Firstly, what is a concept musical? A concept musical typically removes a story from its perceived setting, often using a "concept" or certain idea to do this An early, not wholly conceptual idea would be Jesus Christ Superstar. Although the Jesus character was kept true to the perceived image, the setting of the title song thrusts the show in to the realms of concept. The show was brought bang up to date, using the fashion for disco, flares and the funky chicken to bring the message of the bible to the theatre going masses.
The seventies saw a string of conceptual hits, and misses, and started a trend that can still be seen today. I'm going to have a look at some of the best (and worst) concept musicals to hit the stage.
|The curse of the cute leading man strikes again, mmm....William Katt...|
Ragni and Rado may have taken conceptual musicals a bit too far with Dude! It was a confusing mix of Shakespeare, biblical mythology and rock music. While I appreciate their creativity, I just don't think audiences could work out what the concept was. And here lies the issue with concept musicals, if you don't give the audience enough hints or make your concept too confusing or complicated, the audience won't care about the characters or your show.
|Yeah yeah, I know, sexy ladies, Fosse hands, enough already.|
But one thing I am proud of is the legacy of Chicago to allow other concept shows to believe they can succeed in the current climate. Which brings me on to American Idiot. Yes, I have already dedicated a whole blog post to it, but I feel it is relevant in the journey of the concept musical. Similarly to Jesus Christ Superstar, Idiot originated as a concept album, but this time the concept is almost supplementary to the music, just there to elevate it to another level. The only character to speak is our protagonist Johnny, and he speaks in monologue correspondence to his familiars. this was a brave thing for Michael Mayer to do as he could have easily alienated Greenday fans by intellectualising the show too much. Instead he allows the audience to piece together the story how they want, interesting both Greenday fans and theatre fanatics.
|Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I wish the real Andrew Jackson had looked like that.|