I despise musicals

In the wake of recent blockbusters employing deceptive marketing tactics to hide the fact that they are musicals due to their perceived unpopularity with general audiences, unpacking the reasons why musicals are widely hated reveals larger issues within the mainstream media landscape. Between the extremely strange “Cats” in 2019 and the atrocious musical renditions performed by my high school theater troupe, I have never once seen a musical that did not incite an immediate, visceral reaction.

The terribly overdone ensemble musical numbers that take up most of the time onstage or on-screen are the bulk of the disgust that follows the thought of a musical.  This is not only unpleasant under the circumstances that the ensemble is made up of middle schoolers with no vocal training, but it becomes annoying even if the ensemble is vocally talented. After the third song and dance number in the span of 20 minutes, I’m starting to understand where the pastor in “Footloose” is coming from. 

More than anything else, experiencing impromptu musical numbers is simply uncomfortable. A sudden song and dance reminds you that you are consuming content, so instead of being able to enjoy the content, you perceive that you are supposed to be consuming content. Even more glaringly, musicals tend to tell you instead of showing you something that you are meant to feel. 

Instead of letting you see an emotional moment play out in a cadence that imitates real-life experiences, they explicitly tell you how the characters feel in eye-watering detail, all while performing a pseudo-line dance in character shoes. When watching, it feels as though whoever wrote the script believes you to have the emotional intelligence of a preschooler who hasn’t developed empathy yet.

Musicals often take themselves way too seriously, forcing every major character to have a dedicated solo musical number and utilizing too much levity in serious moments. 

When a character has just found out that their parents are dead, that their boyfriend just broke up with them or even that they are getting evicted, they feel that this is the perfect time to break out into song and dance with the twenty closest bystanders. Not only does this make absolutely no thematic sense, this takes away from the gravity of any moment and sucks the audience out of any immersion into the story they may have achieved. 

Musicals are also guilty of over-stylization and overacting, further contributing to the uncomfortable watching experience. If a moment has not yet been hijacked by a flash mob, then an actor being forced to overact or an extremely cheesy stylistic choice has. 

The experience of watching a musical is akin to looking at photos that have had the vibrance and contrast turned up so much that everything is intense and unnatural. In transforming a story into a musical format, the nuance and subtlety that makes the story intriguing get lost, and only the basic moments of the plot remain.

Musicals are reminiscent of poorly constructed children’s media; they make you feel like you are being pandered to. 

They simplify every  emotion expressed while also expressing it with disingenuous fervor. They tell you what you are meant to be feeling instead of letting you come to your own conclusions about the plot. 

In the end, when you are meant to feel a sense of conclusion from the resolution, you are instead bombarded with a musical number that details exactly what you just witnessed for the past two unbearable hours and what lessons you are meant to take away. 

Musicals come off as cheesy and lack the authenticity that good storytelling ought to have. They are overproduced, ruin their most emotional moments by crudely inserting a song and dance number and are simply uncomfortable and annoying to watch. I hate musicals.