Why being angry at the powerful is ok and why activism and trolling aren't the same thing.
Thanks for this. Really interesting.
On Lord Andy and the Big Mac. If what you describe is the case, then I can understand the frustration and it’s reasonable to voice it.
It made me wonder what the British musical scene would look like if they had never been around. It’s quite possible that a greater variety of musicals would have blossomed. Equally I can imagine that, without their successes, musicals would still be regarded as an essentially American form and British musicals relegated to the cultural fringe. I suppose the sheer scale of their success was always going to be a double-edged sword. So I’m still on the fence, not quite ready to see them as the moustache-twiddling villains just yet.
On coolness. I wrote something about this years ago:
I’ve always suspected that the reason that musicals struggle to be cool is more fundamental than a particular dominating style. I think the need to hear the words and understand the story in a musical prevents them from fully embracing fashionable styles of music and words in the way that pop songs can. And there’s also the fact that many musicals take so long to develop that they can never keep up with fashion. So it’s an uphill struggle to make them cool. Personally, I’d settle for self-confident and authentic.
PS, I also loved the Dischord podcasts. Reawakened a long-dormant love for the form (er, medium?). So thank you again. And looking forward to more newsletters.
FYI, Adam--the "Leave a comment" button in the emails always links here, rather than to the relevant post.
i think you are right on the money in your observations that Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh have posioned the musical waters for several generations of creatives.
As a student in the late 70s, I was keen to write musicals and had the luxary of studying at a University which allowed its students to experiment in a well equiped studio theatre. I was fortunate to meet and collaborate on a couple of shows with a really gifted composer and together we wrote a piece based on a book of photographs. No linear narrative, no story - we didn't know what we were doing but it defiently wasn't anything like a Lloyd Webber show. After graduating we found ourselves trying to make shows which fitted the Lloyd Webber/Mackintosh mould - we failed and haven't written anything together for decades - I think mainly because neither us were inspired to create anything that fitted the prevailing musical zeitgeist and having the time and space to make the ideas we did have was not available in the way it was when we were students.
This isn't supposed to be a sob story in the "we could have been contenders" way of things - as you say in your book, making a musical is bloody hard work and requires talents which perhaps we didn't have. The point is, the musical world we tried to break into was restricted and limited by the kind of work the two enobled and enriched Lords established and others embraced. It's still a problem and maybe still a deterent - but one that needs to be overcome.
It's great you have been championing a correction to this view for years (loved your Dischord podcasts) and I look forward to reading more from you and hope it's the start of a tide which brings in more diverse, interesting and innovative work on stage large and small, in person and digital.