Something for No One: Musical Theatre Comedy, Not Tonight!

Last month, Beetlejuice on Broadway inspired this observation:

Must damn-near EVERY musical comedy on the Great White Way nowadays rely oh-so heavily on post-modern, wink-wink, self-aware humor about the ridiculousness of the form’s tropes? No amount of lampshading can reduce the irksome derivativeness of the (bafflingly still crowd-pleasing) ‘LOOK AT SILLY US CLEVER AND SILLY ENOUGH TO SILLILY ACKNOWLEDGE OUR SHAMELESS SILLINESS PUTTING ON A SILLY SHOW HA HA HA HA WE’RE UBER FUCKING SILLY AND WITTY HA HA HA SEE HOW THAT RHYMED JUST LIKE A MUSICAL HOW COOKY AND SILLY LAUGH YOU FELLOW SILLIES IF YOU’RE SMART AND SILLY ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THESE FRESH AND ORIGINAL AND CREATIVE AND NOVEL AND SILLY YUCKS!!!” comic approach?

Make.

It.

ALL.

Stop.”

Well, dear reader, it hasn’t.

The shows I’ve seen since Beetlejuice that are guilty of the same crime: Tootsie, Dog Man: The Musical (literally for children!) Rock of Ages (14 years old!), and Kiss Me, Kate (70 years ancient!). All in a span of a few weeks!

Yikes.

Why are books still written like a laugh track sitcom that doesn’t realize it’s the 21st century? When you can’t figure out how to write musical theatre jokes, just write jokes about musical theatre, I guess!

Like, this nonsense dates back to Act 5 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (over 400 years ago!), and I’m sure there are previous antecedents (any from Greek antiquity??) scholars can school us on. Obviously artistic trends are endlessly rejiggered from era to era, but too many of these remixes constitute empty nostalgia, AKA: reveling in cliches without deconstructing them, offering not a lick of insightful commentary on the original material whose appeal they’re mooching.

Coincidentally enough, that’s a pretty apt definition of empty revivals as well!

Regurgitation at its (opposite of) finest.

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