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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

question of the day: What’s geeky about musical theater?

Les Miserables Anne Hathaway

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and the arrival and subsequent excitement over Les Misérables has made it urgent. Because I recall when the stage show was new, when I was in high school and then university in the late 1980s, and how it completely electrified many of the geeks I knew. A lot of the same people who loved Star Wars and Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 and The Princess Bride also loved this rock opera based on a 19th-century Victor Hugo novel, and there doesn’t particularly seem to be a lot of crossover going on here. I’ve also never forgotten seeing an ad in the 1990s — probably in Backstage, the Broadway industry newspaper — announcing auditions for Les Mis’ chorus, which stated that if you can sing Billy Joel and Disney musicals, then you can sing Les Mis. So Les Mis and Disney musicals have been connected in my mind since then, though the geekout over Disney musicals makes more geek-sense to me since they also tend to be fantasy stories… but the more I think about it, the more obvious it is that geeks who love Disney musicals seem to love the musical aspect as much as the fantastical one.

What’s geeky about musical theater? Why does it seem to appeal to the same people who love science fiction and fantasy? What does musical theater have in common with the things we more traditionally think of as “geeky”?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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