Not All Sequins and Jazz Hands - Why Musicals are Important
Last week on my Vlog, I posted a video answering questions people have asked Google about musicals.
If you haven't seen it, it was something like this:
These were the first questions that came up on auto-complete when I typed the beginning of each query. For example, when I typed "Are musicals..." the first auto-complete option was "Are musicals gay?", to which I mentally head-desked.
But when I typed "Why are musicals..." there was a question seven options down that I felt was worth answering:
"Why Are Musicals Important?"
Firstly I'd like to say that there are a lot of ways musicals aren't important. They don't cure diseases, end wars or feed the hungry. They don't directly help those in the worst situations.
Musicals aren't important because they cause direct change. That's not what they do.
They're important because we make them important.
We find meaning in the stories we are told. We laugh and cry with the characters. Musicals lift our mood, make us feel and make us think. And the physical spectacle - the sets, the music and the performances of the actors - can take our breath away.
And we need the visceral experience that live performance can provide (well, I think so anyway). As human beings we have an extraordinary capacity for empathy and a strength of feeling that needs to be exercised; musical theatre provide a way of accessing these emotions, both through watching and active participation. And this need provides the backbone of a multi-billion pound industry in the UK (if you want a more economics based definition of "important").
Humans have had entertainment for thousands of years, from oral storytelling, the theatre of ancient Greece and Roman Gladiators to novels, Hollywood blockbusters and Saturday night television. Entertainment exists because it's important to us.