Geeks Vs Loneliness: musical magic

In which we step up to the lab, and see what’s on the slab!

Hello and welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, a corner of the world where we can take a step out of time and think about those small things that make the world a pleasant place to be. This week we are talking musicals, and how they can be a light in the darkness.

This week let’s chat musicals. I’ve never seen myself as much of a fan if I’m honest. I enjoy them – I love the easy, breezy charm of Mamma Mia and the positive message that pours through The Greatest Showman. It appears I’m not alone, with a recent uplift in musical films hitting the cinemas, and the likes of La La Land and A Star Is Born gaining critical acclaim across the globe.

There’s an undercurrent of emotion in musicals that we open ourselves to when we connect with the music. It can be the positive message, an acceptance of difference or the soul-crushing misery of living (see Miss Saigon for that one – left the theatre unable to speak). Sometimes we just need a good sob, and if the medium of inducing that state of emotion where you can just let it flow comes with a musical, then go for it.

Occasionally it’s not a sob we need – just to raise our voices loud and proud, and belt along for the joy of it. And with that in mind, I give you the first of three musical pick me ups I adore, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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At 18, I found myself on a double-decker bus wearing a rather suspect maid’s outfit with crimped hair and crimson lipstick, accompanying my best mate who was clad in a curly wig and red basque. Come see a movie with me, she said. I had no idea that several hours later we would emerge into the dark soaked to the skin, rice in our hair and with massive grins. A lifelong invitation to the Frankenstein Place had been accepted.

I was a naïve teenager. The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened my eyes to a spectrum of sexuality and difference that frankly wasn’t much on view in the northern pit village I grew up in during the 1980s. Musicals can begin on small, intimate platforms that give space to grow and expand in the public consciousness. Thirty years on from my first Rocky Horror viewing, it’s still going strong. In an age of polarised opinions and a hardening of views across political and moral spectrums, it is reassuring that there is still a medium where difference isn’t just visible; it is actively and publicly embraced.

My second pick is Once More, With Feeling – a season 6 episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I can never watch this episode enough. I often play the soundtrack in all its auto-tuned wobbly vocal glory while I work. Love, loss, lies and life – across a messy spectrum. Satanic bunnies and rather dubious lyrics of shenanigans beneath willow trees.

I remember watching this episode when it aired, back in 2001. In my twenties, struggling with working full time and doing a part-time degree. Drinking far too much and being reckless with my health. Caught in a silo of frustration and apathy. Cue the opening lines of Once More, With Feeling – ‘Every single day, the same arrangement, I go out and fight the fight. Still, I always feel this strange estrangement. Nothing here is real, nothing here is right.’

I can reel that soundtrack off word perfect. It soundtracked my two-hour daily commute for two years until I changed my life by returning to university full time. Every song has resonance (yes, even the one about bunnies!).

My third pick is a lovely movie that is a bit personal. It’s Sunshine On Leith, and it is a film that poured sunshine into my life on a very grey day. To put it simply, it’s the first film I watched after my dad died. I would have walked 5,000 miles to be anywhere else in my life at that point in time. This sweet film helped me to smile, and to feel that maybe, one day, sunshine would filter back through the clouds.

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It appears there’s a musical that chimes with keys stage of my life. I doubt I’m alone. I’m curious as to what musical – be it a stage show, film or TV series episode – chimes with you. What songs do you identify with? Doesn’t have to be geeky – there’s a place for all on the musical spectrum – be it yodeling with nuns and The Sound Of Music, or cackling over the harvesting of organs with Repo, The Genetic Opera.

Sing it loud, sing it proud. And most of all, don’t dream it. Be it.