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Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2001
Does anyone else remember when the musicals died out?

Not when the music died. Gee whiz, Don McClean had a whole career built around that song.

Musicals. The stuff of Rodgers and Hammerstein, in particular. Sound of Music. Camelot. Cabaret. West Side Story. Oklahoma. All that stuff which we old-timers gratefully sigh over and our children refer to as unadulterated corn. Yeah I know, you can still see a show with music on Broadway. Not the same.

Cinderella. I remember watching a TV version of Cinderella with a very young Susan Sarandon (it was Sarandon, wasn't it?) playing the lead and squeaking a bit at the high notes. This, the days when they actually sang the songs as the cameras rolled. Cinderella was in black and white, which ought to date me in a very demonstrative way. But the camera's eye was good enough, you really didn't take notice. It was a smartly done bit of work by mid-60's directors and producers who were just getting good at the medium. Can anyone besides me remember all the words to "10 Minutes Ago, I Saw You", as sung by Cinderella and the Prince when they met at the Ball? Like, my head started reeling, you gave me the feeling the room had no ceiling or floor….

I watched my brother, who as a junior / senior in high school took lead roles in Sound of Music and Camelot for his drama class. Captain Von Trapp and Lancelot (a bit of the ladies man he was back then. Heh). Singing roles. Nice baritone he had. I use to take particular delight, years later, when standing next to him in an adult choir and bottoming out in a lower cleft C bass when the best he could manage was about 5 notes above that. Used to boom the choral bleachers, as a bass. Rumbling bass. Indeed I did.

And no, that's not a new kind of fish.

When Tony sang for Maria (Natalie Wood) in the original West Side Story, songs like "There's a Place for Us", I used to get cold shivers for the amount of emotion the boy could put into that tune. Now that I'm old and nearing the state of wheelchair dementia, I know what the boy was saying, and why. He was entitled to get a little dreamy and emotional about unrequited love. And looking at Natalie Wood must have been one heckuva distraction at any rate.

Lancelot was a dreamer, too. He desired the unreachable queen, the wife of his friend Arthur, and pondered the state of his soul trying to rationalize why he should abandon his honor in pursuit of her. I don't think he ever got an answer he could live with, but he sang some very nice tunes about it.

Before my pal Fiona begins chasing me down the street with the frying pan for reviewing some of these hopelessly romantic yet lovely musicals, let me say this. I am grown older, and happier, by knowing that there is beauty in well-crafted songs that might sound lyrically mushy but have a great music score behind them. The fellows writing them were born to an age when you could write of love and song and not be worried about the correctness of the roles of men and women. When people simply wanted their theater to make them feel uplifted, out of whatever dark reality they sat in.

Now I've done it. I'll be humming that Cinderella tune all day……

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