I have a confession. Music Theatre is a bit gross.
Music Theatre gets a bad name for a number of reasons – many I agree with.
Cheesy storylines shoehorned into an excuse for the lead to belt really high.
Dance numbers that appear out of thin air.
People bursting into song for no apparent reason.
Of course, there are those among us who still love the genre. The joy, the drama and the spectacle is something that is entertaining and sometimes moving.
But finding the line between truthful emotion and entertainment is tricky. Which one of these will get people to buy tickets? Is domestic emotional content enough to move audiences, or do you need a full war re-enactment to match the level of theatricality inherent in the Music Theatre genre?
When creating We Are the (End of the) World with my writing partner Edan McGovern, these ideas were at the forefront of our minds. Why do people see Theatre? Or watch television? Or go to live music? Why will people spend a night out, buy a ticket, pay for dinner and parking and a babysitter for the kids, on simply an experience?
We had a look at some of the most commercially successful events in the entertainment industry. Funnily enough, it led us to Not-For-Profit charity events.
Although they don’t make money for those involved, the passion of the audience to support charitable causes, hear emotional stories and watch moving musical performances is what got the most audience outreach and, in the end sold the most tickets.
We Are the World was a monumental moment in the entertainment industry’s history.
It showed humanity’s empathy and support for our world and all of those who live on it. It sparked a flame and demonstrated how, with the right inspiration, people can come together and be generous with their time and money.
But perhaps this flame grew into something a bit too flammable.
Looking at the power of musical events such as We Are the World, Edan and I started to notice after-effects. The desire to be seen as empathetic is not the same as actually being empathetic yourself. And being socially aware and charitable is really cool. Watching and supporting a singer on The Voice who is a single mum? Cool as.
So Edan and I went down this rabbit hole of humanity’s disguises: our need to be seen in a certain way; to wear clothing that implies a particular value system or upbringing; our desire to act in ways that reflect a mindset that is cool and on-trend and seemingly accepting. If we are in control of how we are perceived, we can be in control of our success.
What we’ve ended up with is a parody musical-turned-apocalypse cautionary tale about how generosity can turn to insanity. How a benefit concert for local Aussie egg farmers can turn into demented chickens doing an a cappella physical theatre piece in the second half and taking over the crumbled world. How the most honest and selfless person may like that warm feeling just a bit too much to make anything entirely selfless.
And that led us back to the genre we were writing for.
What if this manipulation of audience’s desire to be selfless is hidden behind song and dance? It all seemed very meta and made us feel very smart. So here we are, an original music comedy that, after I’ve now written an article about it, seems a bit wanky.
But in the end, it’s just a bit of fun and silly games, which will hopefully appeal to both music theatre lovers, music theatre haters, and maybe even you.