I have been having this discussion since I decided to love musical theatre. I am well known for absolutely loving big Broadway productions and Disney shows. Cirque du Soleil and most stuff Off-Broadway are also in the list. However, I decided to immerse myself in the big world of drama to learn a thing or two about production. In this world, Shakespeare, Shaw and Brecht are absolutely brilliant and respected, while Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim and Alan Menken are this commercial flashy people that do some kind of art that in words of many ‘is not theatre’. I have to admit that I take a bit of personal offense whenever someone makes this statement, because in total honesty: Cheese is what I do best.
But what exactly makes a show Cheesy? Beware that I am not using Cheesy in a way that many do. When something is repetitive, unoriginal or expected. Cheesy to many people means spectacle. The way I use the word cheese, it means that there is no literal argument behind the action of singing, dancing, or visual candy. Cheese to me, is the art of creating something that is either visually, or audibly astonishing and creates an emotional shock in an spectator, with the only purpose of heightening a feeling. Have you had the opportunity of watching a fireworks competition? Or a fireworks show? And I don’t mean fourth of july random explosions, I’m talking about designed explosions that go with music in a deliberate manner, timing and style. The visual impact of symmetry, music and explosion generates feelings, and probably each person takes a different shape of it, but still it just makes us feel. Choruslines, pyro, coreography, harmony, acrobacy, color, and the elements of what people tend to call ‘Flashy and Cheesy’ are just tools to expand reality and canalize it into emotion. And this my friends, is an art.
I guess this sentences are just a pledge to all of those artists that have my complete respect that discualify weather theatre, movies or circus just because it has a budget, a coreographer and doesn’t rely on the text. Art is broad, wide and subjective, the commercialization of the art does not defeat the original purpose of act. As artist we need to pursue communication, an if some people need to make money for us to reach out and communicate more, then we should welcome it. We are in times of need, us theatre people. We need to get people to the seats and we need to respect their opinion, likes and dislikes. If we keep doing theatre for a couple selected extravagant people of which only a few of them will pretend they understand and a smaller group actually will, then we will end up doing one man shows in our living rooms.