Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Story of Musicals (from the British perspective)

After a lot of days in both the East Lothian and Perthshire countryside, I came back to a rainy ugly Edinburgh and some good old fashioned comfort food: musicals. It took my favorite bird-lover to alert me to the new series on BBC on the story of how (and, listen, I'm gonna put this in quotes and explain why in a minute) "British musicals reclaimed the genre." Or maybe just reclaimed the West End. Either way. 

Even with the topicality (both Jesus Christ Superstar & Evita [a production I'm salivating to see] will return to Broadway this season) I must say, there's a lot of well-tread and re-hashed territory-- at least in the first episode. Stuff about Lionel Bart turning into an ego-maniacal drug addict filing for bankruptcy, how Oklahoma invented the musical as we know it today, etc etc. But I did enjoy the extended interviews with Elaine Paige, Tim Rice and especially James Rado on his influences (one of which was the British Oh! What a Lovely War) and Hal Prince being his usual badass self. 

At the end of the day, I still think the genre belongs to us. I do think it most likely took our Hal Prince to make Evita the success it is. To bridge the gap between what a story could be and what Tim Rice always seems to leave out in my opinion. 

Or maybe its something to do with the innate enthusiasm of a musical. That's why it will always belong to America. Nothing excited me more than when they'd cut to West Side Story, etc etc. And that's not because I'd ever actually thought about the thing I love most as a turf war between my two homes. Objectively, as a musical lover, there's nothing British that can beat anything on the long list of my favorites. 

But it's useful to think about, especially working on Nicholas & Alexandra-- the most Britishly influenced (read: pop opera) of Steven and my stuff. And one thing Steven and I have always been on board with Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber about is the concept album. I believe in the concept album. More to come on that later... 

Pictures and adventures from the country tomorrow. While it was nice to have a bit of fun, the documentary reminded me that what I really am is a back to it. 

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