps it’s an art form that should not be completely forgotten and rejected as something representing a token of the past. So maybe we don’t all break out into song and dance, but maybe there’s something to be gained by watching people who do?