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

With Les Misérables in cinemas, we debate the merits of the musical

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...

Are you a fan of the modern musical? Let us know below


    • Punchbowl

      Jan 20th 2013, 12:12

      Mamma Mia can die a horrible death as far as I'm concerned, but Enchanted had one of the best Disney songs in a long time. And lets not forget the recent Muppet Movie, which won a much deserved Oscar for Bret McKenzie.

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    • HourOfTheWolf

      Jan 20th 2013, 12:27

      Joss Whedon anyone ? Many like his tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre whether it was a buffy special or Dr.Horrible's Singalong Blog.

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    • Bilbo71

      Jan 20th 2013, 12:33

      I think if iot can be done well Like Les Miserables then can't see why not Musicals continuing for many years to come.

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    • filmrant

      Jan 20th 2013, 12:53

      What exactly is being asked here? Les Miserables is the current Number one film in the UK after taking over £8m in three days and movies like Mamma Mia and HSM have absolutely destroyed the box office... How does that equate to the whole genre in which they exist having 'had its day?' Whether you like them or not (for the record, I don't), these films are insanely popular and make a lot of people very happy... Very often people who are not as we'll catered for as those who write and blog about film. What a ridiculous post. if you don't enjoy Les Mis, feel free to share your opinion, but please remember that movies aren't just for you they are for everyone.

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    • rosiewiggins

      Jan 20th 2013, 13:14

      I think the way Les Mis used live recording to make acting while singing both easier for the actors and more emotional fo audiences should change musicals for the better. Or I hope it does anyway.

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    • chrishuggett

      Jan 20th 2013, 18:42

      I wouldn't say High School Musical watered down the musical or "killed it off", quite the opposite infact. Since its success we've had a bereft of musicals...from the inane to the top notch.

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    • Punchbowl

      Jan 20th 2013, 21:30

      I think you should google 'bereft'. ;)

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    • chrishuggett

      Jan 21st 2013, 7:03

      I'd love to put that down to auto-correct but sadly it was my poor English. Lets replace it with burst :s

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    • johnadams

      Jan 21st 2013, 18:12

      Not every musical is gonna be a masterpiece, even on Broadway not all of them are. For every Chicago we're gonna get 5 Mamma Mia's. As much as I have disdain for HSM and Glee at leas it's opening younger audiences to the genre and with that that will mean they'll be open to seeing beter musicals when they are adapted to film. 15 years ago we never would have seen a Les Mis movie. now because there is an audience for it, the movie was made, and to boot it's a box office smash. Just because Rock of Ages bombed doesn't mean the genre is dead again. it just means that it wasn't as extraordinary as Les Mis was.

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    • Monkeynuts30

      Jan 22nd 2013, 8:17

      Umm... we DID see a Les Mis movie 15 years ago. It just wasn't very good.

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    • Hadouken76

      Jan 22nd 2013, 9:18

      I don't mind musicals, there will always be good and bad ones like in all genres. But when utter Sh/t like Chicago beats Gangs of New York and LOTR: Two Towers to a Best picture Oscar, thats when it starts becoming a joke.

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    • Jareth64

      Jan 22nd 2013, 12:24

      I've never been able to stand musicals. Burn them all, I say. Mwaaaaaaaahahahahahaaa!

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    • smellyhands

      Jan 22nd 2013, 18:02

      Is it just me......Or has TotalFilm had its day?

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    • Igrayne

      Feb 22nd 2013, 20:23

      Les Miserable was a load of actors self indulgent tripe, Mama Mia reminded me of a cheesy old 60's tv advert and Chicago beating The Two Towers to set design for the Oscar? p**s off. Musicals are made for the pc brigade and old lovies which is why they always win bloody Oscars. I do not believe musicals were ever particularly appealing but then the old ones at least had a heart, now you can even predict which desperate talentless weasel is going to be in them, Nicole Kidman, Pierce Brosnan or Zellweger?

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