Hannukah song

This here blog has now passed the ten-thousand “hit” mark. Five-figured visitations! If you’d told me, when I began in 2010, that this thing would be read 10,000 times before the end of 2012, I’d have thought: “That can’t be right. Don’t you mean a million?”  I was certain there’d be world domination by now.

Ideally, these jottings would inspire the creation of better musicals. And if you’ve found that musicals have gotten better over the past two years or so, I humbly accept your thanks.  But there’s little evidence shows are getting better, alas, and I’m beginning to feel responsible. Is the problem that too few writers are reading this, heeding my advice?

Recently, I’ve seen some signs that a number of would-be musical writers aren’t bothering to learn the craft. They figure it might be neat to come up with a show, launch in feet first (head last) with predictably puerile results.  We live in a world of dreamers.  The Broadway angel who hopes for return on her investment is one kind of dreamer.  The let’s-just-write-a-show-it-ought-to-be-easy type is another. An expression I like, “They don’t give these jobs to chimps.” applies to the show-writing crowd. It takes intelligence, talent, and a knowledge base.

But some days it seems like I’m stranded in the Planet of the Apes.  Now, I must admit I worry about negativity here: this blog shouldn’t be a harangue against bad craft, but a celebration of good craft. I hope you’ve read my recent survey of the dozen show writers I think you should know. Or, earlier, pieces I’m particularly proud of about award-winning contemporaries Jeff Blumenkrantz and Marcy Heisler. Today was a happy day as I got to play two Blumenkrantz songs I like. When I get a little low, I listen to the best of what’s being created today for musical theatre.

But I find it dispiriting to see neophytes defend their use of false rhymes, for instance. They’re like comically wrong-headed rebellious teens. “You’re stifling my creativity, Teach, saying I gots to spell good; artists gotta flow.”

(Seems like a good time for me to apologize for all the spelling mistakes those 20,000 eyes have seen.  It’s no excuse to say I often dash these things off very quickly.  Compared to a lot of other blogs I see, however, I’m pretty good.)

There are good reasons the great musicals are written the way they are. Songs with hooks, utilizing a good title, and a bridge, tend to be more effective that those that don’t, for example. One oft-reiterated theme of this blog is that it’s a good idea to examine the genre’s paradigms, not to devise constricting rules, but just to glean a sense of How They Did It.

Before people become auto mechanics, they spend a span of time under a lifted hood, just staring at the engine. They’re fascinated. A curious mind wonders how things work, and one might even find the internal combustion engine a thing if beauty. Often, on this blog, I’m pointing out what I’ve observed about the inner workings of a musical. Sometimes, I reveal How I Did It, or speculate How They Did It. I hope you find this stuff fascinating. And even beautiful.

But I keep encountering those who refuse to look at these things.  They’d rather run on instincts than reason.  Theirs are little engines that can’t.  If you’ve refused to connect spark plugs, finding it too constricting to do so, well, you’re not going anywhere.  I wish I could reach those people before they waste their time, and the time of any audience they reach.  I guess that, while I’m honestly grateful for the 10,000 hits, tonight I’m focusing on those who write shows but don’t read this blog.  And that’s just like me: I can’t see the forest for the forest fire nearby.

The ten-thousand mark should elate me.  It’s proof I’m reaching somebody.  But it’s not in my nature to shout yippee. It’s more in my nature to torture a metaphor, like those spark plugs that set off a forest fire in the previous paragraph.  I also use too much alliteration here.  But I do like the odd exhortation.  And so I ask you:

  • If you know someone who loves musicals who isn’t reading this blog, tell them about it.
  • And, what would make us all the happiest: Write a really good musical.

Will you do that for me?  It can’t be that hard.

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