Three years ago, when I was in high school, I started getting into musicals. I don’t recall why or what drove me to them. If I had to guess, I would say it was likely my love for Glee and Team Starkid, and in the ven-diagram of related subjects that I’d come across on the internet, Broadway musicals is right in the middle.
I decided to go popular (literally) for my first musical and try Wicked. I chose to read the book first, and I enjoyed it. At this time, I wasn’t as familiar with bootlegs, so I settled for listening to the soundtrack. This, I later learned, was a mistake as I assumed that the musical followed the book better than it actually did. Seeing the show live downtown nine months later was awesome but slightly disappointing as the soundtrack didn’t match up to the plot like I had envisioned them to. That bugged me more than it should. (Related: why I hope the Wicked movie is more like the book)
In May of that year, I also went on my school’s arts trip to New York City. I had never been, so it was very exciting. On that trip we saw three Broadway shows (Les Miserables, A Raisin In The Sun, and Aladdin, but the second is just a play) and that was such a great experience. But as we wandered around Times Square and I saw the marquees for all the other musicals playing, I realised that the three we went to see were not ones I would have chosen. So in that grubby hotel room we stayed in, I sat on my bed and opened a note on my phone, and started a list of all the musicals I wanted to see. That list had 11 shows, and I considered that a lot.
But in the past three years, that list grew to 20 and now over 30 musicals. I am now a huge musical theater fan and nine times out of ten, when I listen to music, I’m listening to various show tunes. I wanted to wait to blog about this until I had successfully crossed everything off my list, but I just keep adding musicals on, so the end is not in sight! So instead I figured I’d show my progress, along with a list of musicals I had seen before I started keeping track.
Some of these I loved, some I liked, and some I wouldn’t watch again, but I am glad I saw them all.
And that brings me to my next topic of discussion: bootlegs. While I was fortunate to see a few of those shows live, and a few were movies that I watched, most of them I saw via bootleg. I have
no little shame in this. Sometimes I stream movies, I’ve admitted to occasionally streaming TV, and I download music that I didn’t pay for. Sorry, but I’m a student and I don’t have the money to pay for every bit of entertainment. And you know I’m not the only one who does this. But with Broadway, it’s different, because for me to experience the full, legal thing, I need to go to New York. I’d need a roundtrip plane ticket, a hotel room, food, and then a ticket to the show, which could be pricey itself. That’s very different than the 12 bucks I save by not going to a local movie theater. Not to mention that some of the shows aren’t even running anymore or are sold out, so even if I were to somehow get to New York, I still wouldn’t be able to see them.
There’s the argument that bootlegs take money away from the show, but I disagree. Bootlegs let people who are on the other side of the world see shows they love and experience theater. I’m somewhat lucky because when shows do go on tour, they sometimes stop near me, but that is not true for many people, so bootlegs give them a chance to see it, even if it from someone’s shaky iPhone. Shows aren’t losing money because it’s money that they won’t ever get. But they may get money from the purchase of the soundtrack or other merch. Because if people are like me, they won’t listen to the music until they see the show, so basically, the bootleg is bringing in money.
Bootlegs don’t replace live shows the way that streaming a TV show replaces seeing it when it airs. There’s no comparison at all to the environment and quality. People have said time and time again that if they could pay for a professionally filmed stage musical they would, but there isn’t even an option for that. Broadway caters to people who can get there, and that’s somewhat understandable, but if hockey games can be streamed, why can’t a musical? There IS this new service called BroadwayHD that is trying to give us what we want, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have the new, big-name shows that I personally want to see.
What are your thoughts on the matter? I’d love to hear them, but I beg you to do it politely. I’ve seen many bootleg debates go down on Tumblr and it’s a horrific, rude mess that I want no part of.
I’d also love to hear what musicals you think I should add to my list. What are your favourites?