My first movie musical experience must have happened when I was something like four or five years old, because watching The Sound of Music with my family is one of the earliest memories I have. Later in life I learned to appreciate the "original" stage musicals as well, but the passion for movie musicals has never left me – but it seems to me that a lot of stage musical enthusiasts despise the movie versions with an equal passion.
Why is it that every time a movie version of a musical is announced to be on the make (like Tom Hooper's Les Mis, to take a recent example), the internet gets filled with fans of the stage show who are convinced from the very beginning that whatever the casting and the production team may be like, the movie version is going to butcher the original gem and be an utter disgrace in every possible way? It only gets worse and worse with every bit of new information that gets published: "No freakin' way, that girl can't sing or act anything like the original stage actress X, now I'm gonna go search every Youtube video featuring her and shout out in the comments section how much I hate her." "Mr original stage actor Y is going to be spinning in his grave when this dude tries to sing his songs, besides his hair is totally the wrong colour for this role." "What?? They changed the place of song Z? THAT IS A SACRILEGE!" Youtube, Facebook, Broadway World.com, and of course the various fan forums... You simply can't escape the hate surrounding the soon-to-be-seen movie musical. Luckily, the positive buzz of excitement is also present at some level at least, but you know how it tends to be with all things in life – the negative side always seems a lot bigger than the positive side.
While I admit that of course no movie in the world is absolutely perfect and movie musicals often make... bold choices for example in sometimes casting actors who aren't very confident singers, I still think movie versions of musicals are one of the greatest things in the world. I'll tell you why.
First and foremost: For an average person who doesn't have heaps and heaps of money to spend in whatever in the world they want, theatre tickets are rather expensive, especially as musicals tend to be more expensive than regular theatre. And if you're living in a little country where the level of musical theatre isn't quite up to your standards, you can add the price of the plane tickets in the lot. So what are you going to do as a poor musical freak who can't live without regular doses of Family von Trapp and All That Jazz? You go and buy the DVD which costs about 20 euros at the most (sometimes you have to pay shipping costs as well because even musical DVDs are hard to find over here), and watch it as often as you need to.
Unlike some (elitist?) musical fans who seem to think that if you didn't become a fan through the original stage show you don't have the right to be a fan at all, I think it's wonderful how the movie versions reach such a large audience and often make new fans of musical theatre. Like I mentioned above, my first musical experience was through a movie version, and I know many others like me. I love it how easily you can get a friend totally hooked up in your favourite musical by simply having them watch the movie with you, and snap! your life gets so much more entertaining when you and your friend have a common interest!
Also, when you have a musical on DVD, you can sing along while you're watching it! If I had a bunch of musical-minded friends it would be so much fun to arrange sing-along movie nights...
It's always a stunning experience to see a really talented stage performer managing the very difficult task of portraying subtle emotions all the way to the back row of the audience – but film as a medium does certainly provide some very nice advantages. In a good movie production, the power of the music and the lyrics is even further enhanced by the use of different sorts of camera angles and detailed sets that would be impossible to replicate on stage.
So, now that I've established the fact that movie musicals are awesome, I can start using this blog to discuss the ones I've seen – there are also a bunch that I haven't seen yet but will some day! Let this post serve as a sort of introduction to all the movie musical related stuff that is going to follow.