My wife and I were chatting about the musicals we’ve seen over the years. On our honeymoon we saw Les Misérables and I think it was a year after that we saw Phantom. The two gigantic musicals of the 80’s. I must have been more enchanted by my date, because I can’t say either of those productions have a lasting place in my memory. No doubt I was impressed (or not unimpressed) with the music, the acting, the production of each. But nothing grabbed me in a lasting way.

Around the turn of the century, my wife and I saw three productions that made much more of a personal impact. A local high school did a production of Fiddler on the Roof that I found very moving. I was familiar with the film, of course. The story resonated because it was the tale of my paternal grandmother’s family back in the Ukraine in the 1880’s. The director was also a good friend, and I knew some of the students from the parish I served.

We were spending a night in Sioux City, Iowa, and found a community production of Man of la Mancha, which, in spite of a canned soundtrack, was moving because the acting and singing were so good. And the story, naturally.

And in 2000, we enjoyed a nice community theater production of Joseph, which is my favorite of the many Bible musicals.

Seeing these were part of my personal inspiration to write my own, starting with Tobit. My eye was on that book since the early 90’s, but it took two decades to convince myself I had the chops to attempt it, then to find the energy to finish it.

On retreat in 2010, Ordo Virtutum further inspired me. I don’t think I write with thoughts of toeing a line between a patriarch and a medieval Benedictine. But I suppose it’s not as Hamilton playbillunusual a take as a hip-hop founding father. I delayed listening to that last work, pondering possible unconscious plagiarism or something. Probably something like imitation.

Anyway, I like Hamilton. A lot. One of the alums from my last parish mentioned it often on facebook. With some people, a positive mention is as good as an endorsement for my thinking. The cd has been playing in the car non-stop since its arrival last week. The young miss thought that too much for her birthday outing to a nearby state this past weekend.

Seen or heard anything of the stage lately?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Musicals

  1. Jim McCrea says:

    Last September we say “The Book of Mormon” in New York. A total waste of time and money.

    Two weeks ago we say “Kinky Boots” in San Francisco. Forgettable music but superb choreography and acting.

    Musicals now seem to be, at best, OK to selectively great.

  2. Liam says:

    Well, the London revival of Gypsy (with Imelda Staunton in the lead, at Stephen Sondheim’s specific request) was an extraordinary smash hit – probably the best rendition yet. I got to see the BBC broadcast in late December courtesy of an innovative tech conduit my IT brother set up (as he and his partner had seen the show live last summer). When you think about it, the show is about . . . failure (during the Great Depression, when vaudeville died). And the wonderful middlebrow culture of America in the 1950s embraced it. (Not sure America’s would embrace it the same way now if it were new.)

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