It’s really strange how some of these things come about, but I do know part of what started it was browsing the Chaos Lord’s domain: YouTube.
You know how it works. You click on a vid to watch or listen to, there’s a bunch of suggestions on the side, and before you know it you’ve clicked on one of them, and another, and another. Suddenly, you’re watching something you didn’t even think was on YouTube or that you weren’t sure you were interested in. And then watched even more.
Somehow, I ended up watching this one YouTuber’s videos on music in film and theater. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t learn so much. I think I’ve watched his vid on Cats half a dozen times now. And a few others a few more times.
And no, I did NOT watch the 2019 insanity known as the film Cats. And definitely don’t want to after this. But the more he got to explaining what the show was (and showing pieces of the 1998 stage show), the more I actually got interested in the stage version and maybe wanting to see it.
And to think, I’m a freaking DOG person.
Well, some of the stuff he mentioned in that video got me watching other stuff, like the Sweeney Todd video, and I was HOOKED!
Not just the musical theater stuff, but all the bits of theory and history he throws into the videos. If you want to understand more about why some music seems to work in films and elsewhere or why something seems so familiar…, then Sideways is a helluva YouTuber to watch. Wholehearted endorsement.
I gotta admit, other than a few Rodgers and Hammerstein musical films I saw over the years, West Side Story, etc., I just never really cared for musicals. If they were on, okay, whatever. I’d leave ’em if there was nothing better on or something. Or it’s something I could leave on that the dogs and birds could listen to when I went to work on TCM, like Gigi was yesterday before I left.
That was weird timing… hmm…
But I started to recoil in horror from musicals as a genre because some began to feel really off or more like a bad parody of a musical idea. Or they were musicals that didn’t have much, if any, original music and used popular stuff that fit the theme of the play or movie. Moulin Rouge I can only watch in pieces because when it gets busy on screen, I start getting headaches as the noise and voices merge and I can’t tell who’s saying what. I thought the concept was okay, just too much crazy camera movements and color at times.
Worse yet is the award winning Hooper film Les Miserables. I knew a few minutes in there was no freaking way I was going to be able to sit through it. Never read the book (or bought it for that matter) because of the damned movie. It made me NOT want to read the book. When I saw and heard the “sing-talking,” I was pretty much done with the idea of EVER liking a modern musical. Three hours of that shit? Oh, hells no. That’s an assault on the ears, and I can’t believe it got so much award consideration. Just 10 minutes was excruciating. I’m sure the story was great, but I was trying to understand what the hell was going on, why I should care, and what they were saying while they were trying to sing it. Subtitles are my go-to for moments like that, but I just couldn’t listen to it for very long.
I’m on the bandwagon with those who wonder if Hooper’s Oscars could be rescinded after Cats, because Tom Hooper had two chances and should NEVER touch an adapted stage musical-to-film again… Sideways’ vids give a LOT of detail about what felt so wrong, and it’s good to know I wasn’t the only one bugged by what I was hearing.
That said, I caught a few other “theater nut” videos that mentioned film adaptations of stage musicals versus the musicals, flaws and all. But I had totally forgotten about The Phantom of The Opera. I was actually in a high school band where we had the sheet music for it and played it at football games sometimes. It was so strange to hear the organs of the main theme and remember my clarinet part of all things. And I heard the intense organ and electric guitars in the theme and went like “what the hell?”
The only time I can think of electric guitars in a musical is when it was a rock-heavy musical anyway, so that just kinda blew me away.
And yes, I listened to the title track a dozen times today. I don’t know why, but it just hit me so much.
Now I wanna go back and read the book, because it’s clear the stage musical (and 2004 film based on it) is a thematically different animal than the previous visual incarnations. Those were more about mystery and horror (especially regarding the Phantom himself). The musical variations seem to be going the way of tragic romance.
Let’s face it, most all the musical Phantoms just look too damned good, even with the disfigurement. Had no idea the musical film’s version was Gerard Butler, and now for the first time I have a tiny crush on the guy. Damn, he made the Phantom look schmexy!
Okay, private fangirl squee-ing done… But the smile stays.
So I of course had to go online and get the DVD, the CD soundtrack (because I know I’m gonna freaking love it from what little I’ve heard and seen already), a DVD of the Les Miserables 25th anniversary stage concert/show (whatever you call it–always heard it was preferable to that damned Hooper movie, and it sounded it–thanks again, Sideways), and a book about Sondheim. I already have some books on musical composition and theory, I got the Hamilton book about the play way back when, but still haven’t read it yet. I REALLY want to see it live, but would also love the filmed on the stage version on DVD one of these days.
Frankly, I get why some filmmakers want to adapt stage musicals to film, but I think the way 1998 Cats and Hamilton did it, filming the stage show and not adding a bunch of extraneous crap, is the way famous theater musicals should be shown, not getting the “remake” treatment by filmmakers who don’t seem to understand the source material or want to put their own spin on it.
So… what the hell happened?
What suddenly got me so passionate about all this craziness, about something that seemed overly cheerful or complicated or strange for so many years? I think it was the aspect of music and storytelling together in a very obvious way, and listening to someone who was just as passionate about good art and music as I was be able to explain it. It opened up a new world of inspiration to me that I hadn’t thought about in ages.
What I saw made me want to explore that kind of creative world more, and understand how it works.
It made me jot down a new practice schedule so I could learn to play music again (practice was the first thing to go when my burnout and depression started to tear me a new one last year, dammit. I’m probably barely better than a first-day newbie to the instruments by now).
It made me start thinking of new story ideas I could try out and how best to express them.
It made me want to treat my throat better and learn how to preserve and improve my own voice. Not that I think I’m much of a singer (hells no), but that if I had some idea how to say something (or sing it out) it would sound better and I’d have more vocal stamina.
I just can’t believe how interesting all this became in such a short time. Some of the music was so interesting and stirring that my heart wanted to come out of my chest. I hadn’t been this motivated and excited in ages.
No wonder I dove in so fast.
I have to wonder what else I’ll learn as I go, and where this path will take me. But wow–I can’t wait to drown myself in great music this weekend.