I saw Come From Away last week and I’m still floating on a cloud of musical theatre joy over here.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Come From Away tells the true story of 38 planes that, amidst the terror of 9/11, found themselves being diverted into Newfoundland, a tiny remote Canadian island with only 9000 inhabitants. Suddenly the island had to cope with housing, feeding and comforting 7000 passengers and all the logistical and cultural challenges this brought with it.
Along the way we meet characters such as a mother desperately hoping for news from her NY firefighter son, a couple responding very differently to the crisis, and an Egyptian man facing fear from those around him.
The musical is moving, funny and hopeful and had me both crying and dancing in my seat. I was an absolute snotty wreck by the end of it and I LOVED it.
I get so annoyed when musical theatre gets dismissed as somehow a ‘lesser’ form than ‘straight’ theatre, and Come From Away is a perfect example of why I will always be a die hard musical theatre nerd. Because with soaring music, beautiful lyrics and heartfelt and accomplished performances, how could it not be considered ‘art’?
Take Sondheim. The depth and complexity of his music and lyrics are incredible and, whilst they might not be to your taste, they are undeniably skilled and artful. Deciding that musical theatre is shit because you didn’t like that production of Mary Poppins you saw when you were eight is akin to reading one novel and pronouncing that you hate all literature.
I’ve had people tell me they hate musical theatre but that they love The Book of Mormon, Hamilton and Avenue Q. Um…what did you think those shows are? There seems to be a misconception that those sorts of shows are somehow anomalous, that the rest of the musical theatre canon isn’t like that and somehow the jazz-hand nerds let these cool shows slip through the net.
What I think people are really saying when they tell me ‘I hate musicals but I do love…’ is one of two things:
- That they have a somewhat narrow definition of what a musical actually is and have determined that the shows they like don’t ‘count’. I’m 100% guilty of this when I say I don’t like hip-hop when in fact what I mean is that, of the very limited hip-hop I’ve heard, I only like a few artists.
- That they don’t want to be seen to like musical theatre, because it’s not cool, or it’s not cultured enough. And that’s just silly. I’m living proof that that’s wrong. I LOVE musical theatre and I’m astonishingly cool and cultured a.f. So there.
Of course we all only have so much time in our lives and if you’ve encountered a genre of any kind of entertainment a few times and it’s not for you, fair enough. You don’t have to like everything. But you also don’t have to not like something because you think that you shouldn’t.
Wouldn’t it be great to really own the things that you like? I like watching Say Yes To the Dress and Catfish for entire Sundays. You like 50 Shades of Grey? And opera? Fucking great mate!
One of the awesome things about nerd culture within any sphere is the unashamed joy that people get out of their passion. We need more unbridled joy in the world.
So let’s go forth, nerds of all shapes and sizes, and love the things we love. No more cynicism.
(And if someone knows how to get me a ticket to Hamilton cheaper than my rent, please do get in touch)