10 Favorite Musicals – Part 3

Whew! Just barely made it under the deadline. Of my own link-up…that’s sad.

Anyway, the last four musicals on my 10 Favorites list:

#7: Fiddler on the Roof

Village milkman Tevye struggles to find good husbands for his daughters and adhere to the Jewish traditions of his people in a changing and anti-Jewish world.

This was my favorite musical for years; I fell in love with the grand orchestra in the “Tradition” number almost the minute I heard it.  And it’s the music that I like most, but I like the story too, the different kinds of traditions people have and whether or not they should be changed.

Speaking of, my favorite number is “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”  Tevye’s middle two daughters are initially eager to be matched up, until the eldest reminds them that the village matchmaker decides according to practicality (and whoever pays her to speak to a girl’s father), not love.  Their sentiments quickly turn apprehensive: “Matchmaker, matchmaker plan me no plans; I’m in no rush.  Maybe I’ve learned: playing with matches, a girl can get burned.”

Have I mentioned I love wordplay?

#8: The Pirates of Penzance

Pirate apprentice Frederic leaves his comrade when he comes of age, hoping to marry and settle down–but learns a surprising fact about his coming of age that turns his expectations up-side down.

I fell in love with this musical at age 8, and I thank God I didn’t permanently ruin my voice by trying to sing Mabel’s songs at that tender age.  But now that I think about it, this musical may have inspired my passion for singing.  The story is also downright hilarious; Frederic, the self-proclaimed “slave of duty” is apprenticed on a pirate ship–because his hard-of-hearing nurse misheard his father say “apprenticed to a pilot.” (A ship’s pilot, i.e. captain.)  And that’s only the beginning.  Not only are the pirates the worst pirates Cornwall has ever seen–for several reasons–most of the characters deliberately invert the stereotypes you’d expect of each each personality and vocation.

My favorite number from this one is probably “Poor Wandering One.”  Mabel tells Frederic that she is willing to give him a second chance (and give him her heart).  Which sentiment is very kind, even though she should probably, y’know, get to know him better before making that promise.  But the music and vocals are gorgeous.

#9: The Count of Monte Cristo

Actually, I’ve listened only to the Highlights CD, because this musical has never been to Broadway or West End. (*grumbles*)  But the highlights CD is pretty good.  I never actually finished the book The Count of Monte Cristo, but as far as I can tell, the musical does tell the basic story: Edmond Dantes is framed by three friends who each wants something he has, and is unjustly imprisoned in the Chateau d’If.  Fifteen years later, he escapes and vows revenge on the folks who mistreated him.

On that note, the number “Hell to Your Doorstep” is a show-stopper, folks.  Not that I condone Dante’s sentiments in the song, but if you’re going to use electric guitars in your orchestra, this is the way to do it: to express absolute rage.

My favorite number from this one is “A Story Told.”  Dante’s three friends plot their slander and try to justify it; one character says, “Part of me wishes Dante didn’t have to languish; but I can see it’s him or me.”  A very interesting song on a number of levels.

#10: My Fair Lady

Cockney-sounding Eliza Doolittle goes to phonetics professor Henry Higgins to learn how to speak in a more refined way.  Henry, however, has an ego the size of Buckingham palace, and Eliza finds the whole operation a little more than she bargained for.

Another musical I grew up watching; I was as familiar with “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On the Street Where you Live” as other kids were with TV cartoon theme songs.  And as a kid, I just liked the music, but as an adult, I like the music and the subtle wit.  A prime example would be Henry Higgins’ number “Why Can’t the English [Learn to Speak]?”

But my favorite song is “Show Me.”  Though Eliza has spent months learning to speak well, she’s tired of mere words.  She wants action–“Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of fall, don’t talk at all–show me!”  I love this distinction because I think society has lost sight of it.  People act as though cussing out a stranger ranting on social media is standing up for a cause, supporting something good.  In one sense it is, but words are easy, and anyone can fire off insults.  Actions require sacrifice.  I’ll believe dedication once I see someone living it out.

The song is also good advice for fiction writers.  Like mothers hovering over our darlings and explaining every little insecurity and virtue, we often narrate when we should get off stage and let the characters react, decide, and act.  To show the reader their fears, habits, desires, and flaws through their behavior.  Actions speak louder than words, after all.

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