Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Singing the praises of the musical

I first realised that Simon Cowell had achieved world domination when I invited two cultured friends to an opera and they replied “We can’t possibly go out that night – it’s the start of The X-Factor!”

Even more amazingly, the opera concerned was one of those summer country house affairs, which means that Mr Cowell’s TV money-making machine must have been churning away every weekend from balmy late August through to polar mid-December.

The strangest thing to me was that I knew for a fact that my friends possessed one of those Sky Plus Box gizmos and could perfectly well have watched the show later, with the added bonus of being able to fast-forward through the ads. Apparently, though, it’s just not the same.

Indeed, for complete satisfaction I understand that you must not only see these things live, but share your views of them with the world every few minutes via Twitter and Facebook. A great service for the likes of me, because an occasional glance at these has enabled me to pretend to be in touch with what is going on not only on The X-Factor, but also The Apprentice, Strictly Come Dancing and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here without wasting great chunks of my life actually watching them.

Not that I have anything against popular entertainment. I spent almost every evening last week glued to the unfolding drama that was the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street, even though ITV had done their utmost to drain it of any surprises by emailing me months beforehand with previews of their tram crash and details of which actors had decided to leave the series or been sacked by its new producer.

Only on Wednesday did I rely on my old-fashioned video recorder to keep me up to date as I slithered through the snow-covered streets of Jesmond to see the Royal Grammar School’s production of Oklahoma! A show I had always viewed with the utmost suspicion because it was my mother’s favourite, causing her to go slightly weak-kneed whenever Edmund Hockridge appeared on TV variety shows singing the one about the surrey with a fringe on top.

I had to dig my way into my house before I went out to the show
Hoping the performance would take my mind off the weight of snow on my conservatory roof
 In the early 1980s a production of Oklahoma! at the Palace Theatre tempted mum to visit London for the first time since she had accompanied her father there on a business trip some 60 years earlier. I took her to the show over my own dead body and absolutely loved it, and have been a keen fan of musicals ever since.

I have seen other professional stage productions of Oklahoma!, along with the classic film, but the energy and enthusiasm of the 16 to 18-year-olds of the RGS carried all before them. I sat with a big, silly grin on my face from the opening bars of the overture to the closing reprise of the title song, and drove home humming happily.

The brilliant cast ... and a probable breach of the Data Protection Act, now I come to think of it
A fortnight's snow layered like something out of a geology lesson
 Four days earlier I had spent rather a lot of money to see the glamorous diva Angela Gheorghiu perform the title role in the operatic rarity Adriana Lecouvreur to a packed house at Covent Garden. I enjoyed it, but Oklahoma! was infinitely greater fun – and yet there were empty seats in the RGS auditorium.

It is good to be reminded that there is a wealth of talent all around us, both amateur and professional, and that a live show on stage provides a true reality and immediacy that television can never match. So if your life is a desert now that The X Factor is over, why not try taking in a different sort of pantomime at your local theatre or village hall? You could even extend the slapstick beyond the stage by trying to use your iPhone to post irritatingly frequent updates on the performance for your followers on Twitter.

All together now: “Oh no, you couldn’t!”
Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

heymrdj said...

bloody x factor, population obsessed with fame and fortune, glitter and notoriety, we reap what we sow....