by BRANDON UTLEY
Imagine this. A teenage boy growing up in small-town Northeast Ohio, in a high school where there are more tractors and pickup trucks than there are iPhones. This boy often struggled to fit in with the “popular crowd,” not because he was not cool enough just because he was interested in different things. The popular crowd liked football and country music, while the young man loved musical theater and reality TV. That boy was me.
Do not get me wrong, my high school experience was great but liking musical theater when I was growing up was always considered a taboo. People who enjoyed musicals were always stereotyped as dramatic, over-the-top, or gay. But has this opinion changed.
“The genre itself is so wide that it’s intimidating,” said TU sophomore Becca Keilbasa. “I think people generally find them strange until they listen to them for the first time because until you understand the story the music is out of context and a bit strange.”
Tiffin University music director Aly Horn stated, “I used to find that people would stereotype those that have an interest in musicals and you either were totally into them, or you were definitely opposed.”
With Broadway taking a turn from the classic style of shows, such as The Sound of Music, Cats, and Hello, Dolly! to a new contemporary sound with shows, such as Hamilton, Be More Chill, and Legally Blonde, is musical theater becoming cool?
“Since the reinvention of Broadway and the contemporary musical with productions, such as Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls, etc., I find that the opinion has changed,” Horn said. “By making the music much more commercialized and contemporary and the story lines more edgy and engaging, I think more people have become interested in musical theater.”
The power of a good musical can completely change the mood of anyone who is watching. If you are watching a drama such as The Phantom of the Opera, you will feel a lot different than you would if you were in the audience for an upbeat jukebox musical such as Rock of Ages, or a decades romp such as Hairspray. The themes presented in the story and the general feel of the music all come into play. \
Junior Angela Holahan said she thinks music is one of the best ways to express thoughts and feelings. “Watching people do that on stage and become a whole new person is such an amazing opportunity.”
I always loved the idea of becoming someone you are not when you walk on the stage. Musical theater has given me the confidence that no sport could have ever done. I have performed in many musicals including Honk Jr, Beauty and the Beast, Annie, Shrek, and most recently Heathers in which I played the psychopathic Jason Dean (JD).
First-year student Josephine Gabos who played “Heather Duke” in Tiffin’s production of Heathers said that musicals show the untapped potential people really have that they never thought they would have brought out.”
Each production forces you to bring something new to the table, sometimes it is something you never thought you were capable of doing and it shows the true range of talent in the individuals participating.
When someone walks onto the stage for a musical, they are no longer themselves. That person completely becomes a new entity by immersing themselves into the backstory of the individual they are portraying on stage. If someone is dealing with something in their personal life, there is a musical theater character going through something similar.
These songs and characters are not just created to entertain the audience. These stories have given so many young people an outlet for what is going on in their lives. Songs from my favorite musicals have helped me through some of the hardest times in my life, and I am so happy that people are finally starting to appreciate them again. Maybe with the recent change in popular opinion towards musical theater will finally give social outsiders like myself a group that they can identify with.