Monday, August 18, 2014

Why the 5 Essential Components of a High School Musical Have Made Me Hate The Sound of Music

With the school year starting, we're all about to get accosted with Facebook invites to all the grade school kids' theatrical endeavors. Then around October, BroadwayWorld's SIP articles will be made up almost entirely of high school drama kids' selfie collections. Yes folks, it's time to gear up to see your best friend's little sister totally rock it as Townsperson #3 and get ready to see pictures from a couple one-act versions of Into the Woods. If you're like me, then through the years you've started to realize that schools tend to all do the same shows. It's true! It's because every school musical has to match certain criteria, so we all end up seeing the same 10 or so shows over and over again. I'm onto this system. I've definitely cracked the whole high school musical code. There are about five musicals that every institution that is confined by needing to be mostly PG-rated do. And I blame this formula for my secret loathing hatred dislike of The Music Man and The Sound of Music.

Essential Components of a High School Musical
  1. Big cast- Have you ever seen a high school perform Little Shop of Horrors? No. The main point about high school theatre is that everyone gets to try it out, so what fun would it be if the cast was small? Politics of lead roles in high school are scary enough without getting into who does and doesn't get to be in it at all.
  2. Easy (ish) music- While you'll have the three geniuses in your high school theatre department who can sight-read Sondheim and end up on Broadway (and we all know at least one and think, "What am I doing with my life?"), the rest of the plebes will not be as gifted. They need some basic harmony and descanting.
  3. Simple (ish) set- Before Annoying Actor Friend jumps down my throat describing the intricate, multi-layer set his school used for their production of Beauty and the Beast, I will say that high school sets can be very good and multi-dimensional and that sort of thing. But at the same time, no one usually chooses a show that requires trap doors, moving sidewalks, or flying apparati.
  4. Kid-friendly- This stipulation just makes me think of one of my favorite Sue Sylvester quotes of all time, "That was the most offensive thing I've seen in 20 years of teaching. And that includes an elementary school production of Hair." They always use shows that dominantly have (but kiddish) themes about friendship, honesty, loyalty, etc.
  5. Recognizable- Last but not least, the shows are always famous ones. While I would have been ecstatic had a local high school done The Scarlet Pimpernel (which meets all the other criteria), none ever did. I think this final component is mostly there because people want to come see shows that they have heard of, and more than that, love. That's why a lot of the musicals that high schools do were previously movies.
So here are just a few musicals that follow this criteria:

The Music Man
Why I hate it: While the lyrics are very clever and the stylistic songs are very clever, there's nothing particularly stellar about itI was in it twice, my brothers were in it, I saw it at a community theatre, all before I was 12. Too much.

The Sound of Music
Why I hate it: I didn't grow up with it, so I don't have the emotional attachment that many of my peers do to the movie. That being said, I saw two community theatre productions of it, then saw the movie, and was never super impressed. And everyone and their mother sings "Do Re Mi" way more than they need to.

Guys and Dolls
Why I love it: I've heard that everyone has an irrational attachment to the first musical they saw live, and that's how it is for me with Guys and Dolls. My brother was in it, so I saw it a lot between going to a few of his rehearsals and performances. I've seen it only once since then, so I've never personally gotten a G&D overload.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook: