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Tuesday, September 16

Another musical of the day
Okay, I'll declare another musical of the day. I'm not sure I can be bothered to do this very often, but if I'm listening to a musical, or some musicals, that I consider to be noteworthy, then I shall nominate them as my musicals of the day. Today's is:

Whistle Down The Wind

This is a show which made me cringe slightly with some of its lyrics. Jim Steinman can do better than some of the humdinger nasties in this libretto. However, they're not that bad, just not so good in the context of this show and considering who wrote them. I'll forgive Mr Steinman his words, since I've heard a hell of a lot worse lyrics and worse rhymes over the last few months - some of which I've probably written myself.

Hopefully, I'll get a second chance to see this show. I saw it in June or July of last year, I think. I may have had a display of emotion watching it if it hadn't have been for one of the child stars singing sharp at a critical moment. Thank heavens for my critical nature!

Yesterday I saw Blood Brothers with Steve. By that I mean I saw it while sitting next to Steve, not that he was in it. Linda Nolan was in it, along with a talented cast, who gave life to the characters in a way which guaranteed audience empathy. There were some truly entertaining moments in the script, which impressed me both in terms of how effortlessly they had been written and how well executed they were by the cast. A laugh is a good thing to create with a script and performance, a long-lasting laugh is a hard thing to get with a one-liner. Willy Russell can paint characters which give you genuine joy to watch.

Sadly, Blood Brothers is a show with some big flaws. Perhaps these are flaws that are only obvious to people who dare to analyse a show while watching it. I think that I might have blithely enjoyed the show if I didn't have a mind that seeks to analyse and is particularly attuned to the construction of musicals. As such, I spotted a lot of obvious setups and I also spotted the paucity of ideas in the musical numbers. A lot of the songs were the same tune and variations on the same lyrics. There were a few motifs that were simply overused and got irritating towards the end.

Looking at it another way, I went home with three tunes kicking around in my head. However, I felt more like I'd been cudgelled with them, rather than enticed into loving them. You can't help having a song in your head if it's been repeated countless times over a show and doesn't have too much variation within it. Mr Russell's lyrics are, for the most part, ok. However, there were some relatively dodgy quarter rhymes "cracked" with "pass" sort of thing.

I didn't agree with the standing ovation that the show got. However, I did join it, since I felt that the performances deserved the praise, where the show had failings, the cast had given their all and made it work.

There is an interesting rule of musicals I can derive from this experience and a couple of other things I've seen recently. If you create a character and make the audience care about them - essentially, the audience sees them doing good things, or sees them growing up, or being endearing, or entertaining... or cares about hating them because they are evil... if you do that, then your ending can work really well when you make their story end happily or badly. Either will work.

At the end of Guys and Dolls, two couples get married - we know their stories well enough to be pleased for them. At the end of Blood Brothers, the two brothers, who we saw grow up and who made us laugh, die unnecessarily. Their mother, who we've also see 20 odd years of development of, straightens their clothes and joins their hands so that, in death, they're friends. You can't help but feel that.

If Russell write to a formula, he'll know this. I suspect he doesn't use a book of formulae. Unfortunately, he didn't structure his show in a way which gave me many surprises, which suggests that he could have been more inventive.

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