Hamilton, and Thoughts on the Uncanny Valley of Musicals

On Saturday night Krissy and I went and saw Hamilton in New York. This was a moment greatly anticipated by a large number of my friends who had seen the show (or at least listened to the soundtrack) had fallen head over heels in love with it, and who wanted to induct me into their Hamiltonian cult. I had previously refused to listen to the cast album of the show, choosing to go into it fresh (although only to a point — I obviously knew who Alexander Hamilton was, and I had read the Ron Chernow book that Lin-Manuel Miranda used as a basis for his play), so Saturday was my entrance into the congregation. Having been thus baptized, I would now be available for Hamilton sing-alongs and arguments as to which Schuyler sister was the best and so on.

Having now seen Hamilton, here’s what I have to say about it:

One, it is in fact really good. I see why all my friends went nuts for it, and also why it won all the awards it did and propelled Lin-Manuel Miranda into the stratosphere of celebrity. It’s all entirely deserved. I suppose I could quibble here and there if I was feeling contrary — the play is notably episodic, particularly in the second act, and some characters and plot points are jammed in and then dropped out, which suggests the play could have been more tightly edited — but one can always quibble on details and miss out on the overall effect of a work, which in this case is significant. I hugely enjoyed myself, and was thrilled in particular with the second half of the first act. I’d see it again, surely.

Two, I don’t love Hamilton like my friends love Hamilton. This is not the fault of the play, nor a matter of me being contrarian to be contrary, and choosing not to love that which my friends love, simply because it’s already gotten all their love. It’s because of something that I already knew about myself, which is that generally speaking I have a level of emotional remove from a lot of live action musicals, both in theater and in film. I can like them and enjoy them, and certainly admire the craft and skill that goes into making them, but I don’t always engage with them emotionally. A really good live action musical can easily capture my brain, but in my experience they rarely capture my heart.

Why? The short answer is a lot of live action musicals exist in the emotional equivalent of the Uncanny Valley for me — an unsweet spot where the particular artifices of musicals make me aware of their artificiality. The longer answer is I’m perfectly willing to engage in live musicals intellectually — and why wouldn’t I, says the writer of science fiction, a genre with its own slate of artifices — but seem to have trouble with them emotionally. Live humans stepping outside of their lived experience to burst into a song directed to an audience pretty much always makes my suspension of disbelief go “bwuh?”, and then I’m not lost in the story, I’m aware I’m a member of an audience. That sets me at a remove.

Which is, to be clear, entirely on me. This is my quirk, and not an indictment of live action musicals. They clearly work perfectly well for large numbers of people, who do not suffer from my own issues regarding emotional engagement with the form. Nor does it mean I don’t enjoy musicals in general. I do. Not being at 100% with musicals doesn’t mean that the experience is like ashes in my mouth. Getting 90% of the effect of a musical can still be pretty great, and was, in the case of Hamilton. It does mean, however, that the fervor so many of my friends feel about a really great musical is usually not something I feel.

Interestingly, in my experience the way for me to engage emotionally in a musical is to add more artifice to it. For example, I’m a sucker for animated musicals — I think Beauty and the Beast is one of the best musical films of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a brilliant operetta, and Moana, whose songs were written or co-written by Miranda, made me cry where Hamilton didn’t — precisely because the animated format adds another layer of willing suspension of disbelief. I mean, if you’re willing to accept talking candelabras, or skeleton kings or the ocean as a comic foil, it’s not that hard to accept characters breaking out into song, either.

Likewise, I have an easier time with funny musicals — or more accurately, musicals intended to be comedies as well (Hamilton has several funny moments, including the bits with King George, but is not meant to be a comedy). I enjoyed the hell out of The Producers and The Book of Mormon and Spamalot because they were fundamentally ridiculous anyway, so the breaking out into song doesn’t pull me out the way it does with more serious musical work.

Going the other direction — movies with songs in them which yet are not musicals — also works for me too. Strictly Ballroom (the film) feels like a musical and yet isn’t, and I love it insensibly. The concert film Stop Making Sense is a perfect film, from my point of view; watching it is like going to church. And I’m looking forward to Sing Street because everything about it suggests I’ll get the thrill watching it like I got watching The Commitments back in the 90s.

Again, this is about my quirks, not an argument that, say, Hamilton would have been better as Hamilton!, a funny farce where a zany founding father gets into all sorts of hilarious hijinx with his best ol’ frenemy Aaron Burr. It wouldn’t have (although I have no doubt now that someone will try it). It’s merely to the point that for whatever reason, a lot of live action musicals exist in a place I can’t get fully emotionally engaged with it. I find that interesting, and wonder if I’m alone in this.

The real irony? Not only did I perform in musical theater as a kid (and enjoyed it! And would do it again!) I’d kind of like to write a musical one day. Not to say “you people have been doing musicals all wrong, this is how you do it” because, yeah, no, I’m not that asshole. But because I think Redshirts in particular would make a damn fine musical, of the funny sort, and because I know I appreciate and engage with science fiction better, having written science fiction, so who knows? Maybe that trick will work again in another genre and medium. Or (actually “and”), maybe I should just go and see more musicals. That would probably help too.

In the meantime: Hamilton is excellent, as advertised. Go see it when you can. I’m not likely to join the HamilCult, but that shouldn’t dissuade you, should you be of a mind to.

(Also: Angelica Schuyler was the best Schuyler sister. I mean, come on.)

105 thoughts on “Hamilton, and Thoughts on the Uncanny Valley of Musicals

  1. Wonder how many of the Hamilcult (self included) joined after the album, not the show? By the second listen through, it would have me an emotional wreck in places, I’ve not seen the show.

  2. Stop Making Sense is a great concert film, and the album is that rare case of the live version being better than the album versions.

  3. REDSHIRTS MUSICAL?? Shut up and take my money. Also our local community theater did one of the first stage performances of Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog and we would like to be first in line, please.

  4. Re: Angelica: you are correct, sir. I think “Satisfied” is the best number in the show, as it does a fantastic job of revealing depths of character, and better yet does it by going all Rashomon on the previous number and showing how it looked from Angelica’s POV. (It also gives a welcome agency to one of the women in the show, since Eliza is largely forced into a reactive role.) Also, I love it because Miranda made the whole thing up; Angelica had been married for several years before she even met Hamilton, so LMM basically invented a way to make her a more interesting and sympathetic character. Much of the rest of the show works because the source material allows it to work; here LMM ignores the source material and turns to fiction. It’s a wonderful moment.

  5. Hamilton’s a work that’s better as an Original Cast Album than on stage, because the music is fantastic and a lot of the nuance (the subtle callback to “My Shot” in the piano line to “Right Hand Man” that lets you know what Hamilton is thinking as he gets offered the position) gets lost in a giant barn of a theater. Which is probably why OCA listeners are more in the HamilCult than folks who hold out to see the musical onstage first, and why a lot of your favorites are either movies (where the sound experience is much more consistent) or broad comedies (where the nuance isn’t necessary, and replaced by impeccable timing.)

  6. There is an off-Broadway production of Spamilton (I think that’s the title), so if that every becomes a big thing, maybe it would be right up your alley.

    Redshirts! The Musical? Oh yeah, I’d watch that.

  7. Fancycwabs:

    I’m going to quibble with your hypothesis to note that the sound at the Rogers Theater was really good and that I caught every line without a problem, and the orchestra was also nicely balanced (note also that I was up in the mezzanine, and I saw speakers up there, which I suspect helped).

  8. All these years and I thought there was something wrong with me. My friend would look at me like I was crazy when I would say I just didn’t get it. We should give it a name. Musical Theatre Affective Disorder (MTAD) or something like that.

  9. As an ex-director of professional theater (about 15 years) who was really bad at directing musicals, I relate completely to your slight intellectual remove from them. Also, it is extraordinarily difficult to find people who are real triple-threats. The weakness in either singing, acting or dancing–usually the acting–tends to pull me out of the play.

    I don’t get to lord of lot of things over my former colleagues in the theater, many of whom have gone on to amazing careers, But I do get to say that I saw Hamilton with the original cast.

    My kids (13 and 10) engage with Hamilton directly and intensely in a way I do not, as does my still theatrical wife. What inspires me most about Hamilton is Lin-Manuel himself. His relentless optimism and devotion to his friends gives me hope.

  10. I’m definitely a member of the HamilCult, having listened to the album endlessly. So I was a little surprised that seeing it for the first time on stage didn’t quite live up to the magic of listening to the album for the first time. I cried a lot more in the first act from the joy of just being there and seeing it all than I did in the second act, which is usually what wrecks me when listening to the album.

    Part of me thinks it might have been the fact that the original cast was almost entirely gone by the time I saw it. I also saw a Wednesday matinee, and couldn’t shake the impression that the cast wasn’t operating at 100% (which is understandable when you need to make sure you can get through a second show later). I found my transfigurative experience a little later in my trip when I got to see Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson in The Color Purple; basically, Hamilton seemed like incredible material performed by a very good cast, and The Color Purple was very good material performed by an incredible cast.

  11. @Scalzi–fair enough. It sounded good in Chicago, too, but still lacked the emotional impact that the OCA has (still has). Maybe the play in my head is better than the one on stage.

  12. I adored movie musicals as a kid – “Singing in the Rain” and “American in Paris” especially – because Gene Kelly crush obviously. But oh lord, watching their BluRays on an HD TV – yowsa their makeup was horrible, and the overacting..

    “Modern” stage musicals I’ve seen I have not enjoyed at all (*cough* Phantom of the Opera *cough* Cats). Sitting in the audience thinking “crap, I paid how much for this?” while my friends are weeping.

    I do love “The Commitments” and “Strictly Ballroom” as well – I re-watch every couple of years..

  13. It’s rare for me to get emotionally involved with any work of fiction, whether in a book, on screen or on stage, so I get where you’re coming from. But the reason I am completely nuts about live theatre — especially musicals — is the amazing bravery and commitment of the performers. They *go* for it, every performance, and that is what gets to me. But for me, the artifice itself is even more involving. There’s a point at the end of “Peter and the Starcatcher” when an audience that *knows* Tinkerbell is actually a tiny LED nevertheless claps thunderously to keep it shining, adults and children alike. That brought me closer to tears than anything since “Defying Gravity..” I consider any theatrical production a success if I leave the theatre humming the stagecraft.

  14. I grappled with the Uncanny Valley when a director wanted me to deliver a line straight to the audience. I wouldn’t do it then, but I would now. I thought it put a stake through the heart of the illusion we’d worked to create, but now I see it as a kind of soliloquy, which is a venerable device that gives the audience a look into a character’s thought balloons.

    Coming round to your point, I’ve come to think of most musical numbers as a sort of tonic expansion of the soliloquy. Perhaps it’s some, and not most—I’m not completely current on the state of the art—but at any rate, they are often a lifting of the top of a character’s head and resulting look at what’s under the pate.

  15. Charles, I’ve often thought ATLAS SHRUGGED would only work dramatically as a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. Nobody ever wrote ‘character explaining self’ so well.

  16. To me, musicals work better as films. There the people do burst into song, but not towards the audience. My opinion. I will wait for Hamilton the Movie!

  17. Another sufferer of MTAD here. It’s that whole bursting-into-song thing. I get that musicals are a separate art form, as is opera, which for some reason I can accept better, though I’m not a huge fan. But musical theater not an art form I much enjoy. Different strokes, etc. Mostly, with regard to “Hamilton,” I’m glad people are paying attention to someone of that much historical interest. I wrote a term paper about Hamilton in high school decades ago and have had a bit of a soft spot for him ever since.

  18. > “I have a level of emotional remove from a lot of live action musicals”

    Oh boy, do I have a question for you, then: what did you make of “It’s Quiet Uptown”?

    You’re a father, and I became one only recently. As soon as I heard what that song was about — dealing with the death of your child — and paid attention to the lyrics, I was… done. Even just thinking about it almost brings tears. I know I can get sentimental at the cheesiest things, film-wise, but there is something about this song that is so raw and honest it just goes straight through my defences.

    Link for the lazy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOAC5-Jcgyc

  19. “Hi, I’ve got a tape I wanna play…” Yes, David, please!”

    Not the same type of musical but Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love at The Mirage in Las Vegas is one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. The music speaks for itself, but Giles Martin stepped it up a notch with his magical mixing, which created nearly new Beatles songs. Then there is the explosion of light and activity that’s impossible to turn away from. I did that just enough to see the entire audience singing along while grinning from ear to ear. The third time I saw the show was as fabulous as the first.

  20. I am the same way with musicals. When I hung out with the theater crowd way back in high school, I tended to get more enjoyment out of the musicals that dispensed with any pretense of a linear plot, because then they were far enough away from the Uncanny Valley to not be distracting.

  21. I loved Hamilton from the first time I heard the cast recording, and am super-stoked to have tickets for the London performance in January since I am convinced that however much I like the recording, seeing it live will blow me away. But I think I think of it as poetry first, musical second (some bits more than others; the cabinet battles more than Dear Theodosia), so I don’t really worry about the artifice any more than I worry about all those guys speaking in iambic pentameters.

  22. To me, the great musicals are the ones where the actors aren’t singing to an audience but where there emotions their characters feel are so great that they have to burst into song to sing them. I think that’s the problem I have with older musicals, the songs are all “in the spot where the song goes,” rather than “in the spot where the emotional dam bursts.”

    Regarding editing, your reaction having not seen it matches my thoughts having heard the OBC album and the workshop tapes. The workshop tapes are far more dense and drop far more history than the finished product. I think refinement was probably an ongoing process until the show locked, and since it appears the second act was written in a lot less time, that’s where the bumpy episodic nature really rears its head.

    Also, the show is an excellent example of knowing what you are trying to accomplish. LMM wasn’t trying to make a historical musical (I assume), he wrote a musical based on history. A lot of the “history” in the show isn’t true, from the aforementioned Angelica being married, to Washington and Hamilton having a much greater falling out during the way, to even the line he specifically says is “true” in the script (for a laugh) which is not. There’s something noble about keeping allegiance to the story you want to tell instead being slave to the history.

  23. Although I have not seen Hamilton, I must admit- I sing You’ll be back- the King George break up song, at the top of my lungs, in the car… Having been raised on Funny Girl it was a crushing disappointment that the world does not break out into song. Until, you find other weird, I mean, exceptional, people- who embrace the arts – and Moana- You’re Welcome. See you in Parma, Ohio

  24. I’ve been a musicals fan since my parents dragged me, the reluctant teenager, to see “1776” during its first national tour. The use of historical quotes in both the lyrics and the speech, though not all contemporaneous with the pre-Declaration period, made that one especially fun for me. I doubt that Adams and Jefferson were any more prone to breaking into song than Hamilton, Burr and George III.
    If you’re like me and interested in the background details of things in general, I highly recommend the “Untold Stories of Broadway” series by Broadway historian Jennifer Ashley Tepper. (Disclaimer: She’s the daughter of a high school friend. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t recommend the books if she weren’t. They’re terrific.) She’s also strongly involved in current Broadway events, creating some herself.

  25. You’re not alone. There’s also something about musicals that make me more attuned and/or skeptical about plotting problems, which may be why, when seeing Phantom of the Opera, and they announce there’s a dead body on the roof (?), and the main character says, “I have to go see,” or something like that, that I blurted out loud, “Why?” to the amusement of several people around me (and probably to the irritation of several others).

  26. The different ways different artistic forms impact us is always fascinating. For example, I love both long form television series and theatre. TV because it can build a connection with characters and layers of nuance over a long period of time in a way no other form can (with the exception of a long series of novels). Theatre because having real actors right in front of you does something no recorded medium can replicate.

    The theoretically ideal person would, I guess, appreciate all possible forms of art equally. But I think we all have favourites.

  27. You’re not alone, John. Your eloquently stated opinion reflects mine near exactly (my examples of films would be different; otherwise, spot on). And I’m tempted to send friends to this article, just so I don’t have to explain how I feel about musicals.

  28. Really thought provoking. I am a musical loving theatre rat, and what keeps you at a distance is what draws me in. I love your work. Please forgive me for pointing out that it is not a soundtrack, it is a cast album.

  29. What are your thoughts (if any) on operas? I don’t speak Italian, so when I’ve seen Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly etc, things are already surreal enough that people singing doesn’t appreciably add to the strangeness. Whereas serious operas in English (Dido and Aeneas, Peter Grimes) often knowing the words drops me out of the enjoyment of the moment.

  30. Re the audience singing along and grinning from ear to ear–sometimes this is disturbing as on the PBS folk singers tribute when they’re so happy to be singing “On the eve of destruction”–really?

  31. As a Certified Theater Nerd (a playwright and director and stage manager, etc.), I have to say that you are not alone. Many people who absolutely love the theater have no interest in musicals (and many musical theater folks don’t like “straight plays,” either).

  32. How funny – I was there on Saturday night too! I get what you mean about the Uncanny Valley, and for me that actually enhances things. Even though the story, music, and choreography are the same every night, each performance creates a unique shared experience that pulls me in and creates its own reality in a similar but slightly different way than a book or movie do. I am usually even more engaged by shows like Hamilton that are completely sung – instead of songs creating a break in the flow of the story, the music is the language of the story. And of course that’s me, and not a knock on anyone who experiences it differently.

    You are incorrect in one statement, however – Eliza is ABSOLUTELY the best Schuyler sister. :)

  33. I don’t particularly like Hamilton, either the man (too much of a centrist) or the musical (mainly for the musical styles), but my wife has fallen for it head-over-heels. When we recently went on vacation, she listened to the entire soundtrack twice back to back, and I must admit to developing a certain affinity for “Non-Stop”

    I also like the version of “Story of Tonight” that We The Kings covered.

    Personally, while I listened to the soundtrack, I was thinking “Jailhouse Tango” from Chicago would be a better fit for Hamilton. But again, that’s just me.

  34. I ran across the soundtrack, and couldn’t get through it without tears. I suspect this might support your hypothesis as the soundtrack is a lot more direct. You’re hearing it, but not having to see people prancing about on stage, so the emotional point of the song is a lot less removed by all the arm-waving and staging. I suspect if I were to see the show that all the arm-waving, prancing, and staging would probably reinforce my experience and not distract from it, as I’m already an addict.

    But also, I am a serious history geek, and was a fan of Hamilton back in university, so some of my initial enjoyment was to see a historical character that I’ve always been a fan of come to life. A bit like a comic book geek finally seeing their favorite character up on the silver screen, only with a healthy dose of nerd.

    Which leads me to the question, if you’re a fan of a character that has no movies, graphic novels, or even comics made about them does that make you more of a nerd or a geek?

  35. I don’t understand the “uncanny valley” feeling about people bursting into song, because in my real life they do that. I wonder if some families communicate more in song. At its best moments, my family life is like the scene in Tom Bombadil’s house when “the guests became suddenly aware that they were singing merrily, as if it was easier and more natural than talking.”

  36. I’m going to agree a little with @fancywabs about the emotional power of the OCA. I’ll add a few disclaimers here:

    I came late to the HamilCult (although at this point I’m a fully fledged member – just call me a late bloomer making up for lost time). The first time I listened to the soundtrack, I was … meh. I’m not a huge fan of rap/hip-hop to begin with, I grew up on old Rodgers & Hammerstein and MGM musicals, and I just didn’t connect with it at first.

    Then back in September (I think) PBS ran a “Great Performances” special on Hamilton and I was hooked. It took hearing Lin-Miranda talk about his inspiration and passion and process, plus seeing some of the stage performance and suddenly it clicked. Of course right after that we had the election and since then Hamilton has been my emotional retreat and revisiting that period in history has provided some comfort. (I’m an Historian by education, so there’s that, too.)

    All of that to say, I haven’t yet seen the play (I just bought tickets to the Atlanta 2018 season specifically to get Hamilton) but I’ve listened to the OCA approximately 21,325 times. (6 – I’m listening to it now.)

    Every single time I listen to it, I get something else out of it. Some little nuance that I missed before. Some bit of dialogue or classical reference or historical tidbit that escaped my notice. I suspect (knowing myself) that were I to see it in the theater without having listened to it first, I’d have thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’d have missed a great many of the subtleties in the overall spectacle of it. I’m now anticipating seeing it in 2018 and being able to take it ALL in. I don’t think it’s nearly as much about overall sound quality maybe, but about being able to take in the nuance.

    Or, you know, maybe I’m just full of shit and making excuses for my obsession. (Also apparently I’m feeling parenthetical today. Apologies for that.)

  37. Oh wow, you have nailed it, about what’s with musicals for some of us. I will never see Hamilton, though I’ll probably some day break down and listen to the sound track. If they ever come for me and want to torture me to get me to spill the beans, it’ll work if they strap me down and force me to watch Sound of Music or Mary Poppins.

    It’s embarrassing, IMO, to watch people bursting into song instead of continuing the dialogue of a movie or play. Tortuously embarrassing.

  38. I agree about musicals. I thought Once was effective because the songs were naturally part of either rehearsals or performances.

  39. I don’t have any problem with people bursting into songs in musicals (as long as the songs are good and they’re done well). For those who do have MTAD, a movie with songs that manages to overcome the Uncanny Valley is “Victor/Victoria”, where the songs are presented as part of various cabaret performances in front of an audience, so it’s not weird that people start singing. At the same time, the songs help move the plot along, particularly the lovely “You and Me”, sung by Julie Andrews and Robert Preston; they’re performing it for the audience because the club owner is thrilled to have the famous “Victor” there, and wants to show him off, but the number also highlights the warm and loving friendship between the two characters. Also, Lesley Anne Warren’s “Chicago, Illinois” is absolutely hilarious; Warren is intentionally singing badly (think Jean Hagen’s character’s voice in “Singin’ in the Rain”), but she’s a very good actress and dancer, and absolutely sells the heck out of the song.

  40. I’m of a similar mind when it comes to musicals. I have fun watching them at times but they rarely “stick”.

    One of the few exceptions, mostly because the music takes place where it should; on-stage, is Cabaret. The movie with Liza Minnelli. In a role she was born for.

    I’ve probably seen it 12 times if I’ve seen it once. The songs are great and the story is great. I also enjoyed Moulin Rouge but for very different reasons.

    And I also consider Stop Making Sense the best live album ever produced. The movie is fun too, but the album is just, awesome.

  41. Interesting! I’ve never thought of musical theater having an Uncanny Valley of it’s own, but that really explains a lot. I’m a musical lover, and in the past I’ve always been a little baffled by people who aren’t.

    I guess I actually do experience some of the uncanny valley effect of musicals, but the emotion of the music itself overrides that.

  42. OMG, I was just pondering LAST NIGHT why I love animated musicals so much, but not really the live plays. My adult son was curious about live theater, so we went to see “Matilda: The Musical” (huuuuge Tim Minchin fan here). It was really good, and also worthy of awards. But … no emotional engagement. I sat there admiring the staging, some of the absolutely amazing props, ect. I did appreciate the message of the play, and think that it’s great. But I’m not going to start up the Church of Matilda Love or anything.

    I hadn’t thought about the Uncanny Valley aspect of it, but that’s it exactly. I *do* pretty much worship The Nightmare Before Christmas (I was -and still am- a humongous Oingo Boingo fan, and also of Richard Elfman’s movies). I’m a nerd over voice actors the way reality TV fans are over Kardashians. I like to break into random song a lot, but just to sing, not to replace dialog. As you pointed out, it’s a preference, not that there’s something “wrong” with any particular art form.

    Speaking of … one episode of Star Talk was about jazz, and I finally know why that’s not a form of music I love. When one of the musicians was describing what a lot of people don’t like about it, he mentioned dissonance. That’s an absolutely legit musical technique that’s used in more than just jazz, but I can’t stand it. Even when it’s used for effect in a film score, it grates on my nerves. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with jazz itself, it’s just not my thing.

  43. “Live humans stepping outside of their lived experience to burst into a song directed to an audience pretty much always makes my suspension of disbelief go “bwuh?””

    for me, it depends on the style of music. I like “My Fair Lady” but not “Les Miserables”.

    And then there’s “Rent”.

  44. I’m going to agree a little with @fancywabs about the emotional power of the OCA.

    I came late to the HamilCult (although at this point I’m a fully fledged member – just call me a late bloomer making up for lost time). The first time I listened to the soundtrack, I was … meh. I’m not a huge fan of rap/hip-hop to begin with, I grew up on old Rodgers & Hammerstein and MGM musicals, and I just didn’t connect with it at first.

    Then back in September (I think) PBS ran a “Great Performances” special on Hamilton and I was hooked. It took hearing Lin-Miranda talk about his inspiration and passion and process, plus seeing some of the stage performance and suddenly it clicked. Of course right after that we had the election and since then Hamilton has been my emotional retreat and revisiting that period in history has provided some comfort. (I’m an Historian by education, so there’s that, too.)

    All of that to say, I haven’t yet seen the play (I just bought tickets to the Atlanta 2018 season specifically to get Hamilton) but I’ve listened to the OCA approximately 21,325 times. (6 – I’m listening to it now.)

    Every single time I listen to it, I get something else out of it. Some little nuance that I missed before. Some bit of dialogue or classical reference or historical tidbit that escaped my notice. I suspect (knowing myself) that were I to see it in the theater without having listened to it first, I’d have thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’d have missed a great many of the subtleties in the overall spectacle of it. I’m now anticipating seeing it in 2018 and being able to take it ALL in. I don’t think it’s nearly as much about overall sound quality maybe, but about being able to take in the nuance.

    Or, you know, maybe I’m just full of shit and making excuses for my obsession. (Also apparently I’m feeling parenthetical today. Apologies for that.)

  45. I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I am also a veteran of Theater Production and have produced musicals, but unless it’s ridiculous like Book of Mormon or Spamalot, the idea of bursting into song puts me out of it.

    It’s my Blues Brothers conundrum. Loved the first and most of the music in it was in a logical place, it didn’t feel wrong. Blues Brothers 2000 had musical numbers that felt TOTALLY contrived and like they just broke out in song. Granted most of the music was excellent, it just felt cheesy.

    Glad I’m not alone. Go see Book of Mormon.

  46. 1. “Strictly Ballroom (the film) feels like a musical and yet isn’t, and I love it insensibly.” – as if I didn’t already have enough of a man-crush on you…

    2. I have had a similar issue but overcame it with THIS ONE SIMPLE TRICK (sorry, couldn’t resist going internet ad): I find it much easier to get past that if i have already listened to and decided i liked the soundtrack. Then I’m not fighting the cognitive dissonance, and can suspend disbelief more easily. When I see real live humans on stage, I’m already more immersed in the world.

    As always, YMMV, and YMNC (you may, reasonably, not care :) ). But for others to contemplate…

  47. FWIW, most live musicals fall into the same uncanny valley for me. And I performed in them in high school, too! (Though now my community theatre dabbling keeps me in the non-musical play, mostly because it’s probably better for me not to try to sing on stage. I like singing, but I’m comfortable with the idea that I’m not terribly good at it.) So yeah, I’m sure you didn’t think you were alone, but I just thought I’d add a point of confirmation.

  48. I don’t mind the dramatic artifice of musicals–to me, just putting things on a stage adds that extra level of suspension of disbelief–but there’s a different uncanny valley for me, concerning musical style. Rock musicals and hip-hop musicals generally combine the very specifically mannered style of the American-derived musical theater with some other musical style from outside of that world, and it can work well or not so well.

    I’ve always thought that, for instance, Jesus Christ Superstar did a fantastic job of fusing musical theater with rock, but in, say, Hair or Rent the songs are just a little too musical-theater-y, for me, for it to be 100% successful. The songs from Hamilton mostly do a very good job of occupying the territory between hip-hop and musical theater, but now and then there’s just a little bit of that Hair thing going on where the hip-hop almost vanishes.

  49. Redshirts the Musical: Almost Everyone Dies. Book and Lyrics by John Scalzi. Music by Paul and Storm.

    Stop Making Sense is like going to church. Perfect. I’m old enough to have seen that Talking Heads tour in 1983. Euphoria.

    “Singin’ in the Rain” still has to be my favorite of the oldies. It gave my birthday its own theme song. And here in Seattle, plenty of opportunities to climb up on a lamp post and go for it.

  50. I have only listened to Hamilton and not seen it but in general I like to see a musical once to get context for the songs and then just listen to the songs after that – they work better as a narrative concept album for me.

  51. For those who haven’t seen “La La Land,” very slight spoiler alert.

    My wife and I saw La La Land Saturday night. After the opening scene where the folks stuck in traffic suddenly break out into song my wife turned to me and said, “Wait. Is that the start of the movie?” What’s going on?”

    I think she’s an MTAD sufferer too.

  52. Interesting. I am not a fan of musicals either, though animated musicals are perfectly fine for me. I never really thought about why. There are a few notable exceptions re musicals for me, probably because I saw them (the movies, though I’ve seen JCS a couple of times on stage) back in my extreme youth: The Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain, Wizard of Oz, Jesus Christ Superstar.

    It’s great to find another Strictly Ballroom fan. I *love* that movie, everything about it. I might have to pop that into the DVD player tonight.

  53. From what I have heard from many people who have seen the play, it really, really helped to listen to the OCA before seeing it (or would have, from those who hadn’t). The songs are just so dense, lyrically, that if you don’t know what’s going on you will miss so much. Whereas if you’re already familiar with the lyrics you can follow the movements more easily.

    Sadly, I cannot verify this until the tour comes to Orlando in 2018, unless anyone with a spare ticket wants to challenge me on it…?

  54. It’s unlikely I’ll ever go see Hamilton, I don’t really do live theater despite living nearish Manhattan, but I did fall in like with the soundtrack.

    I borrowed it from the library, listened to it once, returned it, and then slowly realized several of the songs had imbedded themselves in my subconscious. I bought a copy in response to the “boycott Hamilton” nonsense and don’t regret it.

  55. I’m totally the same way with musicals. I like animated musicals and stuff like “Pitch Perfect”, but Grease, Hairspray, etc just don’t appeal to me.

  56. My stepdad got to see the Stop Making Sense tour, and told me about one thing that the film doesn’t capture: the sinking feeling of showing up to the venue and seeing an empty stage, bereft of the usual equipment that one sees set up before a concert. As concert time approaches, speculation increases about what might have happened, will the concert be late, will it be canceled? Then David Byrne walks out solo, right on time for the start…

  57. I think the only science fiction musical I know of is Forbidden Planet, which moves me to ask if you have seen it. (I assume that you have seen the classic movie on which it is based.) I loved the show, and it definitely avoided the uncanny valley you identify through humor. I suspect that Redshirts the musical would do the same, and I encourage you to write it.

  58. I am curious how the Buffy Musical hits you. Given that the bursting in the song has an in story explanation and an early song is the characters worrying about why they are singing.

  59. Ah, “My Fair Lady.” To me, this is a nearly perfect musical, because the songs sneak up so well, and the script is generally so close to the Bernard Shaw play it’s taken from, that it’s like walking into the minds of the characters when they sing.

    “The Music Man” has a very natural way of slipping in and out of song, too, partly because Willson cleverly made it about a man who has his reasons for doing it, and who is, after all, a music man.

  60. Love love love Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    Looking forward to a Redshirts musical, I could definitely see it as a funny musical in the style of The Book of Mormon or Avenue Q.

  61. Your mention of Redshirts as a sci-fi musical comedy reminded me of a fantastic musical titled “Return to the Forbidden Planet”. It’s a mash up of 50’s Sci-fi films, Start Trek and Shakespeare. IF you get a chance to see it, good for you as it’s too rarely performed, IMO.

  62. I particularly liked Enchanted, where the characters most likely to burst into spontaneous musical numbers (enlisting everyone in earshot) do so because they come from an animated universe, while the reluctant hero from our universe remains always baffled and bemused that it happens.

  63. I like some musicals; I am a huge fan of the brilliant Stephen Sondheim, for example. But opera is my personal art form, so like others, I’m curious how you respond to opera.

  64. Ok, my very very lucky privileged take (having seen it more than once). Saw it with the original cast BEFORE hearing the cast album. Pros: Well, orginal cast, duh. You could feel the electricity bouncing off the walls of the theater. But the play itself levitated off the stage for me because I didn’t know what to expect. Loved it. Fresh, unexpected, delighted and amazed. Then I saw it a year later after having memorized every line of the cast recording. Loved it in a new way. The play holds up without Lin’s star power. And this time, I got all the subtlety of the language, the history; got to soak in the staging (the Rewind with Angelica, yes, the best sister; the death scene — spoiler alert, Hamilton gets SHOT!). I will say that those of my cult who only saw it after the original cast recording felt a little jarred because they had become emotionally wedded to THOSE voices. So that’s interesting. And while I’m not a sufferer of MTAD, I do think those who are should keep in mind that because the whole musical is sung/rapped, there is no time that a character breaks narrative to burst out into song–they’re always singing/rapping. As for the very best non-animated musical movie, a moment for Fiddler on the Roof.

  65. Not that I doubt your explanation of your feelings toward the play, when your friends tell you that you absolutely definitely will love something….it almost guarantees it will be a bit of a let down. If you had seen it with no expectations you would enjoy it more. Once multiple friends have hyped something and you see for yourself – suddenly 8 out of 10 feels like a disappointment because you were expecting 11 out of 10. I have this feeling strongly with Slumdog millionaire – it probably is a good fill but it felt like a let down when I been told by several people it was the best film of the last 20 years etc.

    The only lesson is this – don’t hype art to your friends.

  66. I will say that it took more than one listen for me to be hooked – but I love it, and all musicals. :) In fact, even the Buffy musical still makes me tear up a little.

  67. I’m not much of a music person. There are maybe 10 songs tops I actually know the lyrics to, and that includes Happy Birthday, Row Row Row Your Boat, and all the words to the Batman TV series theme music. 99% of the music people refer to means absolutely nothing to me.

    I’m not disconnected from music, though. I feel the emotional pulls and delights and riffs. I just don’t cultivate it. (I do know some fully amusical people. Very freaky.)

    As it is, the only live musical theatre I’ve ever been to was The Fantasticks at some point in its off-Broadway run, Sweeney Todd, in its original Broadway run, and The King and I on tour, with Yul Brynner.. I was in my 20s at the time, and had never heard any of the songs before. I only knew they were must-see phenoms. All were utterly glorious.

  68. SING STREET IS AMAZING AND EVERYONE SHOULD SEE IT.

    I’ve got a bit of the same thing going re: musicals as you do, Scalzi, but after I saw Sing Street I raved to anyone who would listen how organic the music felt in it.

  69. @Jennifer Anstey But The Beatles okay, right?

    @mithriltabby Your step-dad – stressed or not by the unusual stage/equipment antics – was fortunate to get to see the show (actually the Speaking in Tongues album tour). I got to see them in ’79 during the Fear of Music tour, but even cooler, I was one of a few hundred very lucky souls to see the first show of the filming of Stop Making Sense at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Another noteworthy show I saw some years later was Oingo Boingo in 1988 at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. Don’t let anyone tell you that 80s music sucked!

  70. I’m with those who think listening to the cast album might have helped. Not because it’s hard to hear the words live—though if you can follow every word in “Guns and Ships” the first time through you have better middle-aged ears than mine—but because listening to the cast album first forces you to concentrate on the words and music, which are, in my opinion, brilliant. Works of literal genius. Often on repeat listens. I’d hear something on my third or fourth time through that made me stop and say, “Wait—he did *that*?”

    Also, hearing the original cast definitely adds something. I’ve seen Hamilton twice. The first time was a week before the original cast left (I didn’t *quite* have to take out a second mortgage on my house to get the tickets). The energy in that place was amazing (and not just because Hillary and Bill Clinton were in attendance). There’s something to hearing Lin-Manuel Miranda performing his own work. And Daveed Diggs stole the show. His replacement is perfectly cromulent, but the role of Jefferson was literally written with Daveed Diggs in mind and he’s a tough act to follow.

    The second time I saw Hamilton was about a month ago. It was still amazing. I was still emotional all the way through. It was still great. And in many ways, the actor playing Hamilton (Michael Luwoye, that night) was better than Miranda. It didn’t quite have the same energy. How could it? But it was close.

    Anyway, seeing Hamilton after listening to the soundtrack over and over is very much like going to a rock concert for a band you love but have never seen live. You’ve played their music over and over and know it by heart, and now you get to see it performed live. That’s the best way I can describe the atmosphere each time I’ve seen Hamilton. Going to Hamilton without having listened to the album is a little like going to a concert for a rock megastar whose music you’ve never listened to. You might well come out of it thinking, “That Springsteen fellow puts on a good show, but I’m not sure what all the hype’s about.”

    If you liked the musical enough to give the soundtrack a listen or two, it might surprise you how much it grows on you.

    Or not. What do I know?

  71. This reaction of yours (and of many commenters here) are very interesting to me, as this is something I’ve thought about for a long time. I am Indian and I grew up watching movies with songs – not musicals in their strictest sense, but movies where songs played a hugely important part.

    Most “mainstream” Indian movies in any language involves a lot of singing and dancing. Good songs often make or break commercial performance of movies. It’s very commonplace to see protagonists break into songs at the drop of a hat. (You’d know what I mean if you’ve watched Slumdog Millionaire.) Almost all of the greatest and most popular modern Indian singers / songwriters / lyricists etc. have worked in the film industry. I have never felt that I had to suspense my disbelief very hard for movie songs. Traditional Indian theatre also depends on music a lot.

    At the same time, I cannot really get into Hollywood or Broadway musicals. Something about that format really does not work for me. I have no idea why.

  72. If you’re at all intellectually curious about the writing process behind the show, you might check out a podcast called “The Room Where It’s Happening.” It’s admittedly a show intended for the cult audience, but they frequently dig into the layers of musical, literary, and cultural references Miranda incorporated into the show. It’s pretty great. I know nothing about the history of rap and hip hop and am still thoroughly impressed to hear about all the subtle and not-so-subtle references that are in the show. For the musical layers, I particularly recommend the episode where Alex Lacamoire was their guest.

  73. For me, musicals were magic that took me out of this reality. I think the first one–that I can remember anyway–was Rogers and Hammerstein “Cinderella” with Leslie Ann Warren. C’mon what’s not to like? A handsome prince takes you away. It introduced me to musical comedy numbers too. Pat Carroll singing about pulling out hair always cracks me up.
    I’ve always wondered about those who ‘just don’t get’ musicals–I’d always thought they were too literal/linear because they always say things like “Why are they singing?” or “That part where everyone jumped up to dance was so unrealistic”. So maybe it is a genetic or a brain-wiring thing.
    I had a roommate who HATED musicals with a red-hot passion (imagine his surprise when he came back from a free screening of “Evita”–he didn’t know that not only was it a musical but it was ALL musical) and yet was head over heels into “Mary Poppins”.
    Add me to the group that loves “Strictly Ballroom”. I saw it back when there were still a number of small independant theaters here in San Francisco and there used to actually be a variety of movies to see. And then drug friends to see it as well.
    But yeah–musicals. Whether it’s “Rocky Horror” or “Pajama Game” or “Hairspray” –get the popcorn and let’s go.

  74. Delighted to find other MTAD sufferers here. I love theatre and hugely enjoy the moments when Shakespeare, for example, says “this is a play! Watch how I do this trick!”. Enjoying how theatre works as well as what it does, I was surprised to find that I didn’t much care for musicals. Part of this, I think, is that I dislike Andrew Lloyd Webber’s cheesy music, but the main thing is that I like to do more as an audience member than just sit and watch a bunch of skilled people knock themselves out acting and singing and dancing. So I like musicals where the audience has to work a bit, to understand or to see how the work is put together: say, a Sondheim work, or 1776, where the songs advanced the action as well as illustrating character and feeling.
    Has anyone else heard the old saw:
    If it’s too silly to be said, it can be sung.
    If it’s too silly to be sung, it can be danced.
    ?

  75. When a friend told me that I *had to* see HAMILTON, and that it was a rap musical, I was incredibly skeptical. I don’t have MTAD (my ex does, however; I’ve given up on him ever liking a musical of any kind), but I was afraid that it would not work for me because I am not overly enamored of rap. But, I figured I should give it a chance, so I got the soundtrack, and slowly fell in love with it. All of a sudden, the musical style didn’t matter, except that LMM’s choosing various styles of rap (and other genres) for his songs simply made each of the songs more powerful in their impact.

    The roomie and I are hoping to save enough to get to see the show at some point, but even if I never do, I am glad to have finally gotten to hear the music, and to fall in love with LMM’s genius for matching lyrics and melodies. I’m also delighted to have found a way into the musical world of rap and its many styles – something I had not thought possible before, even with my eclectic tastes.

    And I think that is part of what drives the Hamilcult: It gives access to a whole new world of things to listen to to many folks who never thought they could like rap/hip-hop/etc.

  76. Wow… I thought I was the only person who just doesn’t get musicals? I don’t hate them usually, but that just breaking out into song? Way back my brother used to do a lot of local theater, and my mother and I would go see whichever new one he was in. A couple of them were musicals (don’t recall which after all these years), and my brother is a pretty good singer, so yeah, I enjoyed the plays… but…people just stopping to sing?

    John, I’m glad I’m not alone at having been a sap while watching Moana. LIke Aladdin, the songs worked. After all, a giant jewel and gold encrusted crab is just the kinda thing you’d expect to bust out in song! As is, it is the first movie that has made me–a 49 year old male–go out the next day and track down a Disney store to get a plush of the real star of the movie… HeiHei.

  77. I was dragged, kicking and protesting, into the Hamilton world last summer. I am NOT a fan of rap or hip-hop, so I actively avoided any and all exposure. I am a fan of musicals, though. I finally gave in after four friends admitted that they, too, hated rap and hip-hop but loved the music. “The lyrics are so smart”, “it’s not all hip-hop”, and “you’ll like it, I promise”. One friend played me the first King song to lure me in. I broke down and bought the CD, when my daughter’s BFF was going to have a Hamilton sing-along after her bat mitzvah, and I figured I should at least *try* it. My daughter and I loved it once we got through the first 4 or 5 songs. My husband listened to it but was never enamored. And this upcoming Sunday, my daughter and I will be seeing it on Broadway. Can’t wait!

  78. I suspect that a Redshirts musical would be rather like the late John M. Ford’s How Much for Just the Planet?

  79. I just thought of a few musicals that I actually did like–not live theater, though. I really like the movie “Across the Universe,” mostly because I was roughly those characters’ age at the time of the events depicted, and I thought the movie did a good job of capturing the look-n-feel of the times. Also, the performances (acting and singing) were excellent. And it used Beatles songs in a clever way, putting a new twist on some of them, such as “She’s So Heavy” in the draft examination sequence.

    And then there’s Dennis Potter. I think “Pennies from Heaven” and “The Singing Detective” (especially the latter) used the bursting-into-song thing brilliantly to subvert the whole idea.

  80. Added to movie watch list:
    – Strictly Ballroom
    – The Commitments
    – Sing Street

    Can’t believe that as a musical lover, I’ve never seen any of these. Also, add one vote for Angelica for BSS.

  81. Of course Angelica is the best sister.

    Add my name to the list of those in favor of a Redshirts musical. As a person writing a musical, I highly recommend the experience. Writing songs is really cool. And one of the keys to writing a musical that works is having a good underlying story, which Redshirts is.

  82. 1. Nthing the praise for Sing Street; it’s a wonderful, exuberant movie and was one of the pieces of art I turned to during the month after 11/9.

    2. “My Best Friend’s Wedding” is another movie that’s not a musical but feels like one; music is key to it, and the cast even breaks into song, once, but it’s just this side of plausible when they do.

  83. I find it interesting that your Uncanny Valley feeling also applies to sung-through musicals; I would think a piece of theater where nobody ever speaks standard dialogue would be enough to push past your suspension of disbelief issues. I also think that some of what you experienced probably had something to do with hearing it for the first time. My first listen, I didn’t cry at all during “It’s Quiet Uptown” because I was still in shock from “Stay Alive (reprise).” (Then by the time I saw it, I had mostly learned to control myself, only to lose it all over again when I saw the actors actually responding to each other onstage.) Same with “Dear Theodosia” – having the space to reflect on my own hopes and dreams for my children once I was familiar with the lyrics was what really connected with me.

    That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with not joining the HamilCULT, of course – I think even those of us who love it recognize it has flaws. I’m glad you got to see it.

  84. John, I think I have this same ‘musical artifice uncanny-valley whatsis’ going on. My wife loves (LOVES) musicals, but I have a tremendously hard time getting into them. When we watched Hello Dolly, I kept saying stuff like, “Oh, how convenient that three dozen people, all in matching clothes, all tremendously skilled at singing and dancing, and all intimately familiar with the same song and dance just HAPPENED to come around the corner just then! Astonishing!!!” I liked it okay, it just kept kicking me back past the fourth wall in an “Oh, GEEZ, that’s silly” sort of way.

    So: No, you’re not alone.

  85. I went to see a student-written musical when I was in college, and afterwards, I had a chat with a friend who was in it (not the person who wrote it; that was another friend) that went something like this:

    Me: I’m not a huge musical theater person, but I like some of it.

    Him: They’re doing “Sweeney Todd” this spring. You might want to see that.

    Me: Was that just a lucky guess that I like that show, or–

    Him: No, whenever somebody says that they’re not a huge musical theater person, but that they like some of it, what they’re really saying is, “I like Sondheim.”

    I don’t know what your thoughts on Sondheim are, but it’s possible that I have a touch of the MTAD are as well, John.

  86. It’s fascinating to read these comments and see what artifices different people will embrace or resist. There’s no right or wrong reaction, of course. But for those who have trouble with the “bursting-into-song” thing, I wonder if it helps to approach musicals the same way one would approach science fiction or fantasy stories: that is, to be primed to accept that certain things are possible within the world of the story, even if they’re impossible in ours. So when I see a “Star Wars” film I don’t question the existence of the Force or hyperspace-capable spacecraft, and when I read “Harry Potter” I accept that magic and wizards are a thing. Would it help to get over the Musical Uncanny Valley if one thinks “this is a parallel dimension in which, whatever its other similarities or dissimilarities to ours, people can burst into song-and-dance at any time as an organic form of expression”? I dunno.

    My other thought is: While it’s entirely possible that one may not care for a genre as a whole, it’s also possible that that person may not yet have encountered the specific works in that genre that really resonate with them. (Happened to me many times.) Musical theater is a medium, like “books” or “TV,” and it’s huge: folks who go crazy for “Rent” or “Spring Awakening” or “Dear Evan Hansen” may not be so enamored of the old Rodgers & Hammerstein shows, and vice versa. And, as with books and TV, even people who generally enjoy the medium (like me) aren’t emotionally engaged in EVERY work in that medium, for any number of reasons: some musicals simply aren’t as well-written as others, or are technically brilliant but have no heart, or the songs aren’t in a style that I enjoy, or the performance happened to be sub-par the night I saw it, or the umpteenth replacement cast in a long-running show simply doesn’t have the original-cast qualities that made the show such a hit when it opened.

    So it’s possible that someone who hasn’t been emotionally walloped by a musical hasn’t met the right musical yet, at the right time. Or not. :-) (Of course, it’s a lot easier with books and TV to keep trying new works at low cost, which is a BIT harder to do with theater given the price of tickets these days.)

  87. I’ll just ditto others that I fell in love with it by listening (with headphones) to the cast album long before I saw the show. There is so much subtle instrumentation that is just perfection.

    But I’m not a very emotional person and don’t have to, say, cry at the sad parts to become a devotee. It’s just a really satisfying piece of media to consume, similarly to watching a fun, well constructed movie or reading an awesome book.

    And while I love musicals, I far and beyond prefer rock operas and the like over traditional stuff like Oklahoma.

    But I’ve long thought we need more science fiction musicals, comedic or otherwise.

  88. I saw probably 10,000 musicals, mostly outdoors, as a kid. My parents were involved with local efforts to produce a musical on summer evenings as a tourist attraction. Well , more accurately as something for tourists to do in evenings after coming to outdoor attractions like rafting the New River, now including rock climbing, huge zip line setups, etc.

    So we saw local productions, but also broadway shows, light opera, Pirates of Penzance, Madame Butterfly, South Pacific, many more. I played piano for HS productions, major fun. But like you, I can’t relate to drama where suddenly someone breaks into song towards the audience. Loss of suspension of disbelief is absolute and total.

    And I really don’t care for urban music, whether you call it Rap or Hip Hop or whatever. Cole Porter is music. Led Zep is Music, James Brown or Driveby Truckers, Tedeschi Trucks, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn or his brother Jimmy Vaughn, or a piano concerto, all music. Guys chanting to scratching records and a drum machine, not so much. Judy Collins is music. South Pacific is good music, just not good believable drama.

    Just me. Old time mountain music, Doc Watson, The Blues Brothers… Rachmaninoff and all those Russian romantics, Bach, etc.

    I’m sure Hamilton was fun, I woulda had fun, but I wouldn’t have become a fan. Maybe I’m broken?

    Even classic opera live was fun. I’ll never enjoy listening to opera on the radio or even TV, but live it was big fun… The Red Army Chorus was a great show, with dancing Cossacks leaping and dancing with swords was fun. NWA, etc, just not my thing.

  89. It takes all kinds. I recall as a kid dragging my grandmother to see E.T. She didn’t ever see the title character as anything other than a foam rubber puppet, and so the movie failed to turn on her heart light even a tiny bit. She said she had always been that way. Goldilocks was a ridiculous story, because–come on–bears don’t talk.

    I’ve loved musicals from a very young age. I think it’s the uncanny valley that draws me in, just as it pushes some away.

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