"There's no accounting for taste" is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in everyday discourse - and nowhere is this more true than when it comes to comedy, I think...
Millions of people flock to films starring Adam Sandler, but personally, I can't stand him. He's always struck me as being quite an irritating git, and not particularly funny.
I quite like Terry Gilliam films, but a lot of people (including members of my own family) have said that his brand of surreal, absurdist humour amounts to nothing more than "being weird for the sake of being weird".
Who knows why I find the comedy numbers from "Sunset Boulevard" amusing?
It could be because I am a film-buff as well as a musicals enthusiast, and I get a lot of the movie references that fly over the heads of some people... I remember listening to the recording with my brother once, he is not as into films as I am so I had to explain a few of the references to him. Or maybe it's because I've been a struggling actor myself and can relate to the sentiments expressed by the failed thesps in "This Time Next Year"?
Or maybe I like Joe's sardonic asides because I feel that there is at least some truth buried amidst his mountain of cynicism?
Maybe it's just because I'm partial to sarcasm myself? (yes, even though I have heard it said that sarcasm is the lowest kind of wit)
Trying to define what is humour is a bit like debating how many angels can dance on the end of a pin - it's totally subjective and you'll never get absolute agreement on it. I've seen the worst kind of flame wars erupt over this very subject...
Exactly. I agree. A collective responsibility.
Which is why people should at least mention the lyricists and librettists by name, instead of talking about Andrew Lloyd-Webber as though he is the be all and end all of a project.
Though again, Andrew Lloyd-Webber has done much to foster this phenomenon himself through his self-important statements in interviews.
It's just my view that all the genuinely interesting ALW musicals are interesting as much because he was working with interesting writers as because they had interesting scores.... whereas the bad/dull musicals he has done fail primarily because of bad lyrics and poor source material.
(though again, since splitting with Tim Rice, ALW has been the driving force in the choice of source material, so there is collective responsibility there)
Tim Rice had a certain dry British wit that acted as a neat foil to ALW's emotive music - and I'd say much the same thing about Christopher Hampton... one of the main reasons I like both "Sunset Boulevard" and "Evita" is the weird juxtaposition of bitingly cynical lyrics with lush romantic music. Even the big "diva ballads" from those two musicals come across as sadly ironic within the context of the story itself.
Again, there is no accounting for taste. You say that the songs should have explored the themes that are already there deeper... I feel that they did. You say that you don't feel the themes in the movie to any noteworthy degree are treated as subjects of song... I feel that they were.
Also, I feel that fame and the need for recognition are not the primary themes of the film - though they are an important part of it, to be sure - I think of "Sunset Boulevard" primarily as a fable of responsibility and the value of personal integrity.... but there you go, one of the reasons why I like "Sunset Boulevard" so much is that I think it can be interpreted in so many different ways, and that's one of the things that keeps me coming back to it again and again...
But such things could be debated for hours, the film has been the subject of many a student's thesis, I am sure... and again, I feel we'll probably never come to a consensus on this.
Getting back to the original topic, the problem for me in determining ALW's most satisfying score is that many of his bad shows contain truly transcendental moments..... I think nowhere is this more apparent than "Whistle Down The Wind", which contains some of both ALW and Jim Steinman's best work as songwriters, but which ultimately doesn't hold together very well as a musical. The whole is much less than it's (sometimes brilliant - ala "A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste") parts.
There are bits of "Aspects Of Love", "The Beautiful Game" and even "The Woman In White" which I think hint at a good musical being down there somewhere, struggling to get out.
Related to that, I can't think of a single ALW musical that does not contain at least one musical number that seems misjudged or cheezy in some way or which just gets on my nerves... even his good musicals have at least one of these. For instance, I find "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" to be such a blatant commercial for a chart-single that I can't take it seriously in the context of the otherwise fine "Evita". And again, I can't take "You Must Love Me" seriously since it's such blatantly obvious Oscar bait.
For the record, I'd say that I think "Joseph", "Superstar", "Evita", "Phantom" and "Sunset" are his only flat out good musicals.... "Whistle" I find both moving and entertaining, despite the fact that the intellectual part of my brain realises it is a bad musical.... "Aspects Of Love", "The Beautiful Game" and "The Woman In White" I also find oddly listenable despite the fact that I don't consider them to be very good. I guess I feel that there are enough of those odd transcendental moments to make them interesting.... "Starlight Express", "Love Never Dies", "Cats", "By Jeeves", "Song & Dance" just don't do it for me at all. Not in any way whatsoever.
I guess I'd say that "Sunset" is the most satisfying to me, but considering my general opinion of ALW's career, that is not saying a whole lot.