Is It Just Me... Or Have Musicals Had Their Day?

Here’s what’s wrong with musicals today.

These days no one cares about the singing, as anyone who saw Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! can attest.

It’s all just big-screen karaoke now, a chance for Hollywood A-listers to fake versatility while doing proper performers out of a job.

What are we watching exactly? Actors bravely stretching themselves into unexplored territory, or indulged superstars getting paid to wheel out their party pieces?

Another sign of the musical's demise is the way it’s been hijacked and mutated into a kid-friendly cash cow, bereft of one original thought or memorable tune.

I’m talking, of course, about High School Musical , the wholesome, upbeat and utterly asinine Disney franchise that has made every teen in the US want to start their own Glee club.

Time was when musicals had ambition, scale and the daring to tackle difficult subjects (Nazism in Cabaret , urban violence in West Side Story ) through the medium of song and dance.

Now it’s all about whether Zac Efron should tread the boards or shoot hoops, or whether Miley Cyrus can cut classes without revealing she’s Hannah Montana.

To give the Mouse House its due, it did do a lot to keep the musical alive prior to its recent resurgence, hit animations like The Little Mermaid , Beauty And The Beast and The Lion King being as much Broadway shows in waiting as ’toon adventures.

Enchanted and The Princess And The Frog , however, showed the well runs dry if you draw from it a little too often, something you wish the remakers of Fame had realised before churning out their flat version of Alan Parker’s film.

Musicals need a reason to exist, and that can’t simply be to milk money out of an old property gathering dust on a studio shelf.

Better to bring the curtain down for good than have the genre suffer a slow, irreversible decline. Or is it just me?

Matthew Leyland

No, it’s not a golden age for the musical. But is the inspiration High School Musical has brought millions of kids really such an evil? Or would you rather their happy feet were kicking in heads? And don’t be dissing Enchanted !

Rosie Fletcher
Clearly no one was all that bothered whether Audrey Hepburn could carry a tune either, given that she was dubbed by Marni Nixon. Cabaret was brilliant, and Dancer In The Dark broke me (in a good way), but it’s a good thing to experience a bit of pure escapist Glee now and again.

Jamie Graham
Musicals, horror movies, westerns... they come, they go, some cycles are strong, some weak. Yes, the current crop of hoofers hardly compare to the classics of of the ‘30-’60s, but give me Mamma Mia! , High School Musical and Nine over deathly silence. Especially High School Musical ...

Freelance Writer

Neil Smith is a freelance film critic who has written for several publications, including Total Film. His bylines can be found at the BBC, Film 4 Independent, Uncut Magazine, SFX Magazine, Heat Magazine, Popcorn, and more.