Tonight I am going to see Miss Saigon at the Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts. In honour of this occassion, I am going to recall my love for musicals.
I grew up in the Disney Renaissance. My first theatre experience was seeing The Little Mermaid. Up until 1998, Disney released an animated feature with beautiful scores and lyrics. By the time I was in high school, this trend stopped, as Disney released Tarzan, a movie with a soundtrack complete written and sung by Phil Collins. Now, the music was pretty good, and I love Phil Collins but this was a drastic change from Disney's earlier creations like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King for example.
Either way, I grew up with musicals... sorta. I was presented entertainment in musical form. The only difference was it wasn't a live performance. Because I knew and loved this formula, I was also a huge fan of any television show, animated or live action, that produced a musical episode. Musical episodes were always my favourite episodes.
So it is to no surprise that I love musicals. I love their soundtracks. I love their songs. I love their formulas. I love seeing them.
I was first introduced to a musical in the traditional sense when my parents went to see The Phantom of the Opera at Pantages Theatre in Toronto for my dad's birthday in 1994. We all went to my cousins' in Mississauga and stayed home with them while my parents and my aunt and uncle went downtown. My mom returned smittened, and purchased the soundtrack.
Once we got home, she thew it in our cd player in the sitting room, and that distinctive overture began to play. She played it over and over again, recalling the story to my brother and I. My brother didn't care much for it, but I was enthralled. I begged her to take me to see it. She told me at some point, she would. In the meantime, I bought the tape version (this was the early 90s after all, CD players were still expensive) and asked my mom for a cd/tape player for my birthday so I could listen to it over and over again. I found a beautiful black hardcover copy of the original Phantom of the Opera story. It had the most mesmerizing paintings throughout the pages. I read this tome in grade four, at the age of 10. I was hooked.
I didn't see Phantom of the Opera until 1997. But it was not the first musical I saw.
1. Grease was the first musical I actually saw. I didn't even plan it. When I was 12 I was spending the week with my friend from Toronto at a 'horsey camp' which was just the two of us staying at a friend of our parents' for a week in the summer. One night she was going to Grease, and her older sister didn't want to go, so they invited me. I actually thought they were going to Greece, and wondered how they wer eonly going for a day. She explained it was a musical. A musical about Greece? I inquired. No, she replied, high school. I was baffled. But I went and saw it, and I quite liked it. It's not my favourite but it's a good story none the less.
2. The Phantom of the Opera was the only musical I wanted to see. I didn't get my chance until 1997, when Pantage Theatre announced that the Phantom was going to be leaving that year, after a ten year run. I panicked. I told my mom she had to take me this year because we would not know if I would ever get the chance to see it. She agreed, and we went February 17th, 1997. I was so excited. I finally got to see the only musical I wanted to see. Of course, this did not become my last musical. It is still one of my favourites, and I'd see it again.
3. The Lion King was a school trip when I was in grade 11. I went with my best friend Sharyl, and it would not be the last musical we saw together. We are actually seeing Miss Saigon together. This musical was put together so well. The costumes were amazing. The opening scene with Circle of Life was mesmerizing. Just absolutely brilliant. I had already owned the soundtrack to the original Lion King so I didn't bother getting it from this production.
4. I saw Spamalot with my friend Kathleen for her boyfriend at the time's birthday. She wasn't really into Monty Python but he was. I thought it was alright. Some of the songs were hilarious, so I bought the soundtrack. The problem I had with it was it was a total rehashing of the original lines, and people were laughing at them like they were new. I mean, it was a good story, it was cute, there were some original funny moments, but when you've seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail over ten times, the swallow joke just isn't laugh out loud funny anymore.
5. Kathleen and I went and saw the Toronto University version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My mom introduced me to the movie version and I had always wanted to see it live. I had gone to some theatre showings of it at my own University. Seeing it live was great. They changed some of the costumes and themes around but it was the same story. I was a little put off that Rocky spoke a few lines, as I was more accustomed to him just grunting and staring. The funniest part was when a woman with a 8-11 year old boy was beside us. This version made a lot of references to S&M and other sexual fetishes. The woman and her child left at intermission.
6. I had the opportunity to see Evil Dead: The Musical when I was at Humber College. This was a fun, fun musical and a great soundtrack. I bought it immediately after the show. The lyrics are hilarious, the music was great, the story fantastic and the performers were just brilliant. What made this musical super fun was that the second act was interactive... if you sat in the splatter zone. In the first 5 rows you were likely to get splattered with stage blood. They do offer you ponchos if you don't want to get your clothes sprayed. I wore a white t-shirt just for the occassion. Sadly, my mom washed that shirt two years after it had been splattered and all the fake cornstarch blood came out. I do have a souvenir t-shirt from the show, and pictures of me covered in blood. If this ever comes to a town near you, see it immediately.
7. Another friend of mine and myself went to Ottawa for the sole reason to see Wicked at the Centre for Performing Arts. We did some other stuff in the three days we were there, such as check out the Marketplace, Parliment and ther Museum of Civilization but the musical was our main reason for going. I had read the book of the same title but I found it really, well, dull. It wasn't a bad story but just not what I was expecting. The musical was completely different. There were some of the same elements, but it wasn't exactly the same story. It was a beautiful musical - one I also bought the soundtrack too but I bought it at a store because I didn't feel like spending $30.00 at the theatre. I did buy a t-shirt though.
8. I took a boyfriend to see We Will Rock You in Toronto. I had high hopes for this because we both loved Queen music. It was abit of a let down. Weak story, weird use of the songs, and some of the lyrics were changed to suit the story, which wouldn't have been so bad if the story didn't flop. I don't think I spent much on these tickets and I'm glad I didn't. My other choice was to see Jersey Boys, but for some stupid reason I went with this.
9. Taking a cue from my mistake, I then decided to go see Jersey Boys with my mom, our neighbor and Sharyl. It was supposed to be wrapping up, but it's still going on. Apparently it's going to be leaving this year but who knows! It lived up to the hype. I love the Four Seasons, and the music was great. The story was interesting and kept you entertained, and they had perfect timing with the songs. I love the music but I didn't see a point in buying the soundtrack of some performers singing Four Season songs when I could just get the original songs somewhere else.
10. For my 25th birthday, I wanted to see Young Frankenstein: The Musical. I went with the same people I saw Jersey Boys with. I have to say, I found it enjoyable but the music was rather dull. Usually a musical makes you want to listen to the song again, and recall the scene. This music was just.... forgettable. There were a couple of scenes I found hilarious, and three musicals acts I did enjoy. I liked the scene when Frederick falls asleep and there's a musical number "Join the Family Business" where all his ancestors sing and dance, encouraging him to make a monster. The "Putting on the Ritz" number was astounding. The final number was hilarious because Dracula makes an appearance. It was a silly musical.
There are other musicals I have seen in movie form, but I think I'll leave that for another day. So in 13 years, I will have seen 11 musicals. I hope to see more, if they come to Toronto or even Ottawa. Some musicals I would love to see or hope come to Toronto, or even come back to Toronto are: South Pacific,Rock of Ages, Les Miserables, Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and Xanadu. I am sure there will be others that come out that I'll also want to see.