Musical 52

Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015.

The Broadway Melody, Gold Diggers of 1933, Top Hat, The Great Ziegfeld, Show Boat (1936), Road to Singapore, Anchors Aweigh, State Fair (1945), On the Town, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and South Pacific.

I’ve watched thirteen musicals in the span of three months (atypical behavior for me), per the requirements of the experiment. One of my own personal choices was to start out in chronological order, and I think this decision has made the experience much more fascinating, as I get to watch the musical genre transform as the decades roll along. It took five movies before I even hit a film that wasn’t centered around characters that sang and danced professionally, and even then, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were totally practicing their little Road to Singapore skits when nobody was looking, right?

They are in the fanfics I’m writing, at least.

I got to watch Busby Berkeley take advantage of the possibilities of cinema, but the numbers didn’t actually move away from the stage for a bit longer. And the songs started being less and less fun diversions and became intricately tied in with the characters’ emotions. Also, more singing sailors than I know what to do with.

I didn’t expect there to be many changes in my day-to-day life as a result of loading up on musicals, at least, none as intense as during those three years where I literally watched the same movie every week. In the beginning, I had songs from The Broadway Melody stuck in my head, and that actually triggered songs from some of my favorite Disney musicals. But, as I got a few films deeper, I noticed an interesting trend; each new musical would reset the songs of the last. I’d be humming “Old Man River” from Show Boat for six days, watch Road to Singapore, and then, suddenly, no more “Old Man River.” It was “Sweet Potato Piper” for the rest of the week. This trend has currently not stopped.

As I write this, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” is lodged in my head.
It will be gone circa West Side Story.

One of the most bizarre side effects? I keep thinking that movies that definitely aren’t musicals are musicals. Any time a character makes a big, emotional gesture, I just assume an invisible orchestra is going to start backing them up. Breckin Meyer went to jump out of a window in Clueless? I thought he was going to sing to the world about the pain of high school. Some ladies marched on the beach in Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.? They were clearly setting up a beat for a group singalong. A bunch of painters showed up in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes? They’re obviously about to sing an ode to the joys of coating a house in acrylic latex. The weirdest thing about that last example? I’ve seen The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes before, I know there are no musical numbers in it.

Even though there absolutely should be.

And, finally, you probably want to know if I’ve been singing and dancing more myself. Well, a little, but to get personal for a bit, life’s been pretty rough for ol’ Bill the last three months. That has to be factored into any experiment like this. But, through all the misery that I don’t want to get into, yup. If the weather’s nice (fuck winter), a little tap and a sway are in order. If something catchy comes up on iTunes, I groove, and this is not the norm. And, um, a couple of moments of intense happiness (among the unending torrents of shit) sort of made me hold a note or two before I realized what I was doing? Yes, I’m singing my words, shut up.

West Side Story (1961)