WHEN it comes to musical theatre, my usual feminist good sense flies out the window with the smoke from my smouldering bras.
“You go girl!” I want to shout at the stage when Elle from Legally Blonde proves that she can be pretty and clever and wear pink and be a lawyer, as if I needed a two-hour song and dance extravaganza to prove this. I mean really – in the 21st century?
But it’s great entertainment, one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past few years actually. So what if the central message, while basically uplifting, becomes utterly depressing when you consider that it still needs to be told.
Ditto for Hairspray. Bubbly, cuddly Tracy Turnblad (a much skinnier girl in a fat suit) learns that you can be overweight and find love and success.
And yes the story’s great and the music is lively and, yes, I got a little tear in my eye when Tracy’s mum Edna was transformed from a claustrophobic, drab, housewife into an outgoing party queen simply by having her hair backcombed and putting on a fab new dress.
But there’s me in the audience, thinking: “You go for it Tracy! You show them that size doesn’t matter, except when it’s the height of your beehive!” – forgetting that I already know this, that I’ve known it for years.
That I don’t judge women (or anyone) on their shape or size but on their personalities and abilities.
That we should be living in a society where this is something that is unremarkable, that simply is.
Where such a message should make a musical feel hopelessly outdated, totally redundant. But, sadly, maybe it never will.
The real conundrum though is Seven Brides For Seven Brothers – one of my all time favourite musicals since I watched it during one of our New Year’s Eve double-bill video bonanzas, with the help of the top-loader VHS player my dad borrowed for the occasion.
I love the songs, I love the costumes, I love the twee fake landscape backdrops. I love that whenever I hear my husband singing a single line from Bless Your Beautiful Hide over and over from somewhere else in the house (I forced him to watch it), it’s a sign that he’s feeling particularly cheerful.
I love that, when I’m having a sluggish writing day, I can stick the John Wilson Orchestra’s version of the Barn Dance music on my iPod and it’s whip-cracking tempo revs me up into a fury of typing.
I should hate that it’s basically a film about kidnapping women and holding them captive – albeit it in a nice warm farmhouse with gingham tablecloths and homebaked bread, the sort of place where you’d find Cath Kidston chatting to Delia Smith while crocheting pan holders around the oak kitchen table – until out of sheer boredom or familiarity they’ve fallen in love with you.
It’s Stockholm Syndrome The Movie.
I should hate that because the brothers learn to wash their hands before eating and mind their Ps and Qs that they are suddenly forgiven their appalling behaviour.
But then Howard Keel fires up his bass-baritone and all is forgiven. Perhaps it’s me who is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.