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November 12, 2006


Chris Boyd

OMG, I can't believe the Broadway production of "The Glums" ran for SIXTEEN YEARS! I saw it in 1987 -- as a tender 27 year-old (heh) -- and it was pretty tired then. (The Australian one, a year or two later, looked magnificent in comparison... we had a great Javert and Enjolras.) (Scuse possibly barmy spelling.)

I've got a feeling it was the London Guardian critic who labelled Les Miserables "emotionally dishonest." A curious comment.

Me? Give me Phantom of the Opera, any day. It doesn't 'masquerade' as anything but a piece of mainstage music theatre. It does what it does with distinction.


Phantom and Les Mis are both different permutations of the same thing-- they're the Bruckheimer movies of Broadway. There is nothing dishonest about Les Mis-- it's not trying to say it is anything other than large-scale bombastic entertainment, and Phantom is no less cheap in its emotional manipulations or less blunt in its grandosity.

What they helped usher in was the expectation of ridiculous spectacle in Broadway shows, which has lead us to mistake things like "The Lion King" for Great Art instead of what it is-- a pagent.

David Cote

In terms of psychic agony, Les Miz caused me less pain than Phantom, but they are incredibly long, boring, tasteless, infantile products that force-feed their audiences sonic mayonnaise and emotional MSG. At the end of the day, it's true, The Lion King is no more artful than Les Miz or even the cheesy Phantom, it's just large-scale, feel-good spectacle designed to wow the senses. Historically it's in the same cultural contiuum as bear-baiting, public executions, grand opera and Elizabethan masques. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? I'd rather the artists try to wow my mind or geniunely delight my ears, but I guess that what Stephen Sondheim's for, right?

Chris Boyd

Can I assume, then, you guys didn't see the original Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Steve Barton combo in Phantom? That was theatre. More than just mayo. Really.

Crawford was captivating. Unrecognisable. (I had front row stalls for the second or third performance. I stared!) An actor of the first order.

The idea of Brightman as Christine (with Andrew Lloyd Webber as her hideously deformed composer, heh!) was more interesting than the reality... like Madonna playing Eva Peron. Great idea, shame about the execution.

The Texan who played Raoul in the first year in London and the first Broadway cast rocked too.

As a rule, I can't stand 'musicals', but this was a definition of melodrama.

Don't get me wrong, I adore Sondheim (especially Sweeney Todd, Company, Assassins and Into the Woods... mmm Bernadette Peeeters!) but he does something quite different. He does art. Sometimes I just want entertainment.

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