Press Play: The Convenience of Movie Musicals

Let’s start with an exercise: I want you to think of the last time you saw a show and spent the last few minutes of the act planning how to beat the bathroom line. C’mon, no one’s going to judge you (they can’t actually read minds, you know). I bet you can still feel that throbbing feeling of your bladder threatening to burst at any moment as you try to hang on to every word before Javert jumps off that bridge. And then you rush to the nearest restroom, and in a sigh of relief you think “aaaah little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now….” The point is, there is nothing more annoying (besides that poor use of a pun right there) than having to miss a part of the story for giving in to these somewhat trivial human necessities. If only live theater can be put into pause, right?

Well, worry no more! Movie musicals are here to belt those problems away.

Just a couple of things before I proceed; first, while this entry would center on the advantages that on-screen musicals have brought into the world of MT, I still firmly believe that it does not devalue, or in any way thwart, the significance of live theater in our lives; and second, I hope that the next few paragraphs would only encourage you to look forward to watching more on-stage musicals in the future. Good thing we got that straightened out.

By alev adil [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The set of the Les Miserables movie musical. By alev adil [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As I was saying, one of the great things that movie musicals have brought into our lives is allowing us to watch musicals in our own time, on our own terms. I mean, with a laptop and a DVD on hand, you can literally watch a show wherever, whenever, and however, depending on what’s most convenient for you. Ask yourselves: don’t you have that favorite work that you wish you could play back over and over again? That’s the thing, on-screen versions of such give us the opportunity to relive certain parts and moments of a particular show and it somehow relieves the craving. And if you’ve just been listening to a cast recording, movie musicals are also probably the most realistic manifestation of the melodies and images that just wouldn’t leave your mind. Watching movie musicals satisfies our need, albeit temporarily, to see the characters we love and adore so much.

Another thing that makes on-screen shows awesome is its accessibility. And when we talk about who and how people can access a particular work, at least two things should be considered, namely financial ability and market availability.

I think it’s pretty obvious that tickets to the cinema are considerably cheaper than those for live shows (I’m guessing we’re all aware why that is), hence movie musicals allow more people who can’t afford sustaining a lifestyle of more than three shows a month, for example, to have access to more works. In this way, the theater (or at least parts of it) is made open to a broader range of audiences for it somehow tears down part of the exclusivity wall of money put up between the masses and the art. Of course, money isn’t the only factor we’re considering. We are also well aware that theater fans come from different sides and corners of the world and therefore not everyone can easily go to local theaters to purchase tickets for, let’s say, Chicago. And in the case of far-flung countries, you’re really just taking your chances of actually seeing the musical before your eyes unless you get on board on the next flight to New York. Now, being someone who lives about an ocean away from the city where the heart of MT lies, the best chance I had to see West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Les Mis, and some more others was in front of a TV screen—and even with that, I already consider myself lucky. Granted, the selection of movie musicals is still limited if you take into consideration all the live shows one hopes to see, but movies are still way, way better than nothing at all if you ask me.

Exposure is I think the most important benefit that the screen can offer to the art. Though some may argue that film adaptations have the tendency to ruin the essence of the original work (whether it’s because of horrible casting, concept mismatch, etc…), at the end of the day, more and more people are able to sing the songs, relate to the stories, and get encouraged in coming to the actual shows after watching the movies. By fusing the organic and authentic feel of the musical to the smooth and perfected mainstream art form such as film, great works are being integrated to the lives of more people. Composers, creators, musicians, and performers who cross-over are given the spotlight they truly deserve. By going mainstream, musical theater is able to create more buzz, thus inviting more audiences with every coming minute.

Now as I have said earlier, I still very firmly believe that being in the theater, breathing in the life of every note and every dialogue, is still the best way to experience the art of musical theater. I guess there’s just something about being there in that moment that makes you feel as if you shouldn’t be anywhere else. All I’m saying is that theater, like all art forms, has its constraints (particularly with reaching out to potential audiences) that in some ways are cured by being fused into film. Though movie musicals are (in my opinion) not the most ideal way of living the original works, it still gives a certain amount of convenience that benefits both the audience and the art itself. In every way, it makes musical theater more accessible, hence influential to the society—the very purpose of why it even existed in the first place.

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