Why Do We Love Musicals?

Why do most people have an affinity for musicals over plays? Is it something about the idealistic happy finales that draw people in? Or is that people are guarenteed to break into song every five to ten minutes?

Of the 18 people in my Acting 101 class, 14 had never seen a straight play. But of the 14, 12 had seen a musical on Broadway or otherwise. As a advocate of musicals everywhere (after producing a musical in China), I’d like to be happy about such straw poll stats but really am unsure of what to think. Should people be seeing plays that intimately explore “hard” issues? Can musicals present “hard” issues or does the format naturally lend itself to fluff?

It’s estimated that once every ten years, Middlebury College produces a faculty-run musical. That may be an exaggeration but either way there is indeed a faculty musical this spring: Cabaret with Book by Joe Masteroff, Music by John Kander, and Lyrics by Fred Ebb. I auditioned over the weekend at the urging of my new voice teacher (I know, my first personal voice teacher, a debateable call in itself for a chorus-trained kid like me). The process of auditioning for a faculty-led show is quite intense. A round of vocal-auditions with a solo song, followed by a test of abilities to sing harmony in groups. Then, a “dance audition” that turned out to be a classic case of “movement” for boys over “dance.” Essentially, the purpose of a “movement” audition is to showcase an actor’s range of movement, inherent style, and comfort-level within a given environment. Lastly, an acting audition cattle-call with monologues in front of a panel of directors for all the spring shows.

I have it easy seeing as there are about ten girls to every boy that auditions. Are musicals a girl thing? Or is acting in general a girl thing? Girls grow up wanting to be actresses and guys grow up wanting to be sports stars. Everyone just wants their 15 minutes of fame?