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  Entertainment   Music  23 Jan 2017  The revival of musicals

The revival of musicals

Published : Jan 23, 2017, 6:35 am IST
Updated : Jan 23, 2017, 6:42 am IST

La La Land won all the seven awards for which it had been nominated, becoming the most successful film in Golden Globe Awards history.

Still from film La La Land.
 Still from film La La Land.

With the beginning of New Year, let us welcome the return of musicals. Not that they had gone anywhere but, with the 74th Golden Globe Awards held on January 8, which honours the best in film and American television of 2016, La La Land won all the seven awards for which it had been nominated, becoming the most successful film in Golden Globe Awards history.

For those yet not familiar with La La Land – which is probably still running at a theatre close to you – it is an American romantic musical comedy-drama film, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

While the movie title refers both to the city of Los Angeles and to the phrase for being out of touch with reality, the plot revolves around a musician and an aspiring actress, who fall in love in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, another musical, Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds’ celebrated film and one of my favourites, Singin’ In The Rain, which was screened again in movie theatres on January 18 – initially in the US – merely weeks after the demise of Reynolds. The Stanley Donen-Gene Kelley directed film was originally scheduled to be re-released in celebration of its 65th anniversary, what critics often herald as the best movie musical ever made but, due to the unfortunate demise of the actress on December 28, 2016, the release date was preponed and immediately provided an opportunity for fans to provide respect to a certified Hollywood legend who also had successes with movies such as How The West Was Won, The Singing Nun, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, among others.

While the public always had a fascination for musical theatre through the years, for the trivia-minded, the origins emerged only in the earlier part of the 19th century with the initiatives of British duo W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, who wrote 14 musicals, including the popular The Pirates Of Penzance and The Mikado and, on the other side of the Atlantic, the parallels were Ned Harrigan and Tony Hart.

Moving into the 20th century were such musicals such as Oklahoma!, South Pacific, West Side Story and, of course, the perennial Sound Of Music, all of which made the transition from being stage musicals to popular movies.

The trend continued with Fiddler On The Roof, Cabaret – the Indian stage version that I saw during the ‘80s being quite a revelation for its risqué clothing – and Grease which, if I remember correctly, was staged in India in 1986 as Grease Lightnin, featuring Shiamak Davar and Suneeta Rao in the lead roles.

Of course, I was also fortunate to see the likes of Godspell, which surprised the audience when members of the cast served red wine to them, and Evita, all of which had a common thread in Sharon Prabhakar, who also starred in Cabaret.

I was fortunate to witness the Australian stage production in Sydney in 1994 but, closer home, the re-launch of the Mumbai production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2014 was a pleasant surprise for me, much credit to director Alyque Padamsee, who first staged the very play in 1974.

My interest in musicals continued with the release of home videos of contemporary rock operas made into films such as The Who’s Tommy and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, later travelling to Singapore to see We Will Rock You in 2008, a musical based on the songs of Queen which tells the story of a group of Bohemians in the future who struggle to overcome a ban on – what else? – rock music.

The musical brought back nostalgia and the Indian connect of purchasing my first Queen album – on vinyl! – called Sheer Heart Attack from Mumbai’s now unfortunately defunct Rhythm House outlet during my school days in 1975 and, in 1996, having the opportunity of chaperoning Queen drummer Roger Taylor during his debut visit to India, in Kolkata, for charity purposes. My association with Queen finally culminated when I was able to interact with  late vocalist Freddie Mercury’s  mother, Jer, who passed away last year, during the Freddie Mercury Exhibition held in Mumbai in 1999.

Nevertheless, what remains promising for both global and Indian audiences is that musicals are alive, kicking, and still grossing it big at the box office and there is every reason to believe that during the 89th Academy Awards, scheduled on February 26, La La Land will push the envelope even further!

The writer has been part of the media and entertainment business for 23 years. He still continues to pursue his hobby, and earns an income out of it.

Tags: golden globe awards, la la land, debbie reynolds