Despite the physical and emotional heaviness, I still did a pretty satisfactory full primary. Took longer breaths in the standing postures, ala Grimmly. And in the finishing backbends, I did six UDs instead of the standard three, because I felt that I needed to do more to open my body for dropbacks and standups. The whole practice took an hour and a half. Not exactly Sharath's pace, but respectable enough, I think, especially given the extra things I did.
This morning, I had some more time to think about Les Miserables, and to ponder the question of why more Americans do not like musicals. As I understand it, the Golden Age of musicals in America was during the forties and fifties, when Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote all their wonderful pieces (Oklahoma, South Pacific, etc), and when the likes of Judy Garland entertained millions with their on-screen singing. In the ensuing decades since, despite a few attempts to revive the genre here and there (Chicago, Hairspray, etc.), the musical has never quite caught back on. I get the sense that most Americans think musicals are weird or dorky.
Why do they think this? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps many Americans think that musicals are weird because they require the audience to suspend too many common-sense beliefs about reality. For example, a student in one of my classes a few semesters ago said, "In real life, people don't break out into song after they have been shot and are dying! They just... die." Interesting point.
Another related reason for the lack of general interest in musicals may be this: The very nature of singing requires the singer to maintain a sort of artistic distance between what she is expressing through her singing and the emotion that is supposedly conveyed through the singing. I know this is a very awkward way of saying what I'm trying to say, but think about it this way: If you are really, really sad and devastated about something, you probably wouldn't be singing about your sadness. You would be crying, sobbing, bawling or doing whatever else it is that you do when you give vent to your emotions. Being able to sing about something requires you to put a certain poetic distance between you and the raw emotions that you are supposedly feeling. I suspect that it is the presence of this poetic distance that alienates many people from musicals: After all, "real people" do not sing when they are sad. They just cry or sob or bawl or whatever. So musicals are "not real", from this point of view.
I don't really know if the above represent the reasons why many Americans do not like musicals (although I think I am on to something). I also don't really want to change anybody's minds about musicals. After all, as one reviewer puts it, "Either you are in or you are out when it comes to musicals." There is no middle ground.
This may be so. But I wouldn't be doing my duty if I don't make at least a feeble attempt at possibly changing somebody's mind. So here goes. To its credit, the latest interpretation of Les Miz actually makes a very credible attempt at bridging the artistic distance between artistic expression and emotion. It does this by having its performers sing their parts while they are filming, instead of pre-recording everything in the studio and then having the actors lip-synch on screen. This, combined with lots of extreme close-ups of the actors while they are singing and emoting, gives a certain immediacy to the delivery. For instance, take a look at Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream", which was sung and filmed in a single take... well, actually, it looks like they don't have the actual scene on Youtube yet. But I found a clip below that at least has her voice in it. Take a listen. And then maybe go see the movie. And then maybe you'll change your mind about musicals. Or not :-)