Dear J-

Sister Christian oh the time has come

I’ve been listening to musicals lately — Rock of Ages has been in fairly high rotation — and I understand the appeal of these jukebox-type musicals: here’s some familiar songs, we’ll sketch a story around it that you can follow along with, so please, enjoy the show. You’ve already hurdled the highest barrier, which is getting people in the seats and getting them comfortable; it helps to have songs they recognize. At some point my tiny Generation X will be replaced with Millennial dollars and you’ll start seeing N*Sync musicals and the like, mark my words. But jukeboxes are a bit of a cheat, sort of a highlights album if you will.

Can’t break free from the things that you do

I know I’m as guilty as anyone of discovering music through soundtracks (thank you, Angus soundtrack for Dance Hall Crashers and Ash). I suppose artistic integrity is better served through listening to complete albums but even then we have tracks we think of as favorites and fillers, regardless of artistic merit or intent. Clearly we don’t deserve the nice things we get. Listening to a musical, though, it helps to have a plot summary around so you can figure out what’s supposed to be happening (oh, this is where the villain is introduced! or the big misunderstanding! the reunion and reconciliation!) and react accordingly. It lends new significance to the lyrics, although sometimes with the jukebox musicals they’re not a perfect fit.

Just a small town girl / livin’ in a lonely world

In the end I suppose I appreciate the original-composition musicals better (Sweeney Todd) which makes me, in turn, appreciate opera more as well. This is just as listening to zydeco has made me appreciate banda and by extension, the corridos even when I can’t appreciate the lyrics sufficiently. The more you gain exposure to different forms of artistry the more you appreciate them, and if jukebox musicals can be a gateway to original compositions, then let’s start signing folks up; there’s nothing more important than a sincere appreciation of artists and arts, regardless of what you believe actual utility to be.



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