The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

I secretly like musicals.

Probably shouldn’t have said that, right? Whenever I tell people, they give me looks like I’ve just told them I’m in a Nickelback tribute band or have just expressed an interest in naked ice skating.

Musician friends of mine shake their heads and judge me.

It’s not real art, they say. And furthermore, it’s kind of embarrassing.

But why? Because the music is catchy? Because there’s dancing? Because the drama kids were the ones we all made fun of in high school?

When I saw Pauper Players’ “The Wild Party” last week, there were as many adults in the audience as students, and it was way too easy to find seats in the tiny Union Caberet. Embarrassing, for a well-done production.

The stigma our society has against musical theater is stupid and prevents people from seeing performances they may enjoy.

Let’s examine the common excuses: that “Hairspray” and its ilk are unrealistic, less artistic than traditional drama or music, and that the number of eyelinered men in the cast make our straight male friends reluctant to attend shows.

On the first point, I have to agree. Of course musicals are unrealistic — but that’s the point. No one’s friends break into song in an attempt to solve their problems (and if they do, I’d suggest finding new friends).

But that suspension of disbelief makes a show like “Wicked” 500 times more exciting to see on stage than, say, “Death of a Salesman.” Sure, fantastic scenes don’t mirror our day-to-day existence: They hint at something greater, more interesting.

As for the pooh-pooh-ing done by “real” artists and musicians, I’d say they’re jealous. Good musical thespians are like triathletes, able to strike a chord, then strike a pose — then break into a tap dance. The multitasking it takes to pull off every coordinated song and dance number deserves respect if not praise.

They also aren’t afraid to make a fool of themselves. Orating “to be or not to be” takes guts, but the true heroes of show business are able to pull off much sillier lines. In last week’s “The Wild Party,” Jessica Sorgi belted out, “I planned a well-rendered, one-gendered lesbian love story/With good old-fashioned sex in every line!”

It was one of the best songs of the show, but I certainly would have blushed if I’d had to sing it.

Whenever I mention an upcoming show, my guy friends are first to come up with “very important appointments” that mysteriously conflict with every performance. Do you blame them?

A single act of “West Side Story” is worse than “The Notebook” plus some episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” in guy cred.

But that’s dumb. Some of the most famous musicals have all of the elements of popular action movies: there’s a bunch of torture in “Phantom of the Opera,” “West Side Story” ends with a gang fight, and even “The Sound of Music” has Nazis.

If guys still complain that “Sweeny Todd” isn’t for them, I suppose they could go back to watching our tight-pantsed, eye makeuped football team dance around on TV instead.

The way I see it, musical theater is an overlooked art form. People are too unfamiliar with it to like it, and too scared of seeming dorky to give it a try.

But you don’t have to be that way.

Hannah Thurman is a junior journalism major from Raleigh. Contact Hannah at hannahthurman@gmail.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.