Friday, 9 February 2007

Funny Valentines

Well valentines day is just around the corner so what better excuse to wax lyrical on romance and the stage!

Love and passion play a big part in musical theatre from the closing moments of “South Pacific”, when Nellie Forbush and Emile DeBecque clasp hands under the table, to the joyous celebration that is Collins’ and Angel’s “I’ll Cover You” in the more contemporary “Rent”. To quote Daisy Gamble (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever), “Love With All The Trimmings” would seem to be one of the publics favourite things when it comes to a night at the theatre.

“The Sound Of Music” may have it’s fair share of Nazis and an unlimited supply of nuns but it is the tender love story at it’s centre that touches audiences most. Only the hardest of hearts can fail to melt when Maria wonders that maybe she has done something good. Likewise in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other blockbuster “The King And I” it’s the audience’s belief that there was a kind of love between the King and Anna Leonowens that holds the audiences attention.

Love stories at the theatre rarely seem to be particularly conventional and the path of true love rarely runs smooth. In “The Pajama Game” Sid Sorokin and Babe Williams are boss and trade unionist and find industrial action gets in the way of any action of a more intimate kind. The two pen-pal lovers of “She Loves Me” write letters to each other of great devotion, yet their love seems doomed to fail as neither realises the other is in fact a colleague that they despise. The hero of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”, hardly seems to deserve the love of the beautiful Rosemary given that his big moment is singing “I Still Believe In You” to his own reflection! Although given that the young ladies of the show are just “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm”, perhaps this doesn’t concern Rosemary a great deal.

So love has it’s ups and downs I guess. As a member of the audience though, perhaps, this is what we want to see. Lovey dovey types who just seem to have enduring bliss from the moment they first set eyes on each other across a crowded room . Where’s the fun in that? How many of you wish that it was the tragic Eponine who actually ended up with Marius rather than the respectable, but safe, Cosette. And in “The Phantom Of The Opera” is it really Raoul who we want to capture Christine’s heart? No, I suspect most people find the true romance of the piece to be between Miss Daee and the opera ghost himself.

Without a doubt some of our greatest love songs first appeared in musicals. Many of the standards that we hold dear such as “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “The Man I Love” all first appeared in Broadway shows of the twenties through the forties. Most of the songs from this era seem to be pretty straight forward as love songs ago but that’s not without exception. Rodgers and Hart’s “Funny Valentine” from “Babes In Arms” seems like a touching song about love not being all about good looks and superficial things, however given that it is sung to a character called Valentine rather than being a more general valentine it’s not quite as romantic as you first think! In fact many of the great musical love songs are not as obvious as they seem. The big ballad from “A Chorus Line” – “What I Did For Love” is about dancing, and what’s “Superstar’s” “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” all about? A woman of possible ill repute, falling for Jesus? God forbid that should happen! So in the theatre, as in real life, love is not that straight forward.

I suspect that there is a show tune for every situation in life – at least romantically. We have first love in “Guys And Dolls” with “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” and unrequited love in “On My Own” from “Les Miserables”. “Follies’” Sally Durant sings of obsessive love in “Losing My Mind”. In another Sondheim show, “Assassins” he even gave us an example of the psychopathic obsession, that can feed the passions of a stalker with “Unworthy Of Your Love”. Many songs speak of the unconditional love that you may have when you love someone despite their multiple failings, such as Nancy’s “As Long As He Needs Me” in “Oliver” and Lady Thiangs “Something Wonderful” in “The King And I”. Sometimes people can’t even admit the way they are feeling, for instance, in the movie of “Pajama Game” Doris Day was adamant that “I’m Not At All In Love”, and Curly and Laurie flirt with each other in “Oklahoma” and discuss all the things they shouldn’t really do otherwise “People Will Say We’re In Love”. Sometimes love is a case of self improvement, such as “Carousel” where we have Carrie Pipperidge extolling the virtues of Enoch Snow’s fishing business even though he “can’t seem to lose the smell of fish”. Indeed sometimes we even hear of the love that dare not speak it’s name such as in “I Walk With You” in “The Full Monty”.

So where does this leave us? Sally Bowles and the MC believe that “Money makes the world go around” yet in “Carnival” they state that “Love Makes The World Go Round”. Well I really don’t know, I suspect that it’s a little of both but what I can say with great certainty is – “Love Changes Everything”.

Well you could go for the obvious and buy a bunch of flowers, then of course a meal out is always nice – and if you are trying to woo me then I am allowed to eat chocolate again by that point. However given the above why not take them to the theatre

In Closing
Posh And Becks (Hollywood bound)
David and Jessica (Married at Last)
Bill and Ben (The Flowerpot Men)

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