by Mike Bryant
They say that the first step on the long road to recovery is acceptance, so here goes:
Hello, my name is Mike and I am a musical theatre snob.
My musical addiction started at a very young age with Julie Andrews doing her imitation of a prozac-fueled spinning-top on a mountainside. That magic nun started the habit of a lifetime. (Please laugh. My nun puns are funny.)
The snobbish side of my addiction started at about sixteen when I saw the film version of The Phantom of the Opera. I remember sitting on the couch, eyebrows raised so high that they virtually disappeared into my (at that point, not receding) hairline. This was the musical everyone raved about? Watching Gerard "The Barking Phantom" Butler cry-singing over a toy monkey showed me my musical snobbery in its full technicolour glory.
I recoiled at Phantom.
I spat at Joseph and his damned dreamcoat.
I imagined writing strongly worded letters to local members of parliament to try and get Grease banned from, well, everywhere.
I would have led protest marches against Cats.
I began haunting Borders (which was sort of like Whitcoulls if Whitcoulls sold books...) looking for unheard of cast recordings. It became an obsession. I became a musical theatre snob and a musical theatre hipster.
"What's your favourite musical?" People would ask.
"Oh, I doubt you'd know it," I'd say, my nose firmly planted in the air. "It's a little-known show from the '70s that was only produced once in an abandoned warehouse performed on rusty rickshaws. It closed down fifteen minutes into opening night."
"Oh." They'd reply, obviously baffled. "I really like Phantom..."
When I was about seventeen, I was on one of my Borders hunts. I was starving for new musicals, bad with money (two traits that have never left me) and had just enough to buy one CD if I decided to forgo lunch. I passed through their selection; nothing was really jumping out at me until I saw it.
"Legally Blonde? They made a musical out of Legally Blonde?!"
If there is one thing that is more powerful than my snobbery, it's my desire to hoard. If there is a cast recording of it, I want it. I don't care what the show is, I want that recording! (This explains the multiple copies of Phantom I possess) and so, despite the fact that I found the idea of a Legally Blonde musical ridiculous and despite the fact that I'd already passed it off as "terrible" in my mind, I bought it.
When I got home, I put the music onto my MP3 player and went about my tradition for listening to new cast recordings which includes a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of Raro and my favourite spot on the porch step.
I sat back to listen, sneer firmly fixed on my face. I listened to the first song and rolled my eyes so hard that I may have sprained a retina. The second song played and I snorted. Halfway through the third song and I was grinning like an idiot and then came "Blood in the Water". This is the song that made me laugh out loud and fall in love with the show. The lyrics were clever and witty and the character of Callahan was played by Michael Rupert (!!!!) who I already loved from his work in the musicals Falsettoland and Elegies. The soundtrack stopped and then I played it again. I had it on repeat for about a month. "Blood in the Water" was added to my daily shower song list and Callahan was added to my list of top ten dream roles I wanted to play (although to someone who then and now considers himself a non-singer, it seemed like a delightfully unattainable dream...) The idea of Legally Blonde the Musical is bizarre and ridiculous and yet it works. The show is fun, funny, clever, catchy, and full of heart.
In Legally Blonde, the main character Elle is judged for her appearance. She's seen as dumb, flighty, vapid and slutty despite none of these things being reflected in her character. She is unfairly judged by a majority of the characters and all she needs is to be given a chance.
When I first saw the Legally Blonde cast recording, I went into full judgement mode. I thought it would be a stupid show, filled with unoriginal characters, unintelligent lyrics and music that sounds like a Britney Spears song. I gave it a chance, and I was wrong. How's that for a case of life imitating art?
I learned that, even when it comes to musical theatre, never judge a book by its cover.
Except for Phantom. Always judge Phantom.