5 Ways to Survive a Musical

too many damn musicals

Not a single one of these would be allowed in a just and kind world.

Musicals are the worst thing to ever happen to storytelling. Period. I would rather watch every Uwe Boll film on repeat to the end of time than sit through another perky “comedy” about shoes or hair products or AIDS. Even still, there comes a time in everyone’s life where they are forced to sit through one of the many oozing stomach ulcers known as musicals. I’m here to guide you on how to make it to the credits.

1. Food – You know those days when you stand over a sink eating a cold hot dog on stale bread with a mustard packet from the Nixon administration? No? Well it’s called Thursday over here and I think you should shut the hell up about my eating habits. Anyway, this just won’t do if you are forced to endure a musical. You have to load up on every salty, sugary, oh-god-my-pancreas-is-dying type food you can get your hands on. The food coma you will achieve might last longer than John Travolta’s terrifying Scientologist summoning rituals, which I believe was the plot of Hairspray.

This is the face of mescaline use.

This is the face of mescaline use.

2. Drugs – These musical heresies to humankind would not exist if it weren’t for incredible amounts of narcotic drugs. I’m not talking about Advil and a nice Gin and Tonic, I’m thinking more like ketamine and the latent effects of child abuse. More likely, it’s the will of some gnostic demon channeling its thoughts into the world through hallucinogens.  If the only way these horrible humans can conjure up the self-justification that the musicals they create are acceptable is through drugs, why not join them?

My main suggestion would be edible cannabis products. You can add it to the food method discretely and blast into your own personal world for a few hours.

3. Seduction – If you are watching a musical, it is usually a trap from your significant other. He or she is testing your commitment to them. This is the relationship equivalent to the Spartan Agoge. They want to hurt you. They want to cleave your heart out, urinate on it, fill it with molasses and Prince albums and shove it back in. Like a voodoo slave, you come out the other end disoriented, undead, and suggestible to almost anything.

The way to subvert this is to embrace it. Light some candles. Get the bubbly. Call them over to your lap. This isn’t the time for lazy lines or the old butt-grab-and-eyebrow-lift. This calls for an NFL level game plan. Make each touch count, a fumble here would spell ruin. Keep your eye on the ball, or balls depending on which gender you are targeting.

Now, just add some ghost pepper sauce.

Now, just add some ghost pepper sauce.

4. Intestinal Sabotage – Do you know what a musical date should also entail? A trip to your favorite shady Mexican or Indian food place. If there isn’t a long trail of dirt from construction workers caked into the carpet, you aren’t getting the right tamales. You want the green chili to broil your insides like a mouthful of molten lead. You want curry in so many colors that your stool will look like an abstract masterpiece.

In a pinch (tee hee), ExLax should do the trick. It’s been helping our grandparents for years, so why not allow it to save your future relationship? If you can spend more than half of your time occupied in the loo, you might be able to keep your sanity.

5. Cut the Power – Sometimes the only way to win is to not play at all. Let’s face it, anyone who likes musicals doesn’t know how to flip a breaker. They’ll believe that a blackout hit only your apartment and will go along with your outrage at ‘The Man’ at the power company for not being able to keep something so simple as an enormous power grid running flawlessly. The only drawback to this plan is that it is more of a stay of execution, not a permanent solution.

My fight with musicals has just begun, but I need to know how all of you keep yourself from the heretical mewlings of musicals. Leave a comment below with your strategy. 

Side note: Cleaving all jazz hands and making the performer wear their shamed appendage is a viable option for a different time period. We’re out to win hearts and minds, not get prison time.


Tony Southcotte hails from the Rocky Mountains somewhere around the state of Colorado. Possibly raised by grizzly bears, this gritty denizen of the arena now spends most of his time grappling with Java updates and dysfunctional RAM. With not much fiction under his belt, it might seem tempting to bet against Mister Southcotte, but an impressive knowledge of everything from PVC pipe to psychedelic drugs makes Tony a storehouse of fiction waiting to hit the paper. Plus, you know, there’s the possibility of him ripping you apart like a grizzly bear.

9 thoughts on “5 Ways to Survive a Musical

  1. You pick and choose your musicals.

    You watch Sweeney Todd singing to his razors (“friends, you’ll soon drip rubies”) while he plots to kill a judge. You watch The Cell Block Tango from Chicago, as a half dozen unfortunate women explain how they ended up in jail (“He ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times.”) or you watch the Bohemians celebrate their all too brief time in the electric lights of the Moulin Rouge (“I drive a Rolls Royce cuz its good for my voice”).

    Alternatively, you can watch a much later group of Bohemians stand up against the pressures of capitalism by celebrating La Vie Boheme (“to days of inspiration, playing hooky, making something out of nothing the need to express, to communicate to going against the grain going insane”) or a much earlier bunch of French youngsters putting together their own doomed revolution (“Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of your heart, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!”).

    If that doesn’t work then all I can suggest is that you sing along as best you can.

      • Nope, I can’t say that I’ve ever been “forced” to watch a musical. And I’ve never seen Momma Mia (nor have I felt any interest in doing so). I actually don’t detest them in the manner you so artistically outlined in the article. I’ve seen several musicals, and have enjoyed a few. And when I operated a recording studio in the 80s-90s I even produced a ton of music every year for the local high school spring musical – so I had to study and learn to play songs from many popular musicals – some of which I readily admit to hating every moment of.

        It’s just that I don’t intentionally gravitate to them. Actually maybe its even a bit more than that. I’ve enjoyed some, certainly, but sometimes I have to get beyond the idea of it being a musical before considering viewing it. That’s one of the reasons I never watched Les Misérables. I think more often than not, having characters suddenly break into song simply takes me out of the narrative. It doesn’t make sense to me that dialogue suddenly becomes song, and everyone around knows the words and the dance steps in perfect syncopation.

        But sometimes the stories are bigger and the performances are better than all of that, and it becomes easy to get lost in the experience, through which elements like emotionally compelling music and cleverly written and integrated lyrical prose helps foster the story rather than side step from it. In some cases I become equally fascinated by the mastery of multiple performance disciplines that such a production can entail.

        I recently reviewed a list of 100 “best” musicals of all time (subjectively arranged), and I noticed some listed that I remember seeing and enjoying very, very much. Some I remember enjoying aren’t on the list at all. A few I’ve seen on the list I didn’t care for in the slightest. And the bulk of them I’ve never seen, and most likely never will. C’est la vie.

        But getting back to your question – no, what broke my brain was sentences from your article along the lines of “They want to cleave your heart out, urinate on it, fill it with molasses and Prince albums and shove it back in.”

        I reveled in reading the pure poetry of your words, and each segment of this article was chock full of them, with each such line being immediately followed with more “moreness” of such. I enjoyed it so much I scarcely had a moment between sentences for my brain to take a brief pause to conceptualize the pure, unmitigated vitriol through which you conveyed your hatred for musicals. It broke my brain a little bit.

        But it felt good.

        • You are too kind, Jon. Thank you.

          I’ve talked before about how I can stand certain musicals (mostly crude parodies like The South Park Movie or Avenue Q) but it is all about preparing to let go. Something like that feels more like it is making fun of the genre, even if it embraces it whole entirely.

          I remember we once had a talk about your Jesus and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and your involvement there. That one actually did sound like fun to produce.

          • That reminds me of one of my favorite memories of that production. I also ran the live sound during the performances. The leads wore body mics in which the element was extra tiny and could be woven through their hair and affixed to their hairline, so the audience could hear them clearly but the microphone was not visible from the seats.

            In one scene, the lead who played “Joesph” is arrested, beaten and thrown in prison with his arms bound in chains at which point he sings a woeful song, on his knees with his bound arms resting on his legs.

            During the scuffle, unbeknownst to anyone, the mic had been ripped loose, and managed to snake its way down his body, getting caught in his underwear.

            So when he sang his song, his voice was distance and muffled. I thought something was wrong with the system until he started making little expressive movements with his arms, straining against the chains while in character.

            The sound system was practically blown out with the noise of the chains being dragged across the mic. He couldn’t tell what was going on, so he kept doing it through the number while I was rushing to the board to shut off his channel because the audience was being deafened by his chain rattling.

            It was awesome.

  2. I think some musicals – typically those that have some overtly fictional element – have the capacity to flip the Willing Suspension of Disbelief switch in my head. At that point, it becomes totally logical that the cast should sing. It’s hard to imagine them doing anything else.

    Without that, my patience strains. I cannot imagine watching Chess, for example, without needing to comment regularly on the absurdity of the proceedings. I won’t be watching Miss Saigon, or Tell Me on a Sunday, or the like. But singing, roller-skating trains? OK. That I can do. That’s not a world that anyone intends to make a lick of sense. And it’s less bad for me than LSD.

    I think you can probably sort out people predisposed to musicals with a simple clinical test: play them an early Rush album and ask them the simple question “Could you detect narrative structure there? Were you happy that you could?”

    The people who nod and ponder are going to like the works of people like Sondheim. The rest might need a bit of time to recover and maybe a stiff drink.

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