Stereotype be damned, I love musicals. I enjoy opera but not in same way. For me, opera is a different experience. I’m not sure why but that’s a topic for another post.
“Wanderlust” is a musical based on the life and poetry of Robert Service. Leaving the performance, it struck me how rare it is for me to see a musical that is almost completely unfamiliar. ‘Almost’ in this case because, thanks to a couple Harper’s Valley readers, and a coincidentally timed trip to Alaska, I realized I did know a Robert Service poem; “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. I just did not know Mr Service was the poet. That aside, I knew nothing of the story or the music.
The only example I recall of seeing a completely unfamiliar musical is “Nine”. I’d not seen the Fellini film “8 1/2” on which is it based before seeing the musical and I did not know any of the music. I see unfamiliar plays quite often. Most operas are unfamiliar when I see them the first time. With musicals, however, I invariably know the story or the music, or both, before I ever see a production.
If I know the story but not the music ( eg. Big River, Spring Awakening) it is fun to see how it is set. If I know the music but not the story (eg. City of Angels, Steel Pier) it is interesting to see if I’d imagined it correctly. If I know both (eg. Follies, Mame, Sunset Boulevard, Les Mis) it feels like I’m seeing an old favorite the first time the curtain goes up.
There were differing opinions in Casa de Harper about “Wanderlust”. I liked it quite a lot and found the ending kind of uplifting. Harper’s Other Dad thought it was only “OK” and thought the ending was sad. We both agree they did a great job mounting a full-scale musical on a narrow ‘thrust’ stage. If the opportunity arises I’ll see it again even, if I have to find a different date. When the cast recording becomes available I’ll buy it. What more can one ask of a new musical?