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Why men should embrace musicals


ShortList’s Film Editor Andrew Dickens on why we should enjoy song-and-dance cinema

Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height. Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring. Up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear. Oh, let’s go fly a kite.

You all know the tune, so press play on your internal iPod (other internal digital music devices are available) and have a listen. I’d wager tuppence that you most of you feel a bit happier.

This week sees the release of Clint Eastwood’s fine film adaptation of Jersey Boys, the phenomenally successful Frankie Valli-inspired stage musical. Much has been said about this being a ‘manly musical’, a musical us with the extra chromosome can watch without shame, despair or anger, because it’s got the mafia in it and because it’s David Beckham’s favourite show.

Poppycock. And I don’t use that word lightly. Why segregate musicals, on screen or stage, between what’s acceptable for any man concerned with maintaining an air of masculinity and what isn’t? Why are The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q ok, Grease and The King And I not?

Because they’re funny? Because they’re subversive? Because the dance routines are less flamboyant? Are we so self-conscious now that we can’t let rip to Pure Imagination or Fame because it’s not ‘cool’ to do so, no matter how much we actually enjoy it? Bunkum. And I never use that word at all. If you love music and films and plays, you should love something that combines those things, even if it isn’t being ironic or pointing a satirical tune at the world.

I judge myself here, by the way. I saw The Sound of Music on New Year’s Day and I was ashamed. Not because I cried when Captain von Trapp sang with his children, thus rediscovering his love of music and – dare I say - himself, but because it was the first time I’d watched the film in its entirety and I couldn’t believe I’d deprived myself for so many years out of sheer masculine idiocy.

If you don’t like musicals in general, that’s fine. I have little love for horror films. I also appreciate that bad musicals are really bad. There’s nothing worse than an already terrible film punctuated by painfully-crowbarred pop songs from the Eighties or Cliff Richard singing on a f*cking bus.

But if you do like musicals, yet feel hampered by the fear of being labelled effete, shed the ugly cape of vanity and embrace them all – from Aida to Zorba - because most of them will make you happy. Or sad. But mainly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Jersey Boys is in cinemas now and the stage show is currently on at the Piccadilly Theatre


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