We do it the Indian way yah!

Posted: December 6, 2010 by rekasg in Genre, Musical Trends, Origins

Dasgupta (1996, p. 173) states that in a country (India), where less than five percent buy or read newspapers and books, the Hindi film is the only popular form of literature and art for the vast masses of the common people.

Why is there such a draw to this form of art – what has made this the most common artform to reach the masses of India?

While the traditional ‘Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance‘ – Indian cinema produces movies that contain a mix of various genres in one film; especially action. Typically these films freely mix action, comedy, drama, romance and melodrama. These films tend to be musicals that include songs filmed in picturesque locations. Masala (meaning mixture of spices) is a term given to these genre of films from the Indian cinema. (Wikipedia, 2010)

West (Hollywood) and East (Bollywood) have influenced each other for the longest time in terms of capturing entertainment value for the masses via movies and songs. While the plot is usually the main entertainment for Hollywood musicals, Bollywood usually uses an average of 5-6 songs and background music as a natural mode of articulation in a given situation in their films. There is a strong Indian tradition of narrating mythology, history, fairy stories and so on through song and dance. Also, while in western musicals the songs are blended into existing environments – the easterners tend to showcase illusions and even compete to make it as elaborate as possible. (Wimal, 2004, p.98-99)

The Indian way of Cinematic explosion has also been a great influence in Hollywood making especially in recent times. In Baz Luhrmann’s interview on Moulin Rouge! (2001), he mentions that he was inspired to create cinematic musical after watch a Bollywood movie while in India. (To read more of the interview, click here.) This notably lead to many more Muscial movie productions from ‘Chicago’ to the upcoming ‘Burlesque’. The influence of Bollywood does not only extend to movies but songs such as ‘Addictive’ by Truth Hurts (produced by Dr.Dre) included a portion by Lata Mangeshkar’s “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai” from Jyoti (1981) (- which lead to a $500 million lawsuit).

The mix of Hollywood and Bollywood has given us movies such as ‘Bend it like Beckham’, ‘Mistress of Spice’, ‘Bride and Prejudice’ and the recent ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ – where there is a fusion of Indian actors with English scripts and taken in mordern London or America.

As an avid fan of both Musicals and Indian Cinema, the differences have been vast for years – but with the recent trend of cross-influencing, it’s interesting (to the extent of giggles) to watch Hollywood musical movies where actors break into songs and sycronised dances. To celebrate the magic of Bollywood, here’s a part of Lagaan (2001) that was nominateed for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and another dance extravaganza from the movie Devadas (2002) which was nominated for BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Lastly, after some Bollywood loving, do indulge in some Hollywood – Moulin Rouge!


Lagaan (2001) – Song about Villagers awaiting the rain for Harvest:

Devadas (2002) – Celebrations with stylish Sarees and Bollywood dancing!!:

Moulin Rouge! – Final Scene – Come What May! (irony of it being heavily influenced by Indian Costumes and scene):


Musical Theatre Audience Evolution

Posted: December 5, 2010 by antopatterson in Audience

The style of musicals changed but the high society class attending the theater would never change.

Place  (2002-2010) believes that centuries removed from the days of the original theater, most commoners still find it difficult to obtain excellent seats at some of the best theatrical performances; however, today it is much easier to get into the door of the theater houses by purchasing seats that are less in price and further from the stage.

However, Stimac (1999) disagrees and acknowledged that “the playgoing public is also becoming more diverse in regards to age and race” with many plays going out to local neighbourhood theatres instead of it being reserved for the upper class (Stimac, 1999, Para 1).

There are also more youth theatre-goers attending plays according to Childs (1999, cited in Stimac 1999, Para 7).

In New York, a typical audience demographic for their musical theatre would be  “a young (35 or under) woman or gay man working in the creative or entertainment industries. Most of our audience are in-the-know locals; 95% lives within the five boroughs of New York City.  Over 80% have a college education or beyond, and their average salary is between $75,000 and $100,000” (National Music Theater Network, Inc., 2004-2010, Audience Demographics section).

What is your favourite type of musical?

Posted: December 5, 2010 by joce2812 in Audience, Genre

As pointed out by some of my other group mates in earlier posts, there are many different kinds of musicals. There’s the classical musical like Phantom of the Opera, the TV musical like Moulin Rouge, the hybrid musical like Glee and the jukebox musical, like Mama Mia, which featured songs only from ABBA.

Out of all these, I think my favourite ones would be TV, film and hybrid musicals. I love them because of their easy accessibility. Not only that, they’re also way cheaper to get your hands on. Stage musical tickets can go from $35 to over $100 while movie tickets are only about $10. Sure all musicals are beautiful and engaging, but one can’t deny the advantages of TV, film and hybrid musicals. If you love your musicals but have a tight budget, then these musicals are just the ones for you. It also helps that many stage musicals have been adapted into TV and film musicals in recent times. Some examples are The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Sweeny Todd and A Christmas Carol. Sometimes the film and TV versions seem even better than the stage versions because of the added effects and advancement of technology. Everything then seems more real and the overall effect is even more astounding than if it were played out on stage, where there are space constraints and usually less impressive effects.

I also find hybrid musicals more interesting at times because of its momentum. It’s not always all song and dance and sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the spoken scenes, which in contrast to the music, makes things more serious and engaging. It’s also a nice mixture of music and dialogue. It’s surprising sometimes how the characters suddenly break out into song and dance, like in the musical episodes of Ally Mcbeal and How I Met Your Mother.

But of course with advantages also come disadvantages. With TV and film musicals, there isn’t the same atmosphere and ambience of being at a stage musical. Stage musicals also make us more appreciative of the effort put into the props and the effects achieved due to its increased difficulty. Sound quality is also usually much better as the singers belt out their emotions live in front of you, letting you better feel exactly what they feel.

However, beggars can’t be choosers. Stage musicals may make the perfect occasional treat but TV, film and hybrid musicals will always be my all-time favourites.

Kids Love Their Music!

Posted: December 5, 2010 by joce2812 in Audience

If you’ve actually noticed, many kid programmes use music as a way of engaging with the children. The Big Blue House, Teletubbies, Barney, Hi-5 and many many more. Kids just love music. In fact, Hi-5 is one of the most popular children icon in the world, and their little fans know all their songs! No matter how many changes of group members they go through, the kids’ love for Hi-5 just doesn’t die.  And it all lies in the music. Every episode features a different song with a different accompanying dance. I remember watching Hi-5 with my younger siblings as a kid, and we loved it whenever it was time for song and dance! All 3 of us would jump up and into the groove of things, moving in sync with the group, mimicking their every move until we were pros at it. They were our pop princes and princesses really! Just look at how all the kids at their live shows LOVE being part of the song and dance and the adoration on their faces!

Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks do it too, with their movies and cartoons. A kid show just isn’t complete without some music in it. Some songs even go on to become big hits, like I Like to Move It from Madagascar. It’s a personal favourite actually.

There are also many local musical productions for kids. Some of the latest include Beauty and the Beast by Act3 and Pinocchio by the Singapore Repertory Theatre. Most times, even the parents who accompanied their children enjoyed the shows.  Musicals truly are for all ages, but come to think of it now, we really all start young.

Transnational Popular Culture lah!

Posted: December 5, 2010 by joycepsj in Audience, Genre, Musical Trends, Origins

As mentioned many times in our previous blog posts –  we all know the famous, internationally-acclaimed musicals by now: Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, Cats and even hybrid musicals like Glee. Disney movies, which are also considered musicals have are popular with Singaporean adults and children alike. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty… the list goes on.

Foreign musical productions made their mark in Singapore way back in the days of British colonial rule in the 1800s. Since then, Singaporean audiences have been treated to revivals of popular foreign musicals. As their appetite for such Western art form grew, local theater companies were set up to produce their own versions of musicals.

One successful example of local productions which have made their mark not just locally but overseas is Singapore Repertory Theatre’s “Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress” which debuted in 2002. Featuring home-grown talents such as Kit Chan, who played Empress Dowager Cixi.

Local productions such as Forbidden City features memorable enchanting music that is an eloquent blend of east and west; the legend of a Chinese icon told in the tradition of a western musical, written and produced in Singapore.

With the success of Forbidden City came a myriad of other local musical productions with local flavour such as Dim Sum Dollies, Liao Zhai Rocks!, Sleepless Town and December Rain to name a few. These productions feature unique Singaporean elements such as the use of Singlish -Singapore Colloquial English with infusions of local dialects and references to behaviours that are unique to locals.

In more recent years, local production companies have taken creativity to a whole new level, making pantomimes out of well-known western classics. Some successful examples which was hugely received by audiences both local and foreign are Wild Rice Theatre’s Cinderel-lah, Oi! Sleeping Beauty, Animal Farm, Jack & The Beansprout!, Beauty & the Beast and Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.

Singapore has a wealth of local stories, myths, and folk tales to share. This reservoir of untapped stories which have the potential to be told in a uniquely Singaporean way with a universal theme seems to suggest that there is great potential for local musical productions to be exported internationally.

Modernity has brought about foreign productions into Singapore. This led to the onset of the musical popular culture, which was later adapted with local elements, and re-introduced globally. Can you see the interrelationship between modernity, globalisation and popular culture in action?


Why musicals still cut it

Posted: December 4, 2010 by joycepsj in Genre, Musical Trends

There are many forms of popular culture. Wikipedia defines popular culture as being the “totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture”. This broadly suggests that any phenomena that are “popular” or widely accepted by the mainstream can be constituted as “popular culture”.

In this sense, popular culture takes many forms – musical, film, photography, fashion, literature, theatrical, television, technological, etc. Yet these are just some of the broader stems of popular culture that branches out to a wide variety of sub-cultures that are, to name a few, hip-hop, jazz, geek, reality television, street, fantasy, online social networking. Some sub-products of popular culture have even been so widely accepted that they have become a popular culture by itself. One good example of this is Harry Potter – the literary work of British author JK Rowling.

We could attempt to name all forms of popular culture but the list will go on and on – “popular culture” since the first days of its study has become so broad, so available, and so general.

In today’s terms then, where do Musicals stand as a form of popular culture amongst all the other forms of popular culture? Do Musicals possess any traits that distinct itself against other popular culture? Would the following traits about Musicals that we have gathered from our research hold any water? We’ll let you decide.

Musicals are Timeless
One of the arguably best things about musicals is that it is timeless. Musicals are never “out of fashion”. Reality TV series such as Survivor, The Bachelor and American Idol may be hugely popular while they are being screened to the mass audience. They may receive a lot of attention and achieve soaring reviews, but after some time, people forget them. Even if they do make a come-back with a second instalment of the same drama, it may have lost its appeal amongst the audience. Take American Idol for example. We all remember Kelly Clarkson as being crowned as being the winner in the first season of American Idol in 2002 – but do you know who is the winner for the latest ninth season of American Idol in 2010? Or does the name of the winner, Lee DeWyze even ring a bell? Maybe not. Statistics have shown that this year’s American Idol finale drew its lowest audience since 2002 as an estimated 24.2 million viewers compared to the average of 31.6 million in previous seasons.

Some musicals are simply unforgettable. Perhaps it is the moral lesson behind the story, perhaps it is the music that captures feelings that are impossible to express with words, perhaps it is the theatrical choreography or perhaps it is the totality of all the mentioned put together and conveyed to the audience in less than two hours – we do not know. But there is certainly something about musicals that make them more than a short-lived fad, something that makes a show like Phantom of The Opera hugely popular until today since its first broadway debut in 1986.

Musicals are Universal
The story may be set in a certain country, or the main protagonist may be of a certain nationality, but at the end of the day it does not really matter because we can identify with the characters, and see parts of ourselves in them. We cry with them, we laugh with them. Expressions of their heartache and joy in the musical which are conveyed through song, dance, music, are understood by people who do not speak the same language. That is the beauty of musical, and the reason why Disney’s Lion King on Broadway has been performed at countries all over the world, and are still travelling to different countries to perform to millions of audience today.


Musicals are Adaptable
As you would have known by now, musicals began in the theatres in its earliest days. Stage, music, characters on stage. Today, however, the concept of conveying a story by means of music has been adapted many times and in many different channels. We have mentioned Hugh Jackman’s and Neil Patrick Harris’ renditions at the Oscars. Other famous examples are the adaptation of Sweeny Todd, Mama Mia and Phantom of the Opera from theatre to movie. But there are also adaptation of musicals in other forms of popular culture such as TV Dramas, “How I Met Your Mother”, in which the character played by Neil Patrick Harris, Barney Stinson sings “Nothing suits me like a suit” in the 100th episode of the show.

That said, would you agree that Musicals as a form of popular culture, has stood the test of time thus far and will possibly continue to do so?


Razzle Dazzle ‘Em

Posted: December 3, 2010 by robotzombies in Uncategorized

The entertainment industry is filled with numerous devices used to entice audiences, from the bizarre to the moving. However there is a niche that is filled primarily by musicals, one that appeals to the audience’s need for splendor and vibrancy. This theory works on the assumption that musicals are often garishly excessive in many respects. Whether it’s in the form of lavish sets or seductive dance routines, a musical is often able to blow the lid off a performance with its unapologetic need to entertain. It is this “over the top” quality that sets musicals apart from other genres.

The new motion picture musical Burlesque plays up on just that with its bold and beautiful characters. The scene below is completely reminiscent of modern hybrid musicals, filled with the characteristics we’ve learnt to expect of and associate with the genre. The dance sequence is almost clichéd in its flamboyance, with the obligatory prance around the club from stage to bar top and beyond. Paired with the glittery corsets and blond bombshell attitude, Burlesque is pure spectacle and certainly raises its glass to the flamboyant world of musicals and then some.

Next up we have the infamous Cell Block Tango with Chicago’s larger than life femme fatales. Everything in this number, each move and line delivered, is exaggerated and pronounced. Combined with the shadowy but deliberate lighting, the entire sequence conveys such an overwhelming sense of melodrama that is so second nature to musicals.

And who can forget the magnificent masquerade ball from The Phantom of the Opera movie in all its resplendent grandeur. Given that the film was set around 1870, it took a different approach to flamboyance. It was however no less extravagant. The film more than lived up to the notion of musicals being excessive by invoking within the audience a sense of awe, awe that can only be experienced when one is in the presence of something truly majestic. With its lavishly baroque ballroom set and grandiose costumes, it’s no wonder The Phantom of the Opera remains at the pinnacle of musical history.

This recurring theme of theatricality in musicals throughout history has made the genre very distinct. To put it simply, you’d be able to tell if you were watching a musical thanks to this feature, even if the actors were not blatantly bursting into song every few minutes.