Darren Barefoot
Darren Barefoot

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Comments on music, musicians, live shows, etc.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Mamma Mia, the musical based on ABBA's music, is coming to Vancouver for three weeks and apparently selling like Swedish hotcakes. It's done ridiculously well in London and Toronto, so they're taking it out west.

Despite my Y chromosome and heterosexuality, I like a good musical. Stephen Sondheim's work, for example, is generally entertaining, musically-complex and deeply theatrical. Call me the Queen of Yaletown (turns out there already is one), but I know most of the words to The Sound of Music and Rent, and gosh darn it, I'm proud of it.

Thus, these musicals-based-on-bands really gets on my skirt. I saw the Queen musical in London and it sucked. It was hardly a musical at all--it was just a bunch of talented singers working their way through the Queen catalog. The plot (even for a musical) was wafer-thin and the thematic content (besides 'rock and roll music is good') was nil.

That said, the rest of the audience loved the frickin' thing. They were all singing and dancing along like they were at a rock concert. Good for them, I guess, but I was bored silly.

These shows are safe. They're safe for the producers because they've got a built-in audience and they're safe for the audience because they can attend confident that a) they'll like the music and, more importantly, b) they won't be the least bit challenged by what they see. These shows trade on nostalgia, and the music often isn't even that good. Sure, Billy Joel's songs tell stories, but ABBA? They're a disco band.

I know I sound like a musical snob (interesting phrase, that), but I feel particularly sorry for any composer who's trying to find a spot for his musical on Broadway. This trend looks like it's set for a good long run. Me, I'll wait for Nevermind: The Nirvana Musical.


10:53:06 AM        Music The Arts Vancouver