The Care and Feeding of Steve
Books Read in 2007
10 October 2007
Is there anything more wholesome, more in keeping with traditional American values than a beloved Broadway musical?
The very thought of introducing the kiddies to Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe, or Meredith Willson sends a glow of "togetherness" through Mom and Dad. The big names have given us wonderful memories, and wonderful songs that we know as well as our own names.
I thought about that as I sat watching The Music Man last week end. Was there ever a better family show than Meredith Willson's paean to small town Middle America, circa 1912. Taking us back to the good old days when life was more simple and when a town pageant was the height of social interaction.
Harold Hill is such a familiar figure in theatre history, but who is he, really? He's a two-bit con-man who comes to town to take all the townspeople's money and to seduce the town's virginal librarian. "He's got a girl in every town and he's taken it away from every one of them," says Charlie Cowell, a vindictive salesman determined to out Hill for the crook that he is. It may be that Hill's ultimate conversion negates all of his former wrongdoings, but do we really want our kids asking "what did he take away from those girls, Daddy?"
And don't we all grin broadly and clap loudly at the end of "Sadder But Wiser Girl"?
Traditional American values?
The thought of the dark side of Music Man sent me back to the list of banned books I wrote about last month. One of the books consistently on the list of "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is banned because of its honest depiction of race relations and, again, description of a rape. How many parents, who would refuse to allow their little darlings to read that book, would take them to a good ol' wholesome Rodgers & Hammerstein show like South Pacific?
Now there's a show for you. Bloody Mary gives her young daughter to soldiers for sexual purposes, hoping to lure them into marrying the young girl, while she sings the audience head-bobbing ditty, "Happy Talk." Later, after there has been a long sexual affair between the Lieutenant and the girl, he dumps her because she's not white and he has to go home and marry a white girl,
In the meantime, the heroine, Nellie Forbush expresses horror that the man she loves has half-Polynesian children. It's a deal breaker for their relationship. (Until the end, of course, when she decides to accept the children.)
Chicago won all the awards on Broadway and in the movies. The Bob Fosse musical makes a heroine out of a murderess and a mockery of the murder itself. The murderess gets off because she lies to a really good guy who loves her, convincing him that she's carrying his child. But when the jury believes her lies about the murder and the pregnancy, and finds her innocent, she dumps the guy and leaves him, shattered.
Everybody's favorite The King and I glorifies a dictatorial king with a harem, who is proud of his large number of children by a large number of wives and who accepts a young girl as a gift for his sexual pleasure.
In the squeaky clean Oklahoma! the character of Jud Fry is constantly made fun of and ostracized and there is much rejoicing when he finally falls on his knife and is killed.
There is a lot of buzz about the upcoming movie of the popular Stephen Sondheim version of Sweeney Todd, which celebrates murder and cannibalism.
One of the most sympathetic characters in Les Miserables is Fantine, the prostitute.
Prostitution is also at the heart of Sweet Charity.
And let's not forget Grease, where the moral of the story is that the only way to become popular is to become a slut, while the audience roars its approval!
Even the Lion King, which many parents want their children to experience for its spectacle and the incredible costumes designed by Julie Taymore, is based on murder and betrayal.
I'm wondering if somewhere there is a list of "banned stage shows" or if anything is acceptable if you add a snappy tune to it.
PHOTO OF THE DAY