The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

In defence of musicals

By Katherine Cowles

27 Mar 2023 · 4 min read

A writer for The New Statesman argues that those who view themselves as the cultural elite fail to see the wisdom, political power, and joy that makes musicals so popular with the masses.

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Some people – say, Neil Postman and now possibly the Times’ theatre critic Clive Davis – are afraid, in this age of entertainment, we might amuse ourselves to death. Not me. I live to be amused. I could die happy knowing I devoted my life to the pursuit of amusement.

Which is why I seek out nights at the theatre, specifically the musical kind, that self-restrained sophisticates might tastefully decline. Yes, musicals are very amusing, they say, but where’s the substance, the meat to chew on? Somewhere in our cultural evolution, those on a sugar-free diet have decided musical theatre will rot your teeth; that is nothing but fluff designed to make you stare stupidly like the bourgeoisie with their TV screens and their square eyes. That musicals are theatre for the masses (and I think it’s fair to say they imply, for women).

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