For the Love of Originality

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By Samantha Dupler

If you were to do a Google search on “best musicals,” the following would come up:

These, statistically, are the musicals most written about on the internet; the ones generally most beloved by the world, or at least the ones that have generated the most hype and overall fame. Let’s take the time now to breakdown the plots of each one of these “best musicals.”

West Side Story- Romeo and Juliet in a 1960s cityscape, love makes all realize the evil of their segregated ways.

Chicago- Matricide and sororicide committed by jealous woman, exploitation of sex and violence for means of personal celebrity ensue.

The Sound of Music- Woman falls in love with man and his children, girl falls in love with kind-hearted Nazi.

My Fair Lady- Gawdon Bennet! Professor turns workin’ girl in’er a well-spoken lady, ultimately fallin’ fer da very charms ‘e instilled in ‘er. OK?

The Phantom of the Opera- Disfigured musical genius and wealthy opera patron fight over soprano soloist in 1880s Paris.

Les Misérables- Love of country, love of family, love of the law, love of greed, love of significant other, love of…someone else’s significant other?

Cabaret- British nightclub singer Bowles and American writer Bradshaw hook up amidst not-so kind-hearted Nazis.

Fiddler On the Roof- Four love stories and a funeral for past traditions.

Grease- If the object of your teenage affection doesn’t feel the same way about you, change yourself until he sees you’re willing to put out.

 

And the one thing that every single one of these shows has in common (besides popular music and a fan base)?

Love.

Romantic love between two or more human beings is the driving force in every one of the aforementioned musicals. If that romance were to be removed, the skeleton of the show would remain, but the heart and soul would vanish. After noticing this trend, it got me thinking: are there any significant musicals without any romantic plot lines? If not, is it even possible to have such a musical?

If you ask me, I say absolutely, and it has been done before with great success, the ultimate example being the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history, A Chorus Line. This musical is different from any of the above listed in that it is completely devoid of romantic love on stage, save for hints of Cassie and Zach’s past relationship. The plot is not driven forward by love between two people; there are no songs about it, no kissing, no famous couplings (think Raoul/Christine, Marius/Cosette, Anthony/Johanna). Instead, any and all instances where love between humans would be are replaced by a different kind of love: the love of theater. Passion for performing is the only kind of romance found in the show, and it proves that a successful mainstream musical doesn’t have to include romantic love.

But let’s look beyond A Chorus Line for a second. Surely there are other popular musicals without love songs and relationships, right? After some searching around for a bit, I came up with a few titles:

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-Annie

-The Lion King

-Mary Poppins

-Peter Pan

Now, what is the one thing that every single one of these shows have in common? They are written for or about children. Do writers and producers think that children are incapable of sitting through a romance-fueled musical? Or, worse yet, do they think that adult audiences members are incapable of enjoying a show centered around something other than boy-meets-girl?

This is not to say that all adult-oriented musicals are like this, like the aforementioned A Chorus Line, as well as shows with very little romantic love like Gypsy or The Book of Mormon. Maybe in the near future, we will see more musicals start to branch out and explore characters with non-romantic passions, or a story that doesn’t rely on love to propel it forward. It’s not that the shows on the list of “best musicals” are bad or unoriginal (in fact, a handful of them are some of my all-time favorites), it’s just that it would be nice to see a musical with a driving force that’s different from them, or just about any other show in the history of Broadway.

What do you think? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.