i’m looking for an article that i read once about the decline of musical theatre; how somewhere along the line, musical theatre became stagnant — there emerged a musical theatre “form” that followed the musicals of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. however, the author stresses, those “golden age” musicals were successful because they were full of pop hits, songs that sounded like they belonged on the radio (and, in fact, a lot of musical songs ended up charting).
from the 1960s on, there was an attempt at the “rock musical,” and sometimes it worked (“let the sunshine in”), but as we got into the 1980s it got bad, bad bad. a lot of musical theatre in the past few decades* has been full of poor imitations of rock, poor imitations of musical theatre form infused with the cheesiest disney pop.
there are other factors too, like, it’s hard for anyone other than moneyed metropolitan people to go and see Big Musicals; it seems like such an insulated bubble. and sound design has almost made TOO many advances in technology? like, ironically, to try to get the top quality sound, a lot of musical productions want to mic every single instrument and actor and mix it all live with 100 pieces of input, making the whole thing sound sterile…where have the acoustics gone?
maybe music videos have taken the place of musical theatre — and i’ll admit that a lot of them suffice, or more than suffice — but i like to imagine that there’s still a place for 1) live narrative set to sound (instead of, like a pop concert, live sound with a faint narrative), and 2) musical theatre producing the kind of sound that people would like to hear everywhere. like a pop song.
anyway, when i hear this song i hear [the evolution of] a kander&ebb tune, and i wonder if it’s possible to get a stage production full of pop songs with these weird and genuine parts.
*(and of course there are exceptions to this stuff, like sondheim and kander/ebb; and there have been a few attempts at getting Real Sound like “in the heights” and “once” but they don’t go far enough IMHO)