In the last few months I’ve taken to listening to Radio 2 on Sunday afternoons. The session is hosted by the singer/actress Elaine Paige and she plays hours of music from musicals and shows. I just adore it!
I grew up in the era when we only had two or three channels on TV and quite a lot of it was in black and white. I remember eagerly looking forward to Shirley Temple when I was very young. I could never visualise myself being as precocious as she was.
Each alternative weekend, I became my mother’s little helper and it was my job to polish either the silver (and she had loads of it!) or wash the Waterford Glass (an equal load) while my lazy brother somehow evaded these boring jobs. Naturally, I resented the chore and to this day have hardly any ornaments, but when everyone was out running errands on those Saturday afternoons, I’d put on the TV and watch a Deanna Durbin film while polishing away the tarnish.
The delightful innocence and romance of those movies entranced and comforted me. The elegance of Fred Astaire and the charismatic tones of Bing Crosby mesmerised me. I loved The King and I, starring the magnetic Yul Brynner and his hundred cute children but couldn’t bring myself to watch it too often because of the sad ending. One of my all time favourites still is High Society, although I am totally in love with Cary Grant in an earlier version of the movie, The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn.
The gloss and glamour of the women and chorus girls adorned in tonnes of ostrich feathers and rhinestones was so attractive to a young Irish girl from a country town. Hollywood was a million miles away from my life, and still is but a musical like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes made you feel that it was closer and that magic and miracles could happen.
I didn’t restrict myself to American musicals. I loved the more modern English musicals with the zesty Tommy Steele, full of optimism. When I think that all my friends were watching Tiswas and Saturday Morning Swap Shop, I was probably a bit of a freak.
This Sunday afternoon, I’ve listened to a Jodie Foster in her role as a chanteuse, singing from Bugsy Malone, to Mr Bojangles sung in the smooth tones of Sammy Davis Jr, songs from My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof.
I went to the premiere of The Artist some time ago, and the phenomenal success of the Oscar-winning movie proves that I cannot be alone in loving the charm of an old film or a musical. The hugely popular series, Glee and the more recent series, Smash which is a musical about making a musical about Marilyn Monroe (sounds confusing but isn’t!) means that a younger audience are getting interested in this genre.
I’ll admit that some musicals and songs are brilliantly cheesy but you just can’t help humming along. Am bopping in the kitchen as John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sing Summer Nights from Grease as I finish this. What’s not to like?