Friday, September 21, 2012

Mormons and Musicals

I grew up on the following musicals:
  • The Sound of Music
  • Mary Poppins
  • Annie
  • Oklahoma!*
  • My Fair Lady
  • The King and I
  • Funny Girl
When I say "grew up," I mean that I watched those movies somewhere in the neighborhood of once a year.  (Okay, okay -- "Funny Girl" was probably played more than that.  But really, how can you not love this scene: Roller Skate Rag?)

I knew most of the words to most of the songs, and so did the rest of my siblings.  I thought my family must be an anomaly; in my mind, the fact that we watched musicals was a direct result of my mother's taste in wholesome stories and well-written music.  I thought, "I'm glad my mom introduced me to such good, old movies."  So I passed through my childhood and adolescent years thinking I was well-versed in musicals.  I certainly knew more about them than my friends.  I mean, I knew the showstoppers, the big guns.

But the joke was on me.  My knowledge of musicals is child's play.  It pales in comparison to the songs my friends know.  They know the lyrics and the music.  They know the names of the people who sang each song, and they know who sang it best.  They have multiple recordings of the same musical, and they keep them in their cars so they can belt out songs during a long -- or even short -- commute.  When they go to New York City, their first stop is Broadway.  In some cases, the sole reason for a trip to New York is to see a musical.

It wasn't until I moved to Texas that I learned what was going on.  I realized that while my mom does have good taste in movies and music, she is -- and now I am -- part of a larger cultural tradition.  That is, Mormons like musicals.  Nay, they love musicals; they are obsessed with them.**  In Austin -- at least, from my perspective -- Mormons seem to be everywhere.  I've never lived in a place so heavily populated with Mormons, and I've never known a group of people to have such a deep and abiding love for musicals.  I've noticed that there are some common favorites:
  • Les Miserables
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Newsies
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Wicked
  • The Music Man
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
So what am I saying with this post exactly?  I guess I'm saying a few things:
  1. I'm still learning about the culture of my own people.  It's sort of strange to think about.  Sometimes I wish I had grown up in Utah or Idaho or Arizona -- just to understand Mormon culture a bit more.
  2. If you want to know the way to a Mormon's heart, learn about musicals.
  3. It's really not surprising that Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted to use Mormons in their musical.  (See The Book of Mormon Musical.)
*My mom basically made us learn all the lyrics to "Oklahoma!" because we lived there.  To this day, we are the only people I know who know the whole song.  It's probably because no one likes the musical enough to learn it.  There's this weird stylized dream sequence somewhere in the middle that kinda ruins the whole thing.

**I use "they" because in many ways, I don't identify with the stereotypical Mormon -- at least, not the one who knows all about musicals.  I grew up in two predominantly non-Mormon towns, and there are a lot of things I was completely unaware of until I was nearly out of college.

Thing I'm thankful for: my Converse All-Stars.  I love them.


Blogger dallin+michelle said...

okay really.... your musical lists still need some help! :) where are all the judy garland favs and gene kelly??? you need to watch if you haven't already: summerstock, harvey girls, meet me in st louis, wizard of oz... all judy garland. and some other favs worth mentioning: singing in the rain, state fair,7 brides for 7 brothers, brigadoon..... okay i could go on, but i'm being screamed at by my two girls :) happy musicals!!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Ah! I was thinking only of Broadway musicals, I guess. Maybe I should've mentioned that? Because yes -- Judy Garland. She's the best! One of my absolute favorite movies is "Meet Me in St. Louis;" in fact, I even talked about it today! :)

4:44 AM  

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