Why We Need More Movie Musicals
When I was growing up, my favorite Christmas movie was Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. I loved all the songs, all the dances and the story. It made me want to watch movie musicals all the time and to live in such a wonderful world where singing and dancing could be continually spontaneous and natural.
As I got older and moved into high school, I watched the official stage recordings of Into the Woods, Company and Sunday in the Park with George with my friends incessantly. We couldn’t stop watching these recordings, and this would eventually lead to my love of and interest in the entirety of Sondheim’s work.
Without these movies to shape my interests in musical theatre, I might not have become interested in performing or attending the camp that lead to me eventually pursuing acting as a professional. Movie musicals have dried up quite a bit and apart from the occasional star-studded movie like the latest Into the Woods and The Last Five Years, we rarely get the kind of movie musical that existed in the days bygone. I know that interests in society change and that Broadway isn’t the pop culture center that it was in the early 20th century, but movie musicals were a key element in inspiring theatre artists that didn’t have the luxury of attending live theatre events.
For such theatre artists now, in this era of digital media, it is easy for other theatregoers to post bootlegs of shows for others to see on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. While these bootlegs cause all sorts of legal issues for the artists and production teams involved in these shows, movie musicals are a totally simple way to solve the issue of bootlegs and for the Broadway community to stay relevant.
We need to go back to recording musicals and producing DVDs of their performances for a wider audience than those people who can see shows on Broadway. With more productions in a digital format sent to audiences in the midwest, the west coast, or abroad, theatre audiences could grow as more people see the true mastery of new theatrical productions such as Fun Home, Matilda and An American in Paris. More young people will see these DVDs and will try to engage with live theatre as they grow older. Broadway needs to cultivate an air of openness and accessibility in order to keep its audience alive and get more and more young artists engaged.
While there is a magic in live theatre, and the brief life of a musical or play is part of that magic, there is also a magic in being able to see your favorite actors play their roles on stage and to see a show fully realized as opposed to listening to it on a cast album.