When my husband, born and raised in Latin America, told me that musicals were ‘only for girls’ and that he had no desire to attend a performance, and indeed no desire to attend the theatre in general, I was shocked and saddened. Going to see shows at the West End in London has always been a huge treat for me and one that, along with my family and friends, would eagerly anticipate in the weeks leading up to the performance. We danced in the aisles during ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert,’ wept continuously during ‘Les Miserable’ and gawked at the spectacular costumes parading across the stage during ‘The Lion King’. I feel, therefore, that it is my duty to prevent my husband’s opinion in others, and explain to all doubters the advantages to the theatre, and specifically the joys of musical theatre.
First and Foremost: The Entertainment Factor
For the same reason that people love to go to the movies or settle down with a meaty novel, the theatre is a popular pastime. The primary purpose is to entertain and it rarely fails, particularly when music is involved. The best part about being entertained is the escapism from real life and all of its worries; the intricate sets, elaborate costumes, soul filling tunes and complex storylines have a way of transporting you into a foreign world, freeing you of your troubles for a blissful few hours as you become engrossed into the tale unfolding onstage.
For those still sceptical answer me this: have you ever watched an ‘X-Factor’ type show, or a talent competition? Are you familiar with the feeling of being blown away by the amount of pure talent people can display? If the answer is yes, imagine how much more thrilling it is to view such talent in the flesh. Acting is not considered a profession for nothing, it involves dedicated training, hard work and long hours – and the results are astounding. These people can belt out a tune, dance for hours and morph into different characters, with no second takes. They are talented and it is a pleasure to enjoy the results of their labour.
Secondly: A Night Without Technology!
In the modern world of television, smart phones and X-boxes, it is a refreshing change to tear your eyes away from a screen and instead be entertained by (shock! horror!) real life. Replace virtual reality for actual reality every so often and give your eyes a break for pixeled screens, you’ll feel all the better for it.
Thirdly: Encouraging the Arts
Technology is taking over, if it hasn’t already. One by one, daily interactions with people are removed as machines replace them: why pay at a cashier if you can scan and pay for your own groceries at a machine, why even go to a supermarket when you can order everything you desire online behind a computer screen. Technology is great, but let’s not forget that so is real life. Real, flawed, life where an actor may forget his lines onstage, where a lighting cue may go terribly wrong, and where a member of the orchestra can drop their bow or play the wrong note. There is beauty in human accomplishment, and what we can achieve with only our own bodies, imaginations, and hard work, and we should be supporting this.
Finding a passion is no easy feat, and achieving success is even harder. Every actor at the theatre has sacrificed time, money and security to live their ambitions, and every presence be it onstage or behind the scenes is a success story that we should applaud.
Fourthly: Easy Education for Children
The pressures on children with constant testing and grading are immense, it is worthwhile showing them another option: to do what you love, even if it does not fit within the confines of academia. Actors’ enthusiasms for their craft is a worthy lesson, particularly when you walk away enchanted and entertained. Moreover, plays and musicals are often derived from serious pieces of literature, and taking children to see a production can help to pass on the complex and didactic messages in the script in a digestible format.
Teach them about the French Revolution from ‘Les Miserables’, or about the powerful bond between mother and daughter in ‘Mama Mia’. Teach them about the working of an autistic mind in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, or introduce them to the intelligent wit of Oscar Wilde in ‘A Woman of No Importance’, the lessons and possibilities are many.
Last but Not Least: The Feel Good Factor
It is extremely difficult not to skip out of the theatre with a huge grin plastered onto your face, humming the now-familiar tunes and chattering excitedly about your favourite parts. That post-production glow is hard to find elsewhere, and it feels great! Do me a favour, and at least try it out, you won’t regret it!