I recently attended a high school performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie. This is a high school music program that has churned out many a large-scale, dramatic musical in recent history. I didn't know how they would present this little piece of fluff, but I'm happy to say that it was fantastic. The vocals did not disappoint, and the acting was surprisingly sharp. Comedy can be just as difficult as drama to pull off, and this cast was right on top of it.
I left humming "Forget About the Boy", my favorite from this show, and I got to thinking about fun musicals. We need more of them. More new ones. More of them being performed at the high school level. New musicals seem to have missed the boat on how to mix fun with a serious message. South Pacific is my favorite example of a musical from days of yore that was so much fun, but ...... the underlying condemnation of racism was loud and clear. Even Mame, which was a seemingly never-ending parade of fun, managed to send a message about classism and social responsibility.
I would like to see Kinky Boots. What I do not want to see..... Bridges of Madison County. Loved the movie, but the idea of turning such a story into a musical appalls me for some reason. My poster child for seriously misguided musicals will continue to be Next to Normal. I'm sure that the acting and singing has been and will continue to be superb. A musical about a woman with bipolar disorder is just not something that will entertain me. That's what it's supposed to be about, right? If I want serious drama, they have stage plays for that. Spontaneously bursting into song about mental illness, prostitution in Saigon during the Vietnam War, plucking gold teeth from dead bodies after a battle, etc, etc, ..... seems crazy to me.
OK, I admit that I love Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, but lets face it.... the writers of these shows must have a very dark outlook on life in general. I'll continue to enjoy these shows, but I'd like to see more new musicals in the vein of Thoroughly Modern Millie. That's all. A little balance is not too much to ask for, right?
I love that high schools and their students are so socially conscious in today's troubled world. Lord knows, my generation could have used a touch of that awareness. But, I was taken aback at this particular high school's need to announce, prior to the overture to Thoroughly Modern Millie that "Because this musical makes light of human trafficking, the cast and crew has adopted _____________________ (charity that fights human trafficking, the name escapes me) and asks that, in lieu of flowers, you make a donation to _________________". Whatever their noble intentions, it felt like they were apologizing for their choice of musicals. Please don't apologize to me. I promise you, this musical has never left me with the impression that human trafficking is hilarious. What it does is to lift my heart, lift my spirits, make me laugh, and leaves me humming more than one of its songs. Believe me...... that is NOTHING to apologize for.