How I got atmosphere induced narcolepsy, or why I hate musicals

18 May


I hate musicals, but why?  When I was a kid I loved My Fair Lady, GiGi, Mary Poppins and even The Wizard of Oz.  On Saturday mornings I am usually belting out “Good Morning” from Singing in the Rain.  But, at some point, after seeing Tommy, I began to writhe in my seat whenever an actor would break into song.  And if so much of a scintilla of choreography is present in anything, I practically get apoplectic.  It’s not like my parents beat me with rolled up Playbills or practiced aversion therapy while screening the film adaptation of Oklahoma.  I can listen to the Cole Porter songbook all day long, and I know most of the words to the Rogers & Hammerstein catalog, too.  Still, I can not watch a musical!  So what gives?

After a lot of soul searching and careful consideration I can hone in on exactly two experiences with musicals that have shaped my disability to sit through any production with singing and not squirm then fall fast asleep so that I can detach from what is happening in front of me.

Can you find the crashed car

I loved The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album so good that it is rumored to be the catalyst of Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s most significant nervous breakdown.  Who couldn’t lose themselves staring at the cover art?  It was like a Who’s Who of popular personalities, many of whom were recognizable to me at the time, like the Hardy Brothers, Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley and others who I wouldn’t recognize until I was older.  Furthering my fascination with the cover were the hidden clues as to whether or not Paul McCartney was really dead.

But the album’s jacket was just a window dressing for what was inside.  The music hit me in a way that was really powerful for a little kid.  I didn’t know what made “Within You, Without You” or “A Day in the Life” so good, but they were.  Songs like “Getting Better” or “With a Little Help From My Friends” seemed like they were written especially for me.

Horror movie

You cannot imagine what a shit bomb hit my life during the summer I turned eight.  At the Franklin Road Theater in Marietta, I was taken to see the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.  It was like watching a puppy being tortured.  Everything that I loved about the album had been perverted.  There was a feminine Peter Frampton in painter overalls cavorting with the BeeGees acting as the Beatles, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Steve Martin, George Burns and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Oh, the humanity!  I can only guess that the Beatles green-lighted this mess while they were camped out in India sucking on the hooka pipe and gobbling mushrooms with Ravi Shankar and any two-bit guru with a sitar.

How could this have happened?

So that was number one.  Number two is this:

Simply awful

The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Holding my sides.  Ugh.  Groan.  Eyes are rolling.  Okay, so what I think happened here is that I have older brothers.  Growing up, they would get to “stay out late” when they were going to see the midnight showing of this crapgasm.  They all allegedly loved this movie.  There was the soundtrack album in our house, maybe a poster and lots of quoting at the breakfast table.  At least that’s how I remember it.   I hope to God this was just an act that was played out for the benefit of my mother, who would allow them to break curfew only if they were at the theater.

I guess I was fifteen when I was finally allowed to go see the movie.  Not only was it the Holy Grail…the midnight show, but it was also going to be my first time seeing it.  The palpable excitement that I felt in the car quickly turned to “What the hell?” as we walked up to the ticket booth.  Where did all of those dorks in costumes come from?  It only got worse as people pelted stuff at the screen, shouted out the dialogue, brandished squirt guns and then got up to dance along with the film’s action.  The crowd participation was more animated than seeing a slasher flick at an all black theater.

I couldn’t tell you what happens beyond the first fifteen minutes. The stress of seeing the aptly named Rocky Horror Picture Show and it’s fans marks the first time that I was able to invoke my atmosphere induced narcolepsy.  I have not stayed awake during a musical performance…film or stage produced, since.  I’ve slept through Cats in London, NYC and Atlanta.  Snoozed through Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.  Caught winks during Wicked, Grease, and every musical in the Fox series during 1993…when my mother gave me season tickets.  WTF?  And I even rested my eyes when Snakebite was involved in a play at school.

I told you that I am Mother of the Year.

8 Responses to “How I got atmosphere induced narcolepsy, or why I hate musicals”

  1. Laurel May 18, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I still love musicals. Nothing beats a good on-stage choreographed frolic complete with symphonic backup. Never could get through Rocky Horror, though.

    Does playing Dark Side of the Moon while watching any film on mute count as a musical? I think that might be a good corporate team building activity for the lucky folks who land the weed-testing job from your earlier post.

  2. Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! May 18, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Oh, Laurel. I accept you knowing about your love of all things Peter Gabriel, and I will continue to accept you.

    Stoner lore has it that if you synch Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz (with Judy Garland…not The Wiz, with Diana Ross) on mute, they mesh together perfectly.

  3. Tracy Wilson May 18, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    So, we know that I already knew this about you, but really- how can we be friends? LOVE musicals, even the crappy ones. I also went to Rocky Horror after my Jr. Prom and yes, we all brought our props!

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      I just couldn’t get it. And what’s ironic is that I knew all of the songs beforehand and I liked them…until it was paired with seeing the movie.

  4. Rob May 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Best description ever: “The crowd participation was more animated than seeing a slasher flick at an all black theater.”

    I rather agree with the sentiments of Charles Montgomery Burns after hearing that Smithers’s play about Malabo Barbee and Ken was being performed in New Mexico: “What next, a musical about the common house cat, the King of Siam!?”

    As I was leaving the Fox after enduring “Mama Mia”, I swore to Ellen that I would never voluntarily see that thing again. (I’m convinced that a few gay men came up with the whole idea in a couple of hours one night after too many Wine Spritzers and Cosmopolitans and one of them pulled out their ABBA collection. – – – Not that there’s anything wrong with it . . . being gay, that is. Wine Spritzers, Cosmopolitans, and ABBA, now that’s just sick.) Anyway, I have had to add Les Miserables and the new Mary Poppins (“Anything can happen if you let it” – now there’s an anthem for budding underachievers of an entitlement generation.) to the list. At least when it’s at the Fox, I can walk around and look at the cool building.

    • Rob May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

      Excuse me, that should have been “Malibu Barbie”.

  5. Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    “Anything can happen if you let it” also sounds like it could be the theme song for date rape.

    Chris and Jay took me to see The Gates Of Hell at the Omni theater. It was probably around 1983 and I don’t know that I had ever been more amused in my life.

  6. Jackson May 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Three things:

    1. Agreed on Rocky Horror. Crowd watching before the show in Berkley was far better than the show itself.

    2. The Sgt. Pepper Movie / Musical is actually quite good after about 12 beers.

    3. Dark Side of the Moon / Wizard of Oz — confirmed.

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