Friday, April 28, 2006

How Can I Offend You? Let Me Count The Ways

I knew that the musical Rent had homosexual characters, but I assumed that they were cleaned up Will and Grace homosexuals--the kind that really do exist--but that seem to be more common in television and movies than in real life. (This assumes, of course, that living in the San Francisco Bay Area qualifies as "real life.") Rent was a real surprise. Not a pleasant one, either.

I've never been a big fan of musicals. Perhaps it is because the conceit of an art form that pretends that ordinary people will break into perfect song as part of emotionally powerful dramat (or comedy) just overstretches my credulity. I enjoyed The Sound of Music, but I confess, there aren't many musicals that don't leave me sitting there wondering, "Why bother?" We rented Rent because my wife is going to be teaching a class about the history of drama, and she wanted to see what modern stage productions there might be to have students watch and discuss. I don't think so.

Rent is one of those reminders that you can invest a lot of talent in writing music and lyrics, find some very talented actors to sing those songs--and still end up with a depressing and unpleasant product. Rent is about a bunch of people dying of AIDS, many of them homosexual, and all of them unpleasantly full of themselves, feeling sorry for themselves, and in general, behaving like the sort of irresponsible and immature bunch that I have long associated with being an artiste.

The lyrics to "La Vie de Boheme," one of the high energy numbers, are here. It is rather as though the lyrcists was trying to see how many different ways to offend the majority of Americans.

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