Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Seattle Update

Two friends from other parts of the country asked me today what is actually going on in Seattle right now. The following is an e-mail that I wrote to them, with my understanding of what is going on, as of June 16, 2020:

There's a lot going on right now, both good and bad. 

There were mostly peaceful marches for multiple days in a row. Violence did break out at times, and the blame is on both sides. Some of it was the police provoking the protesters. At times, protesters got violent. Police used tear gas, pepper spray (at times taking off people's COVID masks and spraying it directly in their face), flash bangs, and other weapons. Anarchists and white supremacists and various other groups also got in on the insanity. HOWEVER, the violence was the exception. Most of the time, the protests were peaceful. 

A group of protesters set up a part of downtown that they named the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). It has been going several days now. The police voluntarily (with encouragement from the mayor) closed their precinct office there. I believe that closure is temporary, but not sure. Initially, CHAZ was blocked off, but some of the blockades have been moved to allow access for businesses and people who live there. Some media falsely reported that it is a haven for terrorists and anarchists. Fox News photoshopped an armed man supposedly standing guard, but removed those pictures when they were called on it. They also posted a picture of a fire in the Minneapolis protests, falsely claiming it was in CHAZ. It is actually closer to a street fair and has been mostly peaceful.

* Protesters have made a large "Black Lives Matter" mural on the street, with a different artist decorating each letter
* There is also other art and graffiti there, mostly remembering the black people who have been killed by police and urging people to "say their names"
* Booths have been set up with free food and hand sanitizer and other items
* Some businesses have actually been able to operate their full hours because they are protected. (At the height of the marches, and also due to coronavirus, they had very limited hours for a while there.)
* The bad part is that 911 has been much less responsive in that area

Rumors were going around, partly due to the word "autonomous" in its name, that CHAZ had seceded from the nation and was selling itself as an anarchist utopia. To clear up confusion, they changed the name the other day to Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). 

Their aim is to work with police and others to make improvements to the way black lives are treated by the police. I've heard conflicting reports on how far they intend to go on "defunding" the police, but it is generally not a complete elimination like it sounds. They want to take some responsibilities away from the police because they feel we are asking too much of them. For example, the police are expected to do the job of social workers, medical personnel, and more. The police aren't equipped to do all that.  They would like that revamped so that actual social workers and others who are better equipped to help with those specific tasks can do them more effectively. They are also looking to change the way police respond to crises, depending more on de-escalation techniques rather than shooting first or using tear gas (which is actually illegal to use in war, so they understandably don't appreciate it used to quell protests).

There's a lot more to it, but that's the gist, and my understanding. 

I appreciate the prayers and concerns. Seattle needs prayer. The mayor (Jenny Durkan) and governor (Jay Inslee) are trying to figure out how to handle this, as CHOP is technically not permitted, but they also want to listen to the protesters' legitimate concerns. 

I hope that helps! 


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Blasphemous Lies Racists Tell

Sometimes the Devil's most heinous lies are so heinous because they have just enough truth in them to be believable. 

For example, 
All Lives Matter

Of course they do! Nobody is denying that! All lives have infinite worth. But that is far too often used to deflect from the issue at hand, that black lives are still undervalued and shot down (literally and figuratively) at a much higher rate than other lives. We are commanded to speak up for the people in need (for example, Proverbs 31:8-9, Proverbs 12:21, Psalm 82:2-4 and Psalm 12:5, among others) and to deflect from that is to a abdicate our sacred duty and blaspheme the name of God. Yes, I said BLASPHEME. Jesus told a parable (Luke 15:4-7 and Matthew 18:10-14) about a shepherd with a flock of 100 losing one sheep, and temporarily leaving the flock to find the one lost sheep. Not because the other sheep didn't matter, but because the life of that lost sheep did. To abandon that one sheep because "all sheep matter" would have been a death sentence for the lost sheep. Jesus reached out to Samaritans. He reached out to beggars. He reached out to tax collectors. He reached out to the downtrodden. Their lives mattered to Him. Now far too many of His professed "followers" are acting like Pharisees and saying that it is wrong to reach out to a specific group that He died for because "all lives matter."

Or how about this? 
Blue Lives Matter

Once again, nobody is denying that the lives of police are valuable. But once again, this is used to deflect. I believe most police are good at their job, but we have seen so many examples of bad cops causing major harm, and a disproportionate number of arrests, attacks, beatings, tear gas, rubber bullets, shootings, etc. have been done by the police against blacks, who have often turned out to be innocent. In some ways, "Blue Lives Matter" as a response to "Black Lives Matter" is worse than the other example because so much of the violence against blacks is perpetrated by the police. It is implying that the lives of the attackers are more valuable than those of the victims. 

Yes, all lives matter. Yes, blue lives matter. But don't you dare commit BLASPHEMY against the God you claim to serve because you are too racist to realize the harmful implication you are communicating to our fellow valued and needed humans that black lives don't matter. 

Nobody is saying that only black lives matter, or that they matter more than the lives of cops. That seems to be what so many hear, but that is another lie from the pit. Black Lives Matter is about speaking up for those who have been hurt, killed, put down, and so much more, because of the color of their skin. It has nothing to do with favoring anybody. Blacks deserve equality. 


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Lament for Astrid

Astrid, my beautiful Astrid
From the first test drive, I was in love! 
Your shining silver coat
Your wonderful gas mileage
You were always there
I could always depend on you
To get me where I was going

My pride and joy
My own beloved car
I couldn't ask for a greater automotive child 
You were my own
I loved you so
We went through so much together
My sweet, strong car

On that final ill-fated trip
You got us far
You worked so well
And when disaster struck
Divine strength guided us
Between the trees
Glancing off, not hitting head on
Coming to rest
Airbags deployed
Injured, but alive. 

Beloved Astrid,
You saved our lives
But lost your own

I thank God
For His Divine Strength
His Astrid that He gave me
Five years I will never forget
Five years with my first car
Dependable to a fault

Now, my beautiful car,
Your time is done. 
Rest in peace. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

More Musical Clickbait

I don't like clickbait any more than I did when I wrote the previous blog about musical clickbait. But I still like to make fun of it. Here are some more headlines for you. (Note that not every headline is 100% accurate. That is intentional.)

They land in a small town in Canada. But they weren't expecting THAT MANY planes at the airport or THAT welcome! We're CRYING!

His therapist told him to write himself a letter. You WON'T BELIEVE what happens when people read it! Share. Like. Spread this EVERYWHERE!

Ex-nun helps decorated naval captain and his seven children DEFY orders from his superiors!

I've been wrong all this time! THIS is why the Lord created men!

You won't believe how this con man seduces this librarian!

38 planes that landed in Gander that day (and 21 that landed in St. John's)

She decides to marry her boss. What happens next will make you sing!

Her ambitions as a writer are ASTONISHING!

They put out the call for help. When Brooklyn responds? I'm SHOCKED!

Displaced by a TORNADO, she uses THIS WEIRD TRICK to get home!

They just ease on down the road to reach their goal!

Jealous uncle USURPS the throne! What happens next? Hakuna matata!

10 guys who want to BRING DOWN the Sharks (and 10 who want to bring down the Jets)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Dear Steven Sauke

Dear Steven Sauke,

Today is going to be a good day, and here's why.

I went to see Dear Evan Hansen this past Friday on its national tour. It really got me thinking about how I treat the people around me. While I endeavor not to resort to bully tactics like Connor, my integrity is far too important to me to lie like Evan or betray confidences like Alana, and I hope I don't put conditions on helping others (or encourage dishonest behavior, or neglect to keep my mind out of the gutter) like Jared, I can see myself in several of the characters.

I remember my first day in 8th grade, at a new school in a new country, standing in a hall full of strangers hugging each other and greeting each other excitedly after a summer of missing each other. It was like I was "waving through a window," too scared and shy to talk to others. But I made friends that year. Some of them are still friends today. People teased me about my old-fashioned clothes (stripes were out of fashion, but I was not to know that, having recently returned from the Philippines). Classmates teased me about not knowing common American phrases like "The King is dead." (I only found out at the end of the year they were referring to Elvis and not Jesus.) A classmate wrote on my jacket in pencil, and when I tried to erase it, it wouldn't erase. I had to get a new jacket. As I progressed through high school, my classmates and I matured, but we were still typical teenagers. (Well, I've never been especially typical, but you know what I mean.)

I think about the way Connor and Evan treated their families. 

Connor's parents and Evan's mother were trying their hardest to raise their children, and kept coming across roadblocks and complications. Connor treated his family so poorly that his sister Zoe couldn't remember one good thing about him, and though his mother Cynthia insisted there were good things, she couldn't name one. Larry Murphy tried to provide for his son and teach him, but he didn't listen or seem to care. Please, let me never inspire my own dad to lament, "I gave you the world, and you threw it away!" 

Heidi Hansen did everything she could to provide for her son, while dealing with her own pain of the divorce ten years earlier, and her ex-husband moving on and starting his own family. She worked at the local hospital and took law classes, and even though she wasn't as available for her son as either of them would have preferred, she still made time for him. But he didn't truly appreciate it. He even lashed out at her when she made time for him, and he kept important things from her in an effort to cover up his lies. She learned major things about her own son on social media. Stuff he never told her.

Larry, Cynthia and Heidi all made sacrifices for their children, and they still felt like failures at times. That's part of being human. I don't consciously lie to people, but how many times have I withheld details that would have been important to someone who loves me and wants to help?

I guard my integrity jealously. It is one of my most deeply-held values. But, as with anyone else, it can always use improvement. Too often I take my family's love and sacrifices for granted, and I don't show the appreciation they deserve. At my current job in customer care, we have to deal with the fallout of salespeople's overpromises at times. How many times have I made a promise in other areas of life, and either come up short or forgotten to follow through? How can I learn from those experiences?

My family and friends are precious to me. I love them dearly. But sometimes I come up short and need "a little reinvention" (but in a more honest manner than the context of that quote in the musical). How can I reinvent myself rather than the facts? I'm thankful I have God and respected relatives and friends to help me with that!

The Connor Project was an amazing, important idea. We need more projects like that to remember people who were forgotten, to reach out to people who feel invisible and unloved. We need to remind them that they will be found. They are loved deeply. They are valuable. But we can't found these initiatives on lies. Good may come of it, but the guilt and torture lies can unleash is harmful.

As for the performance, set, and technical details, I thought it was amazing. The things they did with lighting, the way they showed texts, essays, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, e-mails, and more, was incredible. With all the social media going on onstage, I didn't even realize until the end of the show that there were only eight people in the cast! Noah Kieserman was fantastic as Evan, and I would have never guessed he was an understudy. Particularly since it was his face in the videos onscreen replaying his speech. (It was clearly not filmed live, as there's a curtain behind him in the videos, but not when he's giving the speech.) They must have videoed all the actors and understudies doing that scene in front of a school auditorium curtain. Everyone - cast, crew and orchestra - nailed their parts. The orchestra was on a balcony above the stage, and there were seats for audience in the orchestra pit. As is evident from my thoughts above, I came away thinking about how I can be a better, more appreciative person. So much in the show is relatable.

I have the most amazing parents and brother I could possibly imagine. I have several close friends that I consider siblings. I also have a lot of amazing friends that I don't consider siblings, but still love and respect deeply. How can I express more how much I truly love and appreciate them? I have been so blessed with such an amazing family, incredible friends, awesome coworkers (who are also friends), and so much more. May I never neglect to remind them how loved, respected and valued they are.

"Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you're broken on the ground
You will be found."


Graphic at the top generated from https://dearevanhansen.com/newyears/

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Rise of French Musicals

I wrote this paper in college based on research on French musicals. Note: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964) predates La Révolution Française (1973), but I was unable to find much information on it at the time. The paper stated that La Révolution Française was France's first musical. I have corrected that detail for the purposes of this blog. I have made a few other small tweaks, but that is the most important one. I have also added a few comments in [square brackets], mostly to clarify facts that were current in 2000, but may or may not still be current.



by Steven Sauke
February 24, 2000

For 134 years, America has had musicals. Great Britain has had them for a much shorter time, but in both nations,  particularly on Broadway and London's West End, they have become immensely popular. Relatively recently, another nation has entered the realm of writing musicals. This paper will discuss the rise of musicals in France, starting from the early heritage long before the musical, as we know it today, was invented, and coming up to the present, as the most recent French musical has possibly started to change the formerly negative views of the French toward the art form.

In the 17th Century, Molière wrote his plays, which had an influence on today's musicals. He started writing plays which required more talent than in the past. He used satire. For example, certain of his characters were easily recognizable as specific real people. More importantly, he put music in his plays. In all but one play, he worked with composer Jean-Baptiste Lully to make a musical play. In such plays as The Bores (1661), Monsieur de Pourgeaugnac (1669) and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1670), they used the harpsichord as the principal instrument (Flinn 44) with 5-string instruments, bassoons, flutes and oboes (Flinn 45).

In the early 19th Century, composers in Italy started to incorporate speaking lines in their operas, thus creating a new genre of opera, called opera buffa in Italian. This kind of opera soon became quite popular in Paris, where it became known as opéra bouffe or opéra comique. Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment was particularly popular in Paris in 1840. Many composers started writing "light" (one-act) operas, and the operetta was born (Citron 33). The first was Jacques Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). As Stephen Citron states in his book The Musical from the Inside Out, "Gone were the tragic arias and the high drama; they were replaced by shorter, wittier, less florid songs. Lively dance, (in this particular work, the famous can-can) displaced arty ballet" (33). In 1858, a government-sanctioned limit of one act and two roles on operas was lifted, and the operas and operettas got longer (Flinn 59-60).

The composer Hervé wrote musical plays to perform as therapy for the inmates of the Hôpital Bicêtre. He was so well received that he was appointed conductor at the Théâtre du Palais Royal, and he soon began to write longer plays. During that same time period, his colleague Offenbach wrote his first two-act musical play Orphée aux Enfers, which we have already mentioned. It became immensely popular in Paris. He worked with Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, who Denny Flinn calls in his book Musical! A Grand Tour "the first legitimate librettists" (61). In the past, the composer had written the lyrics as well, but that was now done by Meilhac and Halévy. They wrote "solos, duets, trios, quartets, chorus scenes, and dances" (Flinn 61). In his 25 years of composing, Offenbach wrote over 90 operettas, many of which had a political focus.

With the end of Offenbach's composing years came a new rising star in the composing field. Charles Lecocq started writing romantic operetta, and soon the Parisians decided they liked amour better than politics and satire in their operetta (Flinn 61).

Opera and operetta continued with Wagner's record 16-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen, written between 1853 and 1874 in Germany (Flinn 66) and Gilbert and Sullivan's numerous operetta, among them H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance, written in England approximately between 1875 and 1896 (Flinn 67-77). Some of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta were performed in the United States, and soon a new genre was born: the musical.

In 1866, a melodrama by the name of The Black Crook was performed in the US, and it was received poorly. A new idea came about. Maybe if they were to add music and dancing, it would be more popular. Groseppi Operti arranged the music, wrote some of it, and collected the rest from music stores. They arranged dances and planned a big spectacle (Flinn 81-82). Now all they needed was dancers. Enter the French. Yes, the French were involved in America's first musical. A troupe of Parisian ballerinas were on board a ship for the US to perform a ballet at New York's Academy of Music. Unfortunately for them, the theater burned down while they were on the ship, and when they arrived, they had no place to perform. However, this fire and the displaced French troupe turned out to be fortunate for the people who were working on The Black Crook. It now had dancers, and the French dancers had The Black Crook, a chance to show off their footwork for the Américains (Citron 38). The 5½ hour musical was a hit (Flinn 82). Sure, the Church blasted it (rightly so, in my opinion) because of nudity or near nudity, but the United States had succeeded in inventing a new kind of play. Thus was born the musical (Flinn 84). More musicals followed, the next popular one being Show Boat in 1926 (Flinn 175).

For several decades, the US was the only nation who was doing musicals, until Great Britain started to follow suit in the 60s with such musicals as Oliver! by Lionel Bart and the original version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The 70s brought the rock operas, a new kind of musical. In England, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote his popular musical Jesus Christ Superstar, while in France, two men by the names of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg composed their first musical, a rock opera: La Révolution Française.

La Révolution Française

Boublil and Schönberg's first work was also one of France's first musicals, and it was quite popular in France. It was the story of the revolutionary young Charles Gauthier and his growing love for Isabelle de Montmorency, a member of an aristocratic family during the turbulent French Revolution. Gauthier fights alongside Robespierre, Danton and Marat, and all the while he is growing fonder and fonder of Isabelle. Isabelle's family is banished from France because they are aristocrats, and the lovers are thus separated. Charlotte Corday's assassination of Marat starts the Terror, in which the Revolutionary Tribunal sentences hundreds of innocent people, including Queen Marie Antoinette, to the guillotine. Among those sentenced is Charles Gauthier. Isabelle returns from exile to find her lover in prison, and she is also condemned to death because she, an aristocrat, returned (Taylor).

La Révolution Française, "the first-ever staged French rock opera in Paris (Les Misérables CD-ROM), brought Boublil and Schönberg together as composers, and it was a big hit in France. Such was the beginning of a new age of musicals in France, though it continued to be slow in taking hold.


La Révolution Française came out in 1973, and six years later came another rock opera, this time by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger. They called it Starmania. It too was quite popular, and the composers, Plamondon in particular, have been making changes to it ever since it came out in 1979. New versions came out in 1986 and 1988. It premiered in Moscow in 1990, and the English version, translated by Tim Rice and renamed Tycoon, came out in 1992. In 1993, a newer French version of Starmania came out in Paris (A. Lee). Some songs from it have been recorded by such artists as Celine Dion (Starmania). Certain songs from it became quite popular in the 1980s, such that Tim Rice commented that it was "a hit show in a city infamous as a graveyard for musicals." We shall see more of this side of Paris' ideas of musicals later.

Starmania's plot goes like this: Monopolis, a futuristic city, is being terrorized by the underground group Les Étoiles Noires (The Black Stars), led by Johnny Rockfort, who is led by Sadia, a revolutionary student. They meet in the Underground Café, where Marie-Jeanne is a waitress.

A man named Zero Janvier is running for president of the Occident, and he is against the Étoiles Noires.

Sadia and Johnny Rockfort are in love, and Marie-Jeanne falls in love with Ziggy, a celebrity hunk. Cristal, a reporter on the TV program Starmania, interviews Johnny Rockfort and Zero Janvier, and she falls in love with both men, though much more so with Janvier. Janvier, meanwhile, gets engaged to a movie star named Stella Spotlight, while Rockfort and Cristal fall more in love with each other.

Cristal and Rockfort make plans to plant a bomb at the disco parlor where Janvier and Spotlight are planning to get married, but Sadia gets wind of the plan and tells Janvier. Ziggy abandons Marie-Jeanne in favor of acting and being a disco DJ. The followers of Janvier, on Sadia's warning, arrest Rockfort and kill Cristal. Janvier is elected president (Il se passe..., L'histoiremania, Valentine).

Both La Révolution Française and Starmania, though vastly different in setting and story line, were about love, and both were tragedies. These two musicals seemed to set a precedent for musicals to come, a precedent that came from French literature and opera from time immemorial. So much of France's literature and art is based around love and tragedies. For that matter, French is stereotypically known as the "language of love," and Paris is often called the City of Lovers. It only fits that France's musicals would follow that pattern.

Starmania opened in Paris in 1979, and the next year, another musical, Boublil and Schönberg's second, opened, also in Paris. This musical was to become their greatest success until then, and quite possibly their greatest success even today, but not in Paris.

Les Misérables

Les Misérables is a very complex musical, whose plot spans about thirty years. Set in the early to mid 19th Century, it is the story of an extraordinarily strong thief named Jean Valjean who escapes parole and turns his life around, becoming the mayor of a small French town. When the policeman Javert sees Mayor Madeleine (the name Valjean has taken to protect his identity) lift a heavy cart, he is reminded of Valjean, who he believes has just been caught. After Javert tells Madeleine about the recent arrest, the latter proves to the court that he, not the accused, is Valjean.

Meanwhile, a woman named Fantine has been working in Madeleine's factory to support herself and her illegitimate daughter Cosette, who lives at an inn where she, unbeknownst to Fantine, is being abused miserably. When Fantine's coworkers discover she has an illegitimate child, she is fired and forced onto the street, where she sells her locket and her hair, and in desperation, falls into prostitution. When she scuffles with a potential customer, she is arrested by Javert and rescued by Madeleine, who takes her to the hospital, where he promises that he will raise her child. As soon as she dies, Javert arrives to arrest the mayor, who he now knows is Valjean. The latter escapes to the inn of the Thénardier family, where Cosette lives, to pick up the girl.

Nine years later, Cosette is a young woman who is falling in love with the revolutionary Marius. When Thénardier, Cosette's one-time abuser, attempts to rob Valjean's house, Valjean assumes that Javert has found where he is hiding, and he resolves to move, which would separate the two lovers, as his daughter must go with him.

Marius and his student friends are growing more and more angry with the plight of les misérables, Paris' oppressed poor, and they break into fighting. Valjean is given the chance to kill Javert, but instead, he lets him go. In the process of the battles on the barricade, all of Marius' friends are killed, and he is seriously wounded. Valjean carries him home to Cosette. Meanwhile, Javert, thoroughly bewildered by Valjean letting him go, commits suicide. After Marius rehabilitates, he marries Cosette, but their happiness is interrupted by the impending death of Jean Valjean, now an old man (Choi).

Following the pattern of its predecessors, Les Misérables is a tragedy about love. Valjean's love for his daughter leads him to save the life of her beloved, and their romance is rewarded by a marriage. However, the heroes on the barricade, Marius' friends, are killed near the end, and at the very end, Valjean is dying.

Les Misérables began Boublil and Schönberg's collaboration with British producer Cameron Mackintosh, who has produced the English versions of their more recent musicals as well. It opened on London's West End in English in 1985, and it soon opened on Broadway. At present, it has been performed in fifteen languages in twenty-three countries, and it is Broadway's second longest running musical (R. Lee). Though it has been phenomenally popular around the world, I have found little evidence of strong popularity in France itself. I have seen the Original French Concept Album around, and in France, I saw that there was a recording of the current French version. It sold 250,000 tickets in Paris in the space of seven months (Brambilla). Beyond that, I have seen no mention of any popularity in France. Perhaps that is why Tim Rice called Paris "a city infamous as a graveyard for musicals." One thing I do know is that Boublil and Schönberg moved to London, because, as Boublil stated, "France is still back in the old operetta tradition of the 1930s" (Citron 17).

Miss Saigon

In 1989, Boublil and Schönberg came out with another musical, which was again a big hit in London and on Broadway. Like previous French musicals, Miss Saigon is a romantic tragedy, and like Boublil and Schönberg's previous musicals, the lovers are forced to part due to circumstances beyond their control. Also like their previous musicals, it is set during a time of war. This musical is set in the former French protectorate of Vietnam in the mid to late 1970s. Miss Saigon is the story of a Vietnamese teenager named Kim who is orphaned in attack on her village in the countryside in 1975. She must come to the big city of Saigon, where she falls in love with an American Marine named Christopher Scott. They go through a Vietnamese wedding, and he plans to take her home with him. Meanwhile, Saigon falls, and the Americans are evacuated. Chris and Kim are separated, and neither can get to the other. Chris is forced to board the last helicopter out (which they actually manage to get on the stage).

Kim waits three years for Chris to return for her, during which time she bears a son who she names Tam. Chris, meanwhile, thinking he will never see Kim again and having no idea that he has a son, marries an American woman named Ellen. When Chris' friend John discovers that Chris and Kim have a Bui-Doi son (Vietnamese for "the dust of life," the Bui-Doi were children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women conceived during the war), he tells Chris and suggests that Chris and Ellen go to Bangkok, where Kim has fled for her life, to try to resolve this problem. When Kim finds out that her husband has married another woman, from none other than Ellen herself, she is thunderstruck. Ellen refuses her pleas to take Tam to America because Ellen believes that a child belongs with his mother, and, as a last resort to force a better life for her son in America, Kim shoots herself, thus severing all ties of Tam with Vietnam, and Asia in general. She dies in Chris' arms (Story).

Miss Saigon is the longest running show at London's Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, and it has been performed in twelve countries (Dixon). I can only assume that France is one of those countries. It was originally written in French, but I have been unable to locate a French recording or even any lyrics. Even in France, the only recordings of it that I saw were in English. In short, I have found no evidence of popularity in France, thus reinforcing Rice's claim of Paris being "a graveyard for musicals." It qualifies as a French musical because it was written and composed by Frenchmen, and it follows the aforementioned patterns of French musicals.

Martin Guerre

Several years later, Boublil and Schönberg came out with their newest musical to date [as of 2000, when this paper was written]. Martin Guerre is about a 16th Century 14-year-old named Martin from the small village of Artigat, France, who is forced to marry, and when he refuses to consummate his marriage, he gets blamed for a series of storms, and the priest whips him in an attempt to exorcise the demons that are supposedly keeping him from consummation. Feeling he can trust nobody, he flees to fight in the Religious Wars. On the battlefield seven years later, he is seriously wounded, and his friend Arnaud du Thil leaves him for dead and goes to Artigat to tell Bertrande, Martin's wife, of his demise. The people of Artigat mistake him for Martin, and welcome him warmly. Bertrande convinces him to take Martin's name, and he reluctantly agrees, but the townspeople eventually realize that he is not Martin. By this time, Bertrande is expecting a child by Arnaud. Arnaud goes to trial in Toulouse to settle the matter, and as the judge is about to make his ruling, a new witness enters the court: the real Martin Guerre. The judge rules that Arnaud go to prison until Martin decides his fate. When Martin frees his friend, Guillaume, a jealous suitor of Bertrande, murders Arnaud (Martin Guerre).

Martin Guerre has received rave reviews in London, and it is currently nearing the end of its first run in the United States [as of February 2000]. Its Broadway debut has unfortunately been indefinitely postponed due to the lack of a theater. Once again, I have found no sign of popularity in France. I did not even find any English recordings of it in France.

Martin Guerre is, like its predecessors, a romantic tragedy. True to its Boublil and Schönberg predecessors, the hero and heroine are separated due to circumstances beyond their control, as we have seen.

Though Martin Guerre has not, to my knowledge, been very popular in France, the next French musical has blown all of its predecessors out of the water.

Notre-Dame de Paris

"The Americans adore it. The English too. In the Francophone countries, the musical was received without conviction, until... Notre-Dame de Paris!" (Brambilla) Except for Starmania and La Révolution Française, the previous French musicals that really took hold, took hold in England and America, and elsewhere around the world. Not so much in France. It seems that the brand new musical Notre-Dame de Paris is changing all that.

Where all other French musicals have failed, Notre-Dame de Paris has finally succeeded in interesting the French in musicals. Luc Plamondon, of Starmania fame (as well as a couple other musicals which I have not mentioned), teamed up with the Italian-French Richard Cocciante to musicalize Victor Hugo's novel of the same name as the musical (known in the US as The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

As Patricia Brambilla encapsulizes the plot in her article Les clés d'un succès monumental ("The Keys to a Monumental Success"), "The priest Frollo and Quasimodo, the hunchback, love the Gypsy Esmeralda, who burns for the soldier Phoebus. Who is attracted by Esmeralda, but promised to Fleur de Lys..."

Notre-Dame de Paris, set in 15th Century Paris, is about Quasimodo, who grows up in the belltower of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral (known in French as Notre-Dame de Paris, or Our Lady of Paris), where he becomes the bellringer. The Archdeacon Claude Frollo has raised him from childhood. Frollo is so enamored by the young Gypsy Esmeralda that he stabs Phoebus to keep him from loving her. When Esmeralda is arrested and brought to Notre Dame for supposedly murdering Phoebus, Frollo offers that he will free her if she will consent to him loving her. She is repulsed. Quasimodo helps her escape from prison, but she is caught again and executed by hanging. Quasimodo, furious at Frollo's actions, throws his surrogate father off the balcony of the cathedral and rushes down to the place where his beloved is being hanged, only to arrive too late (Notre Dame...Synopsis). The musical ends with Quasimodo's heartbreaking lament, promising to be buried with her and expressing his desire to see her dance once more (Plamondon & Cocciante Acte II, 9eme Tableau).

True to French form, Notre-Dame de Paris is a romantic tragedy. It has a complex group of people who love the next person, but that person may or may not reciprocate that love. Phoebus (who, incidentally, survives the attack) loves both Esmeralda and his fiancée Fleur-de-Lys. Fleur-de-Lys has nothing but hate for Esmeralda, and she even tells her fiancé that "I'll love you if you swear/That you will hang/[Esmeralda]" (Plamondon & Cocciante Acte II, 5eme Tableau). Frollo loves Esmeralda to the point of lust, but Esmeralda, understandably, hates him very much. In the end, Frollo and Esmeralda are dead, and Quasimodo is about to commit suicide. [In his novel, Victor Hugo points out that Phoebus also came to a sad ending: he got married. That is only implied in the musical, though.]

Notre-Dame de Paris sold 450,000 tickets in one day in Paris. As a matter of comparison, Les Misérables sold 250,000 in the space of seven months (Brambilla). Notre-Dame made its English debut in Las Vegas January 20 of this year [2000], translated by Will Jennings, who wrote the lyrics of "My Heart Will Go On" from the movie Titanic. It is set to open in London in May [2000]. It has broken all records for popularity, and the CD cast recording has been at the top of the charts there. From here, France could do one of two things with musicals. It could do the same thing it did after the successes of La Révolution Française and Starmania; namely, return to being a "graveyard for musicals" (Rice). I think it is more likely, however, that, based on its unprecedented popularity, the other possibility will happen. I think that the 21st Century will see a growing popularity of musicals in France. I said earlier that Boublil and Schönberg moved to London because France was "behind the times" concerning musicals. When I went to see Martin Guerre earlier this month [February 2000], I noticed in the program that Schönberg now once more lives in Paris. I do not know if this return is related to the success of his colleague's musical Notre-Dame de Paris, but I think it may be a sign that France is finally entering the field of musicals, and that they can be popular in France.


[Author's note, March 17, 2018: In the 18 years since I wrote this paper, musicals have indeed increased exponentially in France, and French Canada has also come out with some. It is gratifying as I retype this essay to see that my prediction that it would grow in popularity was accurate. I wrote a section for this paper on La Légende de Jimmy, about the life of James Dean, which sadly had to be cut because the paper was too long. Shortly after writing this, Roméo & Juliette and Les Dix Commandements came out. Boublil and Schönberg have also written more musicals, including The Pirate Queen and Marguerite. Many more musicals by multiple composers have followed.]

Works Cited and Consulted

Please note, this is as of February 2000. Most URLs likely no longer work due to the amount of time that has passed since then.

  • 5th Avenue Presents. "Claude-Michel Schönberg." Martin Guerre: The Official Program of the 5th Avenue Theatre Company. 11.4 (2000):8.
  • Boublil, Alain. From Madame Chrysanthemum to Miss Saigon. 10 Feb 2000 <http://miss-saigon.com/origins/madame.html>
  • Brambilla, Patricia. Construire. 1999. 31 Jan 2000 <http://www.construire.com/SOMMAIRE/9906/06cult2.htm>
  • Choi, Andrew. Synopsis. 1996. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/2403/lmsynopsis.html>
  • Citron, Stephen. The Musical from the Inside Out. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992.
  • Dixon, Paul. Miss Saigon. 1998. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.albemarle-london.com/saigon.html>
  • Flinn, Denny Martin. Musical! A Grand Tour. New York: Schirmer, 1997.
  • Il se passe quelque chose à Monopolis. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.multimania/younig/ilsepass.htm>
  • Lee, Anthony Patrick. Starmania Historique. 1996. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.sirius.com/~alee/s/starchro.htm>
  • Lee, Rob. The Barricade on the Rue de la Chanvrerie: A Tribute to Les Misérables. 1999. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.users.cloud9.net/~rlee/lesmis/>
  • Martin Guerre. 10 Feb 2000. 2:00 PM. Dir. Conall Morrison. Perf. Hugh Panaro, Stephen R. Buntrock, Erin Dilly, Jose Llana, and John Herrera. 5th Ave Theatre, 1999.
  • Les Misérables: The Complete Symphonic Recording. CD-ROM. London: EuroArts, 1997.
  • Luc Plamondon. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.sacd.fr/bio_plamondon.htm>
  • Notre Dame de Paris - Synopsis. 1999. 16 Feb 2000. <http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/Stage/9590/Nd_synopsis_uk.html
  • Plamondon, Luc, and Richard Cocciante. Notre Dame de Paris. Pantin: Publiphotoffset, 1998.
  • Rice, Tim. Tycoon: Version anglaise de Starmania. 1992. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.sirius.com/~alee/s/startyc.htm>
  • Starmania. 1999. 9 Feb 2000. <http://www.canadiantheatre.com/s/starmania.html>
  • Starmania: L'histoiremania. 1994. 9 Feb 2000. <http://www.sirius.com/~alee/s/starhist.htm>
  • Story. 10 Feb 2000. <http://www.miss-saigon.com/musical/story/>
  • Taylor, Steven A. La Revolution Francaise. 1996. 9 Feb 2000 <http://nomad.users.netlink.co.uk/rev.htm>
  • Valentine, Roger. Starmania - the plot. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/2446/startext.htm>

Graphics used in this blog:

La Révolution Française: http://www.purepeople.com/media/pochette-du-disque-de-la-comedie_m712697
Starmania: http://starmania.pagesperso-orange.fr/
Les Misérables: http://www.cabotins.ca/les-miserables/
Miss Saigon: http://cardiff.carpediem.cd/events/3032658-miss-saigon-at-wales-millennium-centre/
Martin Guerre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tApgUz0xGo
Notre-Dame de Paris: http://2muchponey.com/lifestyle/notre-dame-de-paris-est-de-retour/

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Musical Clickbait

I am not a fan of clickbait. Sometimes you have to find humor in these things. Here are a few musicals explained with clickbait...

Expectant mother drinks green potion. What happens next will blow your mind!

Aspiring Knight dreams an impossible dream. You won't believe what he thinks he can fight with a sword and a shaving basin he thinks is a helmet! My countenance is WOEFUL!


Barber uses this simple trick to REVOLUTIONIZE the neighboring meat pie business!

He tries to separate his good and evil natures. The result? I'm SHOCKED!!

Starved orphan sold to a funeral home after he asks for more food. You won't believe what happens after he escapes!

She meets him at an earthquake benefit concert. Their romance inspires a nation and disgusts an Argentine-Cuban Marxist revolutionary. See how the money rolls in and out. I'm CRYING for her!

Determined police officer doggedly pursues thief across two decades. What happens when they meet will SHOCK you!

Dragon prepares to bake her famous savory donkey pot pie. I'm TREMBLING! Flattery really does save lives!

[clickbait headline of show]

Voyage ends in tragedy as frozen dihydrogen monoxide sinks ship! AVOID DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE!!!

Dreams come true! Disgraced Egyptian slave saves nation. You won't believe who else he saves!

He secretly slips some acrimonium in her drink. Boy oh boy, that full disclosure is strange!

How far will a younger brother go to ensure that his sister continues to torture him? I'm SHOCKED!!

Bohemian beauty steals the hearts of a hypocritical priest, an engaged archer, and a deaf one-eyed lame bellringer. I'm IN TEARS!!

Bookish oddball falls in love with horned creature. You'll be SHOCKED what happens when she declares her love!

This girl lost her parents and her ayah in a cholera epidemic in India and is being shipped back to Yorkshire to live with her widowed and grieving uncle. Her cousin has been bedridden ALL HIS LIFE and lives in fear of becoming a hunchback. 1 Like = 1 Prayer

Lord Farquaad's heritage called into question. Spread this ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE!

Boy under the control of an evil supercomputer uses this simple trick to break out!

He dreamed of soaring like an eagle on the big screen in Bollywood. What happened on the journey home will shock you!

SCANDAL!! Apprentice blames rash of DEATHS on one of the plants in his shop!

New Chairman of the Board credits obscure thrift shop book for his meteoric rise to the top. Mr. President, watch out! See page 5 for the juicy details of his upcoming wedding to his secretary.

Greek wine god takes servant on quest down the River Styx. You'll CROAK when you find out who he meets on the way and who he brings back!

Martha Stewart HATES him! Aspiring playwright pens a culinary musical.

You WON'T BELIEVE where Conrad Birdie is going next, and you'll be SHOCKED about his one last kiss before he leaves! We're CRYING!

OMG, you guys! If there ever was a perfect couple, THIS ONE qualifies!

SCANDAL!! Jilted bathing beauty MURDERS diva!

You won't believe what this hobbit did with his priceless ring!

Gangster threatens to KILL his girlfriend, a bar singer. You WON'T BELIEVE where the police hide her, or what she does to the place!

What this Greek demigod was accused of stealing will literally SHOCK you!

Forbidden love between an Egyptian prince and a Nubian princess, and we just CAN'T EVEN!!

Have you heard? There's a rumor in St. Petersburg!

Diva breaks silence on upstart managers, being cast out of opera, and the unsuitability of her replacement

Exclusive! Who is the real Christine Daaé? Get all the details from opera insider Carlotta Giudicelli! Prepare to be shocked! Does Ms. Daaé owe her so-called talent to a mysterious "Opera Ghost", or is it just her rich lover, the Opera's new patron?