Thursday, 31 January 2008

Oh What a Circus

I always hated musicals as a kid. Apart from West Side Story, which I don't believe is possible not to like. They always seemed so unnatural, and even a bit creepy: why are these people singing, and why are passersby and incidental characters always being forced to join in these weird co-ordinated dance routines around the main cast, as if compelled by an external and invisible force stronger than their own will?

But I'm reconsidering my position after listening to the Cabaret and Evita soundtracks at Mamiko's mother's place over the past few days. They really are very good; psychologically interesting in a way I hadn't given musicals credit for in the past, and musically mature too - more adult than what I remember Oliver!, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma etc. being like.

From a British perspective, Evita is also historically interesting for two reasons: firstly because Argentina and Britain have such an odd relationship, being so antagonistic and yet so obviously similar in character. But secondly because the story of Evita is so similar to that of Lady Diana - the title song could in fact just as likely have been written about her death and funeral rather than Eva Peron's. The sarcastic line - But who is this Santa Evita? Why all this crying, hysterical sorrow? What kind of goddess has walked among us? How will we ever get by without her? - sounds like a pithy puncturing of all the ridiculous over-hyping of Diana's death, which back then I thought was absurd and which now, ten years later, most British people look back on as a national embarrassment, especially since, like the line in the song about Evita, Diana had actually done nothing for years. Other than, I suppose, look waif-like and vulnerable while throwing herself from rich boyfriend to rich boyfriend.

What is it about Argentina and Britain, two nations hitherto reknowned for an almost ridiculous consciousness of propriety and correctness, that made them go so loony over the deaths of these two women?


zero_zero_one said...

You should see the Marlon Brando film of Guys And Dolls: it's just amazing, a fantastic musical.

I'm not sure what it is about Evita and Diana... I read a piece about JFK once, which said that if he had survived then eventually his philandering would have become well known in his life, and it would have tarnished his reputation and the legacy of all that he accomplished. Instead, he remains forever young, smiling, waving from the motorcade or standing there saying "Ich bin ein Berliner."

Maybe the same is true of Diana; we know now that she wasn't whiter than white, but still this doesn't really sully what people remember her for (not that it should necessarily, but people are people), and I think one of the reasons is that she died so young and so suddenly.

noisms said...

I've seen Guys and Dolls loads of times, actually. My sister used to make me watch it with her when we were kids. It's okay, but I think my favourite character in it was the Frank Sinatra one rather than Marlon Brando. (Isn't his name in it something like Sky Masterson or somesuch? I can only vaguely remember.)

zero_zero_one said...

Vaguely remember, yeah, OK, if that's your story, we believe you...

Sky Masterson is Brando, and Sinatra is Nathan Detroit.