Letter to the Editor: Jay Starkman
Letters to the EditorOpinion

Letter to the Editor: Jay Starkman

The AJT welcomes your letters. If you would like your letter to be published, please write 200 words or less, and send it to editor@atljewishtimes.com.

The Dying American Musical

The traditional American musical is our unique and rich contribution to theater, and it’s dying. This explains the failure of Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” (“Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Grapples with History,” Jan 15.) It flopped because a younger generation has no exposure to the genre and an older generation is upset at the extra violence, political messaging, and 10% Spanish dialogue without subtitles, not just Covid.

A musical is escapism, designed to leave you humming its songs. The roots harken back to minstrel shows and Ziegfield’s Follies, to revue, book, and theme musicals. Today, they “modernize” classic musicals.

For a 2011 Broadway revival of “On A Clear Day,” the Barbra Streisand role was played by a male actor for a gay twist.

“La La Land” was lauded by those who never saw a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie. No one recalls any songs from the former, while the latter featured Irving Berlin and Cole Porter standards. 2011’s highly rated “The Artist” was a mediocre silent movie with a lovely 5-minute musical theme that can’t compare to 1927’s “My Best Girl,” starring Mary Pickford and a delightful 80-minute film score.

You can fill a stadium with 50,000 sports fans, but hard to fill 1,000 seats for musicals. The man in front of me at the Times Square TKTS booth in 2015 bought seats to “Kinky Boots.” Kinky Boots! Other choices that day were Vanessa Hudgens in a modernized “Gigi” and unadulterated Bernstein’s “On the Town.” I got tickets to Bernstein’s fantastic edgy musical.

It’s not well known that Bernstein, Sondheim, Robbins, and Laurents all were gay, which is a not uncommon trait among great artists.

I have a Blu-ray copy of West Side Story and wonder how the great Steven Spielberg could ever improve on perfection. I’ll wait for the library DVD of “Woke Side Story” to find out. Hopefully, it will have English subtitles.

Jay Starkman, Atlanta

read more: