Seasons of Love Sound of Musicals with Neil Brand


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Seasons of Love

Neil explores why musical theatre is thriving in the 21st century, charting the rise of the 'megamusical' and seeing how they have also captured contemporary life.


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It's a cold winter evening

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in London's West End.

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But just as in New York and major cities across the world,

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it's full of theatre-goers coming to see hit musicals.

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Well over 2,000 people are going to be filling this theatre tonight

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with the expectation of seeing a fantastic show.

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And the show has been really carefully put together

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and tooled right the way down to the smallest detail,

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the smallest single dance move,

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with the express intention of blowing the crowd away.

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# Tell them how I'm Defying gravity... #

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Excuse the pun, but there's a bit of magic behind Wicked.

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-It really has got... Hasn't it, though?

-Yeah.

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-It's something special.

-It feels like a real event.

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When you come and see the show,

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the set comes out into the audience,

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the music is so beautiful, the orchestrations are amazing,

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and then you add costumes and amazing lighting design.

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And musical theatre continues to innovate.

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Hamilton, a show that mixes American history with hip-hop,

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has taken Broadway by storm.

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# Time to take a shot

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# And I am not throwing away my

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# Not throwing away my

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# Shot! #

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In this final episode,

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I'll explore the great shows of OUR lifetime.

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MUSIC: Work Song from Les Miserables

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An era in which musicals have matched big emotions

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with spectacular staging.

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# I had a dream my life would be... #

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'I'll see how musical theatre confronted the tragedy of AIDS.'

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# Five hundred, twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes

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# How do you measure

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# Measure a year? #

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And how it's taken a satirical look at our modern lifestyles.

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# The internet is really, really great

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# For porn! #

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I'm going to show you why today musical theatre really is

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the greatest show on earth.

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# La vie boheme La vie boheme

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-# Everyone out of the mainstream

-La vie boheme

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-# Is anyone in the mainstream?

-La vie boheme... #

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Musicals were enjoying a new golden age in the 1960s.

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But they weren't exactly down with the kids.

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Musical theatre struggled to keep up with

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the pace of change in popular culture.

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Sure, musical theatre was sophisticated and ambitious.

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But it was something your parents went to.

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The songs, the stories - well, they weren't very cool.

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But then it's as if musical theatre got it.

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Had a revelation.

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What the kids wanted was rock.

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# I got my hair, I got my head

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# I got my brains, I got my ears

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# I got my eyes, I got my nose I got my mouth

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# I got my teeth... #

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Rock musicals were born out of the counterculture revolution.

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They sounded like Woodstock. They looked like Haight-Ashbury.

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# Every time I look at you I don't understand

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# Why you let the things you did get so out of hand

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# You'd have managed better if you'd had it planned

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# Why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?

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# If you'd come today you would have reached a whole nation

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# Israel in 4BC had no mass communication... #

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# Don't you get me wrong... #

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Set to the contemporary wail of rock guitars,

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these shows and their characters were straight out of a hippie world.

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# This is the dawning of the Age... #

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Hair brought with it transgressive ideas about sexuality and drugs,

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ushered in by the end of theatre censorship in Britain.

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# Aquarius... #

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But these were powerful shows with big ideas

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and more attitude than had been seen on stage before.

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But what if you liked your rock'n'roll a bit more...camp?

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In 1973, a group of performers

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who'd been doing the rounds with musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar

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gathered together for a new show.

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It was written and composed by Herod's understudy,

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and was a bit of a change from their previous, more godly work.

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I'm cold, I'm wet, and I'm just plain scared.

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I'm here, Janet. There's nothing to worry about.

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Brad, I wanna go.

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# How'd you do? I

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# See you met my

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# Faithful handyman

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# He's a little brought down because

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# When you knocked

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# He thought you were the candy man

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Didn't you, Freaky?

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# Don't get strung out

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# By the way I look

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# Don't judge a book by its cover

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# I'm not much of a man by the light of day

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# But by night I'm one hell of a lover

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# I'm just a sweet transvestite

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# From transsexual

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# Transylvania, uh-huh... #

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The Rocky Horror Show is a tribute to old sci-fi and horror B movies.

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# You look like you're both pretty groovy... #

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Written by Richard O'Brien,

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it tells the story of boring Brad and his straightlaced fiancee Janet,

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who stumble across the home of cross-dressing mad scientist

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Dr Frank-N-Furter.

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# Uh, could we use your phone?

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# We're both in a bit of a hurry

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Right!

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# We'll just say where we are

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# Then we'll get back to the car

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# We don't want to be any worry

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# So you got caught with a flat

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# Well, how 'bout that?

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# Well, babies, don't you panic

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# By the light of the night It'll all seem all right

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# I'll get you a Satanic mechanic... #

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Rocky Horror flung its mascara and suspenders

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in the face of mainstream shows,

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audaciously challenging how sexuality was represented on stage.

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# Uh-huh

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Hey! Hit it!

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# I'm just a sweet transvestite

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# From transsexual

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# Transylvania, ah-ah. #

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The staging and costuming looked like cabaret and burlesque,

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but the music drew on Richard O'Brien's nostalgia

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for the sounds he grew up with.

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# Be it... #

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There was one or two of the actors that had no idea of the genre.

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And I used to say, when you're acting,

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it's just B-movie acting,

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and when you're singing it's your rock'n'roll dreams come true.

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But these were rock'n'roll numbers

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that drew you in to the characters.

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Halfway through the first act

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comes a classic musical theatre "I Want" song.

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# I was feeling done in

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# Couldn't win

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# I'd only ever kissed before

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# I thought there's no use getting

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# Into heavy petting

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# It only leads to trouble

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# And seat-wetting

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# Now all I want to know

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# Is how to go

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# I've tasted blood and I want more

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# I'll put up no resistance

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# I want to stay the distance

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# I've got an itch to scratch

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# I need assistance

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# Touch-a-touch-a-touch-a-touch me

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# I wanna be dirty

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# Thrill me, chill me, fulfil me

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# Creature of the night. #

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Poor sexually frustrated Janet, full of inner turmoil,

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finally gets to explode all this lust out,

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at Rocky, of all people,

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the guy that Frank-N-Furter has just created for himself.

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It's one of the beauties of this show

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that the songs are very simple,

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but it's a kind of deceptive simplicity to them.

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This one is really in two halves.

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The first half is quite kind of tragic in a way.

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It's minor key...

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..which reminds me, actually, of Leader of the Pack, Shangri-Las.

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Which feels tragic, and feels '50s, and feels quite innocent as well.

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# Then if anything...grows

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# When you pose

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# I'll oil you up and rub you down

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# And that's just one small fraction

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# Of the main attraction

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# You need a friendly hand

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# And I need action... #

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Then it goes into the main chorus, which is anything but innocent,

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and I love the fact that you can actually hear the...

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You can hear that '50s plucked guitar.

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It's party time. It's very innocent, it's very fun and full of joy,

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and the lyrics are absolutely filthy.

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# Touch-a-touch-a-touch-a-touch me

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# I wanna be dirty

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# Thrill me, chill me, fulfil me

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# Creature of the night. #

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And that's one of the beauties of it -

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that you get this lovely sense of a kind of retro predictability

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about the music, and yet absolutely bang-up-to-date filth

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thrown across it in a really joyous and celebratory way.

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# Touch-a-touch-a-touch-a-touch me

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# I wanna be dirty

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# Thrill me, chill me, fulfil me

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# Creature of the night

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# Creature of the night

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# Creature of the night

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# Creature of the night! #

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Rocky Horror stood in stark contrast to many of its contemporaries,

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and still does.

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It scorned the perceived pomposity of its fellow rock musicals

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and thoroughly embraced camp.

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With its retro sound and edgy looks,

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Rocky Horror was pure glam rock for the stage.

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Rocky's cult sensibilities gave it a devoted fanbase

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of stalwarts and misfits for seven years

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without troubling the big shows of the West End.

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And Broadway just didn't get the show's quirky glam-rock shtick.

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Mainstream audiences weren't quite ready

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to be dragged so far into left-field.

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MUSIC: The Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Show

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But the rock musical had made its mark.

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-# Jesus Christ... #

-It soon became clear

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that Jesus Christ Superstar

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was a successful evolution of musical theatre,

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more akin to opera than Oklahoma.

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# Jesus Christ... #

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And the duo behind the hit,

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composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice,

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had found a clever way to secure an audience.

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Because of its subject,

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no theatre had initially wanted to touch Superstar.

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So the duo decided to release the songs as a kind of concept album.

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Only after storming to number one in the American charts

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did it become a stage show.

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So they decided to road-test their latest idea

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in exactly the same way.

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Nothing says "1970s" quite as much as a concept double album.

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It's straight out of the annals of prog rock.

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MUSIC: Oh What a Circus from Evita

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# Oh, what a circus Oh, what a show

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# Argentina has gone to town... #

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Like Jesus Christ Superstar before it,

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Evita is sung through.

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There are no lines of dialogue between the songs,

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as people would have come to expect.

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It harks back rather to grand opera,

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in which every element of the story has to be sung.

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# ..of the misery right... #

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Evita tells the story of politician Eva Peron

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and her rise to the top of Argentinian society in the 1940s.

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A glamorous but controversial figure,

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she was, on the face of it, an unusual subject for a musical.

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# It's quite a sunset

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# And good for the country... #

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But that wasn't the only unconventional aspect.

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Tim Rice chose to have the show narrated by Che Guevara,

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played on stage by David Essex.

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# But who is this Santa Evita?

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# Why all this howling, hysterical sorrow?

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# What kind of goddess has lived among us...? #

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When Evita eventually emerged,

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we were told that it was a rotten idea

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because nobody knew the story.

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But with Superstar we were told the reverse before it became a hit -

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we were told it's a rotten idea because everybody knows the story.

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So...it was a strange idea, a bit off the wall,

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but it was something I really wanted to do,

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and the more I researched Eva Peron -

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which I did for about a year -

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the more I thought, this is a great character who could work in theatre,

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was very glamorous... We didn't glamorise her, she was glamorous -

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that's half the point of the story.

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And it seemed to me something that would give us a shot

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of not being one-hit wonders.

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What was it persuaded Andrew to do Evita?

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Given that he wasn't convinced when you met him.

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It was clearly a very dramatic subject,

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and it was...an almost melodramatic subject.

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And it was something that he could use all his forces,

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all his great skill as an arranger, orchestrator,

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as well as a basic rock feel.

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It's not quite as out-and-out rock as Superstar,

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but it has a terrific contemporary base,

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or music that was contemporary at the time,

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plus it has Latin American elements,

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so I think when he got down to it,

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he thought, yes, this is something I can really work on.

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MUSIC: Don't Cry For Me Argentina from Evita

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# It won't be easy

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# You'll think it's strange

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# When I try to explain how I feel... #

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Evita's signature song is Don't Cry For Me Argentina.

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Released as a single, it went to number one in 1976,

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before the show had opened.

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# All he will see is a girl he once knew

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# Although she's dressed up... #

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On the radio, it seemed like a simple, heartfelt ballad.

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But in the context of the musical,

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it was something much more sophisticated.

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# I had to let it happen

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# I had to change

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# Couldn't stay all my life down at heel

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# Looking out of the window Staying out of the sun

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# So I chose freedom

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# Running around trying everything new

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# But nothing impressed me at all

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# I never expected it to... #

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Massive moment.

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A passionate plea.

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She's behind the mics, she's in front of thousands of people,

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she is begging for their love.

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But...

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there's a lot more going on with this song than we're hearing.

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Remember, we've had a whole first act to get to know Eva

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and get to know how she got to this point.

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So, now, we're watching her like a hawk

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to see how she handles this.

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# And as for fortune

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# And as for fame

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# I never invited them in

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# Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired

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# They are illusions

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# They are not the solutions they promised to be

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# The answer was here all the time

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# I love you and hope you love me... #

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"And as for fortune, and as for fame, I never invited them in."

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That is a barefaced lie.

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And we know it is! We've watched the whole of the first half,

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in which she not only invites in fame and fortune,

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she's hungry for it.

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Now we understand why at the very beginning of the show,

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the character Che Guevara,

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who is a very cynical observer all the way through the show,

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sings that tune with different words.

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# Oh, what a circus Oh, what a show... # - same tune.

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So what we have here

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is something called contrafacta, ladies and gentlemen,

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which is basically where a song is repeated

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but with a completely different spin,

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sometimes with different harmonies,

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but it's doing the same job, but for a different reason.

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# Don't cry for me, Argentina

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# The truth is I never left you

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# All through my wild days My mad existence

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# I kept my promise

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# Don't keep your distance... #

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# Salve Regina... #

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The opening night of Evita made its lead, Elaine Page,

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an instant star.

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Lloyd Webber's sophisticated blend

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of rock, lighter pop and classical music

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was a formula with truly international and lasting appeal

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that transcended his unusual source material.

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Lloyd Webber now began an unprecedented run of success.

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# You may meet him in a by-street

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# You may see him in a square

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# But when the crime's discovered

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# Then Macavity's...

0:19:160:19:19

# Macavity's... #

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In 1981, he unveiled Cats,

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adapted from TS Eliot's poems,

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featuring dancers dressed as felines

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performing in an oversized junkyard.

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# But when the crime's discovered Then Macavity's not there! #

0:19:330:19:37

Then came Starlight Express,

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a state-of-the-art '80s sound-and-vision extravaganza

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based around a story about racing trains,

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performed at high speed on roller skates.

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MUSIC: Phantom of the Opera

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And in 1986, the curtain rose on The Phantom of the Opera,

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adapted from the French novel about a mysterious masked figure

0:20:040:20:07

obsessed with a beautiful soprano -

0:20:070:20:09

and it runs to this day.

0:20:090:20:12

These new Lloyd Webber shows boasted spectacular staging,

0:20:140:20:18

ensuring they were memorable visually as well as musically.

0:20:180:20:21

A key collaborator on both Starlight and Cats

0:20:210:20:25

was designer John Napier.

0:20:250:20:27

I don't do, you know, sort of velvet sofas and French windows.

0:20:300:20:35

And the potted palm.

0:20:350:20:38

I hate to use the word "scenery".

0:20:380:20:43

I mean, I don't like scenery.

0:20:430:20:46

I find it... It kind of has an artifice to it,

0:20:460:20:50

and what I think Cats did was take away...

0:20:500:20:54

..the kind of conventional idea of what a musical was, could be.

0:20:560:21:02

I was presented with an open-staged space.

0:21:020:21:08

Not very conventional for a musical in the first place.

0:21:080:21:11

And then I treated it as a wasteland, as a dump.

0:21:110:21:16

Not very musical!

0:21:160:21:18

Cos you gave them multiple levels to work on,

0:21:180:21:21

-and multiple homes, I noticed, within that dump.

-Yeah.

0:21:210:21:24

And therefore you could have cats hanging around,

0:21:240:21:28

or appearing out of a tunnel, and next to a person.

0:21:280:21:32

And my thing, I think, because of being a sculptor initially,

0:21:320:21:37

I have a very peculiar brain.

0:21:370:21:40

And sometimes if you use something that's abstract,

0:21:400:21:43

-you can actually tell the story better...

-Yeah.

0:21:430:21:46

..because the way you light it, the costumes...

0:21:460:21:49

Everything is giving you the domestic detail.

0:21:490:21:52

And you can make it simple, and you can make it epic.

0:21:520:21:56

With Cats, Lloyd Webber's brand of sung-through operatics

0:21:580:22:02

and Napier's style of epic staging

0:22:020:22:04

combined to create a new global phenomenon.

0:22:040:22:08

The mega-musical.

0:22:080:22:10

MUSIC: Prologue: Work Song

0:22:100:22:13

And in 1985, Napier's talents were once more to the fore

0:22:140:22:19

when the longest-running mega-musical of all opened.

0:22:190:22:22

Les Miserables.

0:22:220:22:24

A highlight of the show

0:22:250:22:27

sees the entire set transformed before the audience's eyes -

0:22:270:22:31

a spectacle that's central to the story.

0:22:310:22:34

# Look down, look down... #

0:22:340:22:36

It's really abstract objects in space

0:22:360:22:39

coming together and tipping,

0:22:390:22:41

and then coming together and joining,

0:22:410:22:44

and there in front of your eyes

0:22:440:22:46

is a barricade bigger than anything you've ever expected it to be,

0:22:460:22:51

in seven seconds.

0:22:510:22:53

Because the music allows for seven seconds.

0:22:530:22:57

And it would be really boring

0:22:570:22:59

if it went on for longer than seven seconds!

0:22:590:23:01

But it's the music that drives the moment.

0:23:010:23:04

Therefore what you're doing mustn't interrupt.

0:23:040:23:09

It must enhance the motion of the play,

0:23:090:23:14

-or the narrative, or the song.

-Right.

0:23:140:23:17

You know, so you can have things that are spectacular,

0:23:170:23:22

but they can only be there

0:23:220:23:23

if the need at that moment is for them to be spectacular.

0:23:230:23:27

Les Miserables began as a French adaptation of a Victor Hugo novel

0:23:280:23:32

by lyricists Alan Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schonberg.

0:23:320:23:37

It's the story of a failed rebellion in 19th century Paris.

0:23:370:23:41

THEY SING IN FRENCH

0:23:410:23:44

The team behind Cats -

0:23:470:23:48

producer Cameron Mackintosh and director Trevor Nunn

0:23:480:23:52

with John Caird and the Royal Shakespeare Company -

0:23:520:23:54

reworked the show for a West End audience,

0:23:540:23:56

adding new songs with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer,

0:23:560:24:00

and fleshing out the story.

0:24:000:24:01

# ..you're another day older

0:24:010:24:03

# And that's all you can say for the life of the poor

0:24:050:24:08

# It's a struggle, it's a war

0:24:080:24:10

# And there's nothing that anyone's giving

0:24:100:24:11

# One more day, standing about What is it for?

0:24:110:24:14

# One day less to be living... #

0:24:140:24:17

When Les Miserables opened, the critics hated it.

0:24:170:24:21

One newspaper described it as the reduction of a literary mountain

0:24:210:24:24

to a dramatic molehill.

0:24:240:24:26

It became known in the trade as The Glums.

0:24:260:24:29

But the show had the last laugh,

0:24:290:24:31

because audiences took it to their hearts, and the rest is history.

0:24:310:24:35

Better than any musical for years,

0:24:350:24:38

Les Miserables had unleashed high emotion.

0:24:380:24:42

MUSIC: Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

0:24:420:24:44

# There's a grief that can't be spoken

0:24:480:24:51

# There's a pain goes on and on

0:24:540:24:57

# Empty chairs at empty tables

0:24:580:25:02

# Now my friends are dead and gone

0:25:020:25:07

# Here they talked of revolution

0:25:080:25:11

# Here it was they lit the flame

0:25:130:25:17

# Here they sang about tomorrow

0:25:170:25:21

# And tomorrow never came... #

0:25:210:25:27

The young student, Marius, one of the leads in the show,

0:25:310:25:35

has survived the barricades almost alone.

0:25:350:25:39

He's watched all the rest of his friends die,

0:25:390:25:42

as have we.

0:25:420:25:43

And now he's populating these empty chairs and empty tables

0:25:430:25:47

and feeling the loss of them.

0:25:470:25:50

And we're going through it with him in this extraordinary song

0:25:500:25:54

which allows for an outburst of emotion

0:25:540:25:57

almost as great as the emotion of seeing them killed.

0:25:570:26:00

We feel his grief absolutely burst out of him through this number.

0:26:000:26:05

We're basically travelling with him

0:26:050:26:07

through something which is a very modern phenomenon,

0:26:070:26:10

which this number manages to sum up, I think,

0:26:100:26:12

which is survivor guilt.

0:26:120:26:14

# From the table in the corner

0:26:160:26:21

# They could see a world reborn

0:26:210:26:26

# And they rose with voices ringing

0:26:260:26:30

# And I can hear them now

0:26:300:26:34

# The very words that they had sung

0:26:340:26:40

# Became their last communion

0:26:400:26:45

# On the lonely barricade

0:26:460:26:50

# At dawn... #

0:26:500:26:52

Boublil and Schonberg are drawing on a very French tradition

0:26:560:27:00

of the passionate balladeer -

0:27:000:27:03

think Edith Piaf, think Charles Aznavour.

0:27:030:27:05

That feeling of an eruption of emotion

0:27:050:27:09

almost bigger than the singer can handle.

0:27:090:27:11

And the journey this song and the performer have to go through

0:27:110:27:15

is absolutely massive. They start very small,

0:27:150:27:17

they built right, right up to these enormous outbursts,

0:27:170:27:20

and then back down again to something very small.

0:27:200:27:24

This, I think, is the reason why Les Miserables was so successful,

0:27:240:27:29

was because that outburst of passion is very unBritish,

0:27:290:27:34

and audiences weren't used to being able to sit in a theatre

0:27:340:27:37

and feel almost viscerally

0:27:370:27:39

the sense of loss of those young men

0:27:390:27:42

and the grief that Marius feels.

0:27:420:27:45

Not for years had an audience sat there

0:27:450:27:48

and been so overwhelmed by passion.

0:27:480:27:52

# Oh, my friends, my friends forgive me

0:27:520:27:55

# That I live and you are gone

0:27:570:28:02

# There's a grief that can't be spoken

0:28:020:28:06

# There's a pain goes on and on

0:28:060:28:12

# Phantom faces at the window

0:28:120:28:16

# Phantom shadows on the floor

0:28:160:28:21

# Empty chairs at empty tables

0:28:210:28:24

# Where my friends will meet no more

0:28:240:28:30

# Oh, my friends, my friends

0:28:300:28:35

# Don't ask me

0:28:350:28:38

# What your sacrifice was for

0:28:380:28:43

# Empty chairs at empty tables

0:28:430:28:47

# Where my friends will sing

0:28:470:28:52

# No more. #

0:28:540:29:03

In 1989, Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Mis

0:29:160:29:20

with Miss Saigon.

0:29:200:29:21

Inspired by Puccini's opera Madam Butterfly

0:29:210:29:24

and set in Vietnam,

0:29:240:29:26

it boasted more breathtaking sets by John Napier

0:29:260:29:29

and went on to enjoy huge success.

0:29:290:29:32

PROPELLORS WHIRRING

0:29:320:29:35

But the fate of two other new shows was a reminder

0:29:390:29:43

of just how hard it was

0:29:430:29:44

to make these lavish and complex productions work.

0:29:440:29:47

In 1988, Chess opened on Broadway.

0:29:510:29:54

Written by Tim Rice with Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of Abba,

0:29:560:30:00

this story of a Cold War love triangle

0:30:000:30:02

had been a glittering success in the West End.

0:30:020:30:05

But it closed in New York after barely three months.

0:30:050:30:09

And that same year saw Carrie: The Musical.

0:30:100:30:13

Adapted from the Stephen King horror novel,

0:30:130:30:16

it was co-produced by the RSC,

0:30:160:30:18

seeking to repeat their success with Cats and Les Mis.

0:30:180:30:22

They're calling it the costliest flop ever on the New York stage.

0:30:220:30:25

I'm talking about the Royal Shakespeare Company's production

0:30:250:30:28

of the musical Carrie, which has been cancelled

0:30:280:30:30

just five days after its Broadway debut.

0:30:300:30:32

Just about all the critics attacked Carrie,

0:30:320:30:34

but that of the New York Times was considered the death sentence.

0:30:340:30:38

Their critic, Frank Rich, described it as "a wreck...

0:30:380:30:40

"with faceless bubblegum music."

0:30:400:30:42

The show's director, Terry Hands, claimed audience approval,

0:30:420:30:46

but the damage had been done.

0:30:460:30:48

# I'm Carrie

0:30:480:30:50

# I am a song of endless wonder

0:30:500:30:54

# That no-one will claim... #

0:30:540:30:56

We were one of the producers of Carrie, so I remember it well.

0:30:560:30:59

When you're rehearsing a musical - it's true for a play, too -

0:30:590:31:02

you completely isolate yourself from the world,

0:31:020:31:06

and it isn't until you then take it out into the world

0:31:060:31:09

that the world says to you, "Are you crazy?!"

0:31:090:31:12

Which is what happened on Carrie.

0:31:120:31:14

People said to me, "Are you crazy? You're doing a musical

0:31:140:31:17

"about a high school and they're all dressed as gladiators!

0:31:170:31:19

"What the hell is going on in this show?"

0:31:190:31:21

Um...it was a good question, and I didn't have an answer.

0:31:210:31:25

Carrie lost its backers millions of dollars.

0:31:260:31:30

Staging a mega-musical was a gamble

0:31:300:31:33

that took creative courage

0:31:330:31:35

and very deep pockets.

0:31:350:31:38

But one of the defining shows of the following decade

0:31:400:31:43

would emerge from altogether more humble beginnings.

0:31:430:31:47

In the early 1990s, Jonathan Larson,

0:31:470:31:50

a young New York-based composer,

0:31:500:31:53

began workshopping an off-Broadway production

0:31:530:31:55

inspired by his own experiences of

0:31:550:31:58

being a cash-strapped musician in Manhattan.

0:31:580:32:01

Rent is set here,

0:32:020:32:04

amongst the residents of New York's East Village,

0:32:040:32:07

which in the 1980s and early '90s

0:32:070:32:09

was the bohemian epicentre of the city.

0:32:090:32:11

But Larson was drawing on another tale of bohemian life -

0:32:110:32:16

Puccini's La Boheme, set in 19th-century Paris.

0:32:160:32:19

Just as, 40 years earlier,

0:32:190:32:21

West Side Story had reimagined Romeo and Juliet,

0:32:210:32:25

so Larson would use timeless themes to create a musical

0:32:250:32:28

that was utterly of the moment.

0:32:280:32:30

MUSIC: "Rent" from Rent

0:32:300:32:34

Rent is about the residents of an apartment block

0:32:340:32:37

threatened with eviction.

0:32:370:32:38

Here are drag queens and exotic dancers,

0:32:380:32:41

frustrated artists and misfits -

0:32:410:32:43

a community of outsiders.

0:32:430:32:46

Larson sets their stories to a dizzying mix

0:32:460:32:49

of MTV-era rock and pop numbers.

0:32:490:32:52

# How we gonna pay?

0:32:540:32:56

# How we gonna pay?

0:32:560:32:59

# How we gonna pay

0:32:590:33:01

# Last year's rent? #

0:33:010:33:06

But Larson was determined to avoid the pitfalls

0:33:090:33:11

of bombastic rock operas or overblown mega-musicals,

0:33:110:33:15

as Anthony Rapp, the first actor

0:33:150:33:17

to play Mark, the narrator of Rent, recalls.

0:33:170:33:20

Jonathan was watching what was happening in musical theatre

0:33:230:33:27

with a little bit of dismay.

0:33:270:33:28

That it was... You know, there were so many of these shows

0:33:280:33:31

that didn't have any kind of reflection of...

0:33:310:33:33

the life that we were all living at the time.

0:33:330:33:37

They were sort of escapist and fantastical,

0:33:370:33:39

and, you know, there certainly is a place for that,

0:33:390:33:42

but I think he was very, very moved to use theatre

0:33:420:33:45

as a vehicle to speak about the real world

0:33:450:33:49

in a way that people who were living in the real world could relate.

0:33:490:33:53

# That's where I work - I dance... #

0:33:530:33:55

You can see this in the way

0:33:550:33:57

Rent grittily reworks scenes from La Boheme.

0:33:570:34:00

The focus of Puccini's opera

0:34:000:34:03

is the love affair between Rodolfo and seamstress Mimi,

0:34:030:34:07

who meet when she asks for a light.

0:34:070:34:10

# Oh, won't you light the candle? #

0:34:110:34:17

But in Larson's version, Mimi is a dancer

0:34:170:34:21

in a seedy club.

0:34:210:34:22

# You look like you're 16

0:34:220:34:24

# I'm 19

0:34:240:34:26

# But I'm old for my age I'm just born to... #

0:34:260:34:29

And she needs a candle not to illuminate her apartment

0:34:290:34:32

but to cook up a fix of heroin.

0:34:320:34:34

-# ..shiver like that

-I have no heat

0:34:340:34:36

-# I used to sweat

-I got a cold

-Uh-huh

0:34:360:34:39

# I used to be a junkie

0:34:390:34:41

# But now and then I like to feel good... #

0:34:410:34:43

These were unusual people to be populating a musical.

0:34:430:34:48

Mimi, an HIV-positive S&M dancer,

0:34:480:34:51

and Angel, a, you know, HIV-positive drag queen,

0:34:510:34:55

and Mark was a documentary film-maker

0:34:550:34:57

and Roger an HIV-positive rock singer.

0:34:570:35:00

Larson wrote Rent just as HIV and AIDS

0:35:000:35:04

were sweeping through New York.

0:35:040:35:06

# One song glory

0:35:060:35:10

# One song before I go... #

0:35:100:35:15

Jonathan was himself a heterosexual, HIV-negative man

0:35:150:35:19

who was...incredibly moved by what was happening around him,

0:35:190:35:24

by his friends who were HIV-positive and some of whom died.

0:35:240:35:28

And that's why he wrote Rent -

0:35:280:35:30

he was responding to this event in his life.

0:35:300:35:33

Um, and he was speaking to that, and Mark is trying to document that...

0:35:330:35:38

His friends' lives, before they're gone.

0:35:380:35:41

20 years after Rent's Broadway premiere,

0:35:410:35:45

Theatr Clwyd are putting on a new production in London.

0:35:450:35:48

The cast are about to give me a very intimate performance

0:35:500:35:53

of what I think is Larson's finest song.

0:35:530:35:57

MUSIC: Seasons of Love from Rent

0:35:570:35:59

It captures the brevity of human life, but with joy

0:35:590:36:02

and spontaneity.

0:36:020:36:05

# Five hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

0:36:080:36:13

# Five hundred, twenty-five thousand moments so dear

0:36:130:36:18

# Five hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

0:36:180:36:23

# How do you measure Measure a year? #

0:36:230:36:28

Do you hear those big opening chords?

0:36:280:36:31

Do you hear that gospel sound?

0:36:310:36:33

Do you hear those questions repeated over and over again,

0:36:330:36:36

that big long number?

0:36:360:36:38

Five hundred and twenty-five thousand what?

0:36:380:36:41

And we get the answer.

0:36:410:36:42

Well, you should be hearing it, because it's all aimed at you.

0:36:420:36:46

This number breaks the fourth wall

0:36:460:36:48

and embraces the audience with its ideas.

0:36:480:36:51

# ..measure a year?

0:36:510:36:53

# In daylights, in sunsets

0:36:530:36:56

# In midnights, in cups of coffee

0:36:560:36:59

# In inches, in miles

0:36:590:37:01

# In laughter, in strife... #

0:37:010:37:03

To write it, Larson rang up all his friends and said,

0:37:030:37:06

how do you calculate a year?

0:37:060:37:08

And as we're listening, we realise that what it's saying is,

0:37:080:37:12

how are you going to calculate your year?

0:37:120:37:14

And what it's going to come down to is

0:37:140:37:16

you'll live it, as these people do,

0:37:160:37:18

not knowing how long you've got.

0:37:180:37:19

# How do you measure a year in the life?

0:37:190:37:23

# How about love?

0:37:230:37:28

# How about love?

0:37:280:37:33

# How about love?

0:37:330:37:37

# Measure in love

0:37:370:37:41

-# Seasons of love

-Lo-o-o-ove

0:37:410:37:47

-# Seasons of love

-Lo-o-o-ove

0:37:470:37:53

# Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

0:37:530:37:58

# Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan

0:37:580:38:03

# Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes... #

0:38:030:38:08

And then finally, pure musical theatre.

0:38:080:38:10

The individual singers who scat sing, virtually.

0:38:100:38:14

# ..she learned or in times that he cried

0:38:140:38:18

# In bridges he burned Or the way that she died

0:38:180:38:23

# It's time now to sing out... #

0:38:230:38:25

They riff over the top of the melody,

0:38:250:38:27

sending their voices high above what we're listening to,

0:38:270:38:31

and that is what we love as an audience -

0:38:310:38:33

to hear the physical expression of the performer

0:38:330:38:36

going into the song and giving even more emotion to it.

0:38:360:38:39

-# Lo-o-ove

-A gift from up above

0:38:390:38:42

-# Remember the lo-o-ove

-Share love, give love

0:38:420:38:46

-# Remember the love

-Spread love

0:38:460:38:48

# Measure, measure your life in love

0:38:480:38:53

# Seasons of love

0:38:530:38:59

-# Seasons of love

-Measure your life

0:38:590:39:02

# Measure your life in love. #

0:39:020:39:08

Jonathan Larson never saw Rent open to rapturous reviews,

0:39:090:39:13

as it quickly transferred from off- to on-Broadway.

0:39:130:39:17

On the day before the first preview, he died

0:39:170:39:20

from an undiagnosed heart condition.

0:39:200:39:23

I know for sure that, um, Rent...changed people's lives.

0:39:250:39:29

That's a phrase that they used,

0:39:290:39:31

and I don't think people say that lightly.

0:39:310:39:34

And I know for a fact that it introduced people to...

0:39:340:39:38

people with AIDS for the first time, in many cases.

0:39:380:39:42

I remember a very specific letter I got when I was in the show

0:39:420:39:45

from a young woman, and she was like,

0:39:450:39:47

she literally said, "I'd never met anyone with AIDS -

0:39:470:39:50

"I feel like I have and now I've found out

0:39:500:39:52

"where my local AIDS hospice is and I've volunteered for it."

0:39:520:39:55

-Brilliant.

-I mean, that's one example, it's anecdotal,

0:39:550:39:58

but I know that that's not the only time.

0:39:580:40:00

Rent confirmed that New York's off-Broadway theatre world

0:40:030:40:07

was a fertile ground for fresh talent.

0:40:070:40:10

But during the 1990s, other new forces would come into play.

0:40:100:40:15

In 1991, the influential New York Times theatre critic, Frank Rich,

0:40:170:40:21

had surprised his readers

0:40:210:40:23

by proclaiming that the best musical of the year

0:40:230:40:25

wasn't a stage production but an animated film -

0:40:250:40:28

Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

0:40:280:40:31

To write the music,

0:40:320:40:33

Disney had turned to songwriting team Alan Menken and Howard Ashman,

0:40:330:40:37

whose previous credits included an off-Broadway hit of their own -

0:40:370:40:42

Little Shop of Horrors.

0:40:420:40:43

Beauty and the Beast's first song

0:40:460:40:48

is a classic Broadway-style opening number,

0:40:480:40:51

establishing the story's heroine, Belle,

0:40:510:40:54

and her everyday frustrations.

0:40:540:40:56

# Little town It's a quiet village

0:40:570:41:01

# Every day like the one before... #

0:41:010:41:04

She's rolling her eyes.

0:41:040:41:06

# Little town full of little people

0:41:060:41:09

# Waking up to say

0:41:090:41:14

# Bonjour, bonjour Bonjour, bonjour!

0:41:140:41:17

# There goes the baker with his tray like always

0:41:170:41:21

# The same old bread and rolls to sell

0:41:210:41:23

# Every morning just the same Since the morning that we came

0:41:230:41:27

-# To this poor provincial town

-Good morning

-...Belle... #

0:41:270:41:31

And as she goes through the town, we're meeting...

0:41:310:41:34

We're getting everybody's reaction to her,

0:41:340:41:36

which is that she's unusual and she's different,

0:41:360:41:38

and getting a sense of what she dreams of, you know.

0:41:380:41:41

# Oh, isn't this amazing?

0:41:410:41:45

# It's my favourite part because you'll see... #

0:41:450:41:49

And then of course meeting Gaston...

0:41:490:41:52

# A-da-da... #

0:41:520:41:54

-Again, you're creating a world for...

-Creating a total world,

0:41:540:41:58

and this was very much back to sort of the Bavarian village

0:41:580:42:02

of Walt, you know, as in Snow White and Cinderella.

0:42:020:42:06

That was, you know, where Belle comes from.

0:42:060:42:09

So it was very much consciously back to that world of Snow White,

0:42:090:42:14

that world...early Walt.

0:42:140:42:16

Responding to the acclaim for the film's pure Broadway numbers,

0:42:180:42:22

Disney took a gamble

0:42:220:42:23

and turned Beauty and the Beast into a stage musical.

0:42:230:42:26

The process was every bit, you know...

0:42:260:42:30

as developing a Broadway show.

0:42:300:42:33

But it was a Broadway show of this animated movie.

0:42:330:42:35

And, you know, initially Broadway's reaction was, um...

0:42:350:42:40

-cynical and threatened, you know?

-Yeah.

0:42:400:42:44

Which continues even to this day. There are still people who call it

0:42:440:42:47

"the Disneyfication of Broadway".

0:42:470:42:50

You know. And...

0:42:500:42:51

Sorry, but the fact is, it IS Broadway.

0:42:530:42:56

If it's on stage and you're singing thoughts and feelings

0:42:560:43:00

and you're moving the story forward with song, guess what?

0:43:000:43:03

You're a musical.

0:43:030:43:04

On stage, Beauty and the Beast clearly resembled the movie.

0:43:040:43:09

But in 1994, the studio scored its biggest animated hit yet

0:43:110:43:15

with The Lion King.

0:43:150:43:17

Disney's chairman asked Tom Schumacher to work on

0:43:170:43:21

turning that very different beast into musical theatre.

0:43:210:43:25

SONG FINISHES

0:43:250:43:27

And I say, "Well, Lion King is a terrible idea."

0:43:270:43:29

Because there's nothing about it that is a stage musical.

0:43:290:43:34

It's an epic film. And there was a bit of a tussle,

0:43:340:43:37

and he had to remind me that I was actually an employee

0:43:370:43:40

and worked for him.

0:43:400:43:42

He didn't have an idea how to do it, particularly,

0:43:420:43:44

but he thought people loved the characters,

0:43:440:43:46

they loved the story, they loved the music. Why couldn't it be on stage?

0:43:460:43:50

The reason it couldn't be on stage is because the film itself

0:43:500:43:55

is not theatrical.

0:43:550:43:57

So what it needed was a giant idea.

0:43:570:43:59

MUSIC: Circle of Life from The Lion King

0:43:590:44:02

That giant idea needed to turn 2D into 3D,

0:44:060:44:11

to recreate widescreen African vistas

0:44:110:44:14

in the confines of the theatre,

0:44:140:44:16

and bring to life all those animated but characterful animals.

0:44:160:44:21

In a brilliant move, Disney recruited Julie Taymor,

0:44:210:44:25

a director whose previous work included opera and puppetry.

0:44:250:44:29

When I started this project, I said to Disney -

0:44:290:44:32

you know, they have all the money in the world if you want it.

0:44:320:44:35

I said no, I'm going to use the most theatrical devices

0:44:350:44:39

that are age-old.

0:44:390:44:41

Obviously revisited, done as all of us artists, we take things in,

0:44:410:44:46

we're inspired by the traditions,

0:44:460:44:48

but then it comes out, hopefully, in a personal and individual way.

0:44:480:44:52

# Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba

0:44:520:44:57

# Sithi uhm ingonyama... #

0:44:570:45:01

Julie Taymor had a deep understanding of

0:45:010:45:04

mask and folk theatre from across the world.

0:45:040:45:07

As well as director, she worked as lead costume designer.

0:45:070:45:11

For instance, in this costume of Scar,

0:45:130:45:15

the most African thing in this would be what is called Kuba cloth,

0:45:150:45:18

African, uh, textiles.

0:45:180:45:21

And I took the patterns and I wove them into my own silhouette.

0:45:210:45:25

-And that very pinched face.

-Oh, the mask there?

0:45:250:45:28

Well, that is inspired by the animated film,

0:45:280:45:30

but then I sculpted it and it's my style of sculpting.

0:45:300:45:33

Because Scar represents a kind of wily, serpentine character,

0:45:330:45:38

you'll see it in this asymmetrical mask.

0:45:380:45:42

I looked at many African tribal performances with masks

0:45:430:45:47

and when they do the animals, they don't do anything realistic.

0:45:470:45:50

They take two sticks and they'll walk to represent the four legs.

0:45:500:45:54

That opening moment when you see the giraffes walk across.

0:45:560:46:00

You never for a minute

0:46:000:46:02

are seeing only giraffe - you see giraffe and human. Right?

0:46:020:46:05

The cheetah walks out from stage right

0:46:050:46:07

as the giraffes are coming from stage left,

0:46:070:46:09

this beautiful moment of their passing,

0:46:090:46:11

and you go, "Oh!"

0:46:110:46:14

That you see the human,

0:46:140:46:15

that you know when that beautiful elephant comes

0:46:150:46:18

and that sweet child who's playing the baby elephant,

0:46:180:46:21

and you see the child -

0:46:210:46:22

always seeing people, that was something Julie had from the start,

0:46:220:46:25

that we would always have this dual event of human and animal.

0:46:250:46:28

This drawing on authentic cultural traditions

0:46:310:46:35

for the physical performances

0:46:350:46:36

was complimented by Julie Taymor's decision

0:46:360:46:39

to put the chorus centre-stage,

0:46:390:46:42

foregrounding arrangements by the South African composer Lebo M.

0:46:420:46:46

In a movie, choral is invisible.

0:46:480:46:50

In theatre, it's all live,

0:46:500:46:52

so we have to assign, who are the characters singing?

0:46:520:46:55

So partly it was that, but also I said

0:46:550:46:58

the chorus is now going to be a major player.

0:46:580:47:02

The choral part will be in your face,

0:47:020:47:05

and that's where I said, I do want to have a South African chorus come.

0:47:050:47:09

Um, because it's a different way of singing. It's such a tradition.

0:47:090:47:13

# Ibabeni njalo bakithi

0:47:130:47:16

# Ninga dinwa

0:47:160:47:18

# Ninga phelelwa nga mandla

0:47:180:47:20

# Siya ba bona Bebe fun' ukusi xeda... #

0:47:200:47:23

When you hear that singing,

0:47:230:47:25

even if you don't understand the words, it goes right into your heart

0:47:250:47:28

and explodes there.

0:47:280:47:30

-# Ngeke ba lunge

-One by one

0:47:300:47:33

# Ibabeni njalo bakithi... #

0:47:330:47:36

The Lion King had been virtually rebuilt from scratch

0:47:360:47:40

into something that looked and sounded like no show before it.

0:47:400:47:44

And it's become a musical theatre phenomenon in its own right.

0:47:440:47:48

By 2015, it had made more money at the box office

0:47:510:47:55

than any other production in history.

0:47:550:47:58

The Lion King continues to speak to audiences of all ages

0:47:590:48:03

in a host of countries.

0:48:030:48:05

But not every recent hit has been so family-friendly.

0:48:070:48:11

In 2003, 30 years after the Rocky Horror Show opened,

0:48:110:48:16

audiences were reminded of musicals' capacity to make mischief.

0:48:160:48:20

# The sun is shining It's a lovely day

0:48:200:48:23

# A perfect morning for a kid to play

0:48:230:48:27

# But you've got lots of bills... #

0:48:270:48:29

But this production still paid homage to

0:48:290:48:31

the classical musical theatre tradition.

0:48:310:48:34

# You are 22

0:48:340:48:36

# And you live on Avenue Q...

0:48:360:48:39

I thought you'd like to meet the cast.

0:48:390:48:42

This is Princeton.

0:48:420:48:43

# ..You live on Avenue Q! #

0:48:430:48:45

Avenue Q is a biting comedy with an adult edge,

0:48:470:48:51

performed by actors with sweary puppets.

0:48:510:48:53

It's set in a kind of Sesame Street for adults.

0:48:540:48:57

It's a coming-of-age tale in which the characters have grown up

0:48:570:49:01

to discover that despite the assurances of kids' TV,

0:49:010:49:04

we weren't all destined to be special after all.

0:49:040:49:08

Avenue Q was the breakthrough project

0:49:090:49:11

of co-creators Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez.

0:49:110:49:15

MUSIC: What Do You Do With A BA In English?

0:49:150:49:16

Did you start with the puppets as the idea, going into the show,

0:49:160:49:20

or did you start with the idea

0:49:200:49:22

of doing something that was very up to date and pretty in your face

0:49:220:49:25

and pretty different?

0:49:250:49:26

We had thought of the puppets first.

0:49:260:49:28

Our previous project had involved puppets,

0:49:280:49:31

it was just a classroom project.

0:49:310:49:34

Kermit, Prince of Denmark. Uh...

0:49:340:49:37

So how did Jim Henson take it?

0:49:370:49:39

Well, pretty well - he'd been dead for 15 years.

0:49:390:49:43

The idea of... I think musical theatre

0:49:430:49:46

had not progressed with comedy. There are some funny musicals,

0:49:460:49:49

but they were still doing the Borscht Belt,

0:49:490:49:51

still doing kind of Mel Brooks-y humour,

0:49:510:49:54

and we thought, well, we've had Spinal Tap,

0:49:540:49:57

we've had the Simpsons, we've had South Park...

0:49:570:50:00

We'd just seen South Park, actually,

0:50:000:50:02

and thought, "They're eating our lunch, man!

0:50:020:50:04

"We've got to do it, we've got to make a show."

0:50:040:50:07

And we thought what if there was a show like...

0:50:070:50:09

Like, uh, like South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, the movie,

0:50:090:50:13

that was funny the whole way through,

0:50:130:50:15

that had elements of spoof but that still worked on its own as a story.

0:50:150:50:20

It wasn't just some fake musical within another idea.

0:50:200:50:23

That was the gap we were trying to shoot with Avenue Q.

0:50:230:50:25

# The internet is really, really great

0:50:250:50:29

# For porn... #

0:50:290:50:31

And the first thing I love about the songs

0:50:310:50:33

is that they are totally unapologetic.

0:50:330:50:36

# For porn!

0:50:360:50:37

# There's always some new site

0:50:370:50:39

-# For porn

-I browse all day and night

0:50:390:50:42

-# For porn

-It's like I'm surfing

0:50:420:50:44

# At the speed of light

0:50:440:50:46

-# For porn! #

-Trekkie!

0:50:460:50:48

# If you were gay

0:50:500:50:53

# That'd be OK... #

0:50:530:50:55

And because they're "just puppets",

0:50:550:50:57

we let them get away with saying - or singing - the unsayable.

0:50:570:51:02

# ..see, if it were me

0:51:020:51:06

# I would feel free to say

0:51:060:51:08

# That I was gay But I'm not gay... #

0:51:080:51:11

# If you were gay... # Nicky!

0:51:110:51:14

# That'd be OK... # Nicky!

0:51:140:51:16

You know?

0:51:160:51:17

And...we tried to make every song build,

0:51:170:51:20

not just musically, not just lyrically,

0:51:200:51:23

but also comedically.

0:51:230:51:25

So the laughs started here, they would go somewhere in the next verse

0:51:250:51:29

and then they would climax, you know,

0:51:290:51:31

at the same point that the song climaxed musically.

0:51:310:51:34

So in the song Everyone's A Little Bit Racist,

0:51:360:51:39

you know, we made sure to keep the humour building.

0:51:390:51:42

It starts out rather, um, blithe.

0:51:420:51:44

# You're a little bit racist...

0:51:500:51:53

# Everyone's a little bit racist All right

0:51:530:51:56

-# All right

-All right

-All right!

0:51:560:51:59

# Bigotry has never been exclusively white... #

0:51:590:52:04

THEY GIGGLE

0:52:040:52:06

And the music keeps changing key every time someone comes on stage,

0:52:060:52:10

and it builds a little bit, it gears up as everyone comes up.

0:52:100:52:13

The very last chorus of it is, um, you know,

0:52:130:52:17

Christmas Eve sings...

0:52:170:52:19

-# The Jews have all the money and the whites

-Have all the power

0:52:190:52:23

# And I'm always in taxi cab with driver who no shower

0:52:230:52:29

-# Me too!

-Me too!

-I can't even get a taxi!

0:52:290:52:32

# Everyone's... #

0:52:320:52:33

So this... We try to use the shifts in energy, the key changes,

0:52:330:52:37

the modulations, to help heighten the jokes

0:52:370:52:41

and bring them up a notch.

0:52:410:52:43

Avenue Q is musically sophisticated,

0:52:450:52:48

but it's also very aware of its antecedents

0:52:480:52:51

from the golden age of musical theatre.

0:52:510:52:53

There's an "I Am" song, and showstoppers,

0:52:530:52:57

and in the number Mix Tape, there's an almost love song,

0:52:570:53:00

harking back to Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel

0:53:000:53:03

nearly 60 years earlier.

0:53:030:53:05

Aww.

0:53:060:53:08

Princeton.

0:53:080:53:10

# He likes me Oh

0:53:100:53:12

# I think he likes me

0:53:120:53:15

# But does he "like me" like me...? #

0:53:150:53:18

One of the songs I love is Mix Tape,

0:53:180:53:21

which is kind of the great non-romantic love song.

0:53:210:53:24

Right, right! Yes, that's the If I Loved You of Avenue Q.

0:53:240:53:28

Exactly so. Could you tell me

0:53:280:53:30

a little bit about Mix Tape, how that came about?

0:53:300:53:32

We had an idea that we wanted to write a song called

0:53:320:53:35

Does He Like Me Or Does He Like Me Like Me.

0:53:350:53:37

Er, and we started writing, you now...

0:53:370:53:40

HE PLAYS "MIX TAPE" INTRO

0:53:400:53:42

# He likes me

0:53:440:53:46

# I think he likes me

0:53:460:53:48

# But does he "like me" like me

0:53:490:53:51

# Like I like him?

0:53:510:53:54

# Will we be friends

0:53:540:53:58

# Or something more?

0:53:580:54:00

# I think he's interested

0:54:000:54:03

# But I'm not sure... #

0:54:030:54:07

And we began to realise that what we were writing wasn't the song

0:54:070:54:10

but the intro to a song,

0:54:100:54:12

and then we thought, well, what would she be confused about?

0:54:120:54:15

What's a good mixed signal for her to be like,

0:54:150:54:18

does he like me or does he just like me, like me?

0:54:180:54:21

And then we thought of a mix tape

0:54:210:54:23

because every song could be misread

0:54:230:54:26

or thought of as an intention, an innuendo.

0:54:260:54:29

-PIANO MIMICS DOORBELL

-Oh, come in!

0:54:290:54:31

-Hi, Kate.

-Oh, Princeton! Hi!

0:54:310:54:33

Listen, I was going through my old CDs yesterday

0:54:330:54:36

and I kept coming across songs I thought you'd like,

0:54:360:54:38

-so I made you this mix.

-That's so sweet!

0:54:380:54:41

Can I get you a drink or a snack?

0:54:410:54:43

-Actually, do you mind if I use your bathroom?

-Go right ahead.

0:54:430:54:45

Thanks!

0:54:450:54:47

SHE SIGHS

0:54:470:54:49

# A mix tape

0:54:490:54:50

# Oh, he made a mix tape

0:54:500:54:53

# A-ha-ha!

0:54:530:54:54

# He was thinking of me

0:54:540:54:56

# Which shows he cares

0:54:560:55:00

# Sometimes when someone has a crush on you

0:55:000:55:05

# They'll make you a mix tape

0:55:050:55:08

# To give you a clue. #

0:55:080:55:11

And then it was a real trick

0:55:110:55:13

to get song titles that...

0:55:130:55:16

Some of which suggested "I like you" and some of which suggest...

0:55:160:55:20

Some of which suggested "you're just my friend", and rhymed!

0:55:200:55:25

And I don't think we would have been able to do it without Napster.

0:55:250:55:29

Napster was the big internet music platform back then.

0:55:290:55:33

Let's see.

0:55:330:55:35

# You've Got A Friend The Theme From Friends

0:55:350:55:38

# That's What Friends Are For... #

0:55:380:55:41

Shit.

0:55:410:55:43

So we would just say, "OK, um...

0:55:430:55:46

"That's What Friends Are For, we know we need that -

0:55:460:55:49

"what rhymes with That's What Friends Are For and is a song?

0:55:490:55:53

"Oh, My Cherie Amour!"

0:55:530:55:56

Oh, but look!

0:55:580:55:59

# A Whole New World Kiss The Girl

0:55:590:56:03

# My Cherie Amour... #

0:56:030:56:06

Oh, Princeton. He does like me! Ha-ha!

0:56:060:56:08

# I Am The Walrus

0:56:080:56:11

# Fat Bottomed Girls

0:56:110:56:13

# Yellow Submarine

0:56:130:56:16

# What does this mean? #

0:56:160:56:20

This kind of very knowing comedy has been around since the millennium.

0:56:220:56:26

We've entered a distinctly adult world,

0:56:260:56:28

but via an unapologetically juvenile one.

0:56:280:56:31

We're hitting all the pop culture notes,

0:56:310:56:34

the comedy is wry and on the nose,

0:56:340:56:37

and yet as with most modern musicals,

0:56:370:56:39

there's also a fundamental understanding of,

0:56:390:56:42

and indeed nostalgia for, musical theatre itself.

0:56:420:56:46

-Nice mix.

-Oh. There's one more.

0:56:470:56:51

# I Have To Say I Love You In A Song... #

0:56:520:56:59

MUSIC ENDS

0:57:050:57:09

Throughout this series, I've had a chance to tell the stories

0:57:120:57:16

behind some of the greatest songs of musical theatre,

0:57:160:57:19

and crucially, to perform them.

0:57:190:57:23

MUSIC: Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'

0:57:230:57:26

I've been reminded of the depth and inventiveness of the writing,

0:57:260:57:30

and struck by how fresh songs created decades ago can still feel.

0:57:300:57:35

# And everything's going my way. #

0:57:350:57:41

# In New York you can be a new man... #

0:57:410:57:45

And from Wicked to Avenue Q

0:57:450:57:48

to the hottest new ticket, Hamilton,

0:57:480:57:51

21st-century musicals offer us

0:57:510:57:53

an unprecedented range of styles and subjects.

0:57:530:57:57

# Just you wait!

0:57:570:57:59

-# Alexander Hamilton

-Alexander Hamilton

0:57:590:58:02

# We are waiting in the wings... #

0:58:020:58:04

They're proof of musical theatre's extraordinary ability

0:58:040:58:07

to reinvent itself without losing sight of its own tradition.

0:58:070:58:12

# Oh, Alexander Hamilton... #

0:58:120:58:14

There's a buzz around these shows

0:58:140:58:16

that hasn't been felt in a generation.

0:58:160:58:19

An appeal that reaches across all audiences

0:58:190:58:22

and continues to win new converts.

0:58:220:58:24

More than ever before, musicals are for everybody.

0:58:240:58:28

They make us laugh, they make us cry,

0:58:280:58:31

and they leave us with memories of song and spectacle

0:58:310:58:34

that will last a lifetime.

0:58:340:58:37

# I am not throwing away my shot

0:58:370:58:39

# I am not throwing away my shot

0:58:390:58:42

# Hey yo, I'm just like my country I'm young, scrappy and hungry

0:58:420:58:45

# And I'm not throwing away my shot

0:58:450:58:47

# I'ma get a scholarship to King's College

0:58:470:58:49

# I prob'ly shouldn't brag but dag, I amaze and astonish

0:58:490:58:52

# The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish

0:58:520:58:55

# I gotta holler just to be heard with every word...

0:58:550:58:57

# What are the odds the gods would put us all in one spot

0:58:570:59:00

# Poppin' a squat on conventional wisdom, like it or not

0:59:000:59:03

# A bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists?

0:59:030:59:06

# Give me a position Show me where the ammunition is! #

0:59:060:59:09

Series in which composer Neil Brand explores how musical theatre evolved over the last 100 years to become today's global phenomenon. Neil hears the inside story from leading composers and talent past and present, and recreates classic songs, looking in detail at how these work musically and lyrically to captivate the audience.

In the concluding episode, he explores why musical theatre is thriving in the 21st century. He charts the rise of the 'megamusical' phenomenon, with shows like Cats and Les Miserables, learns the behind-the-scenes story of how Disney transformed The Lion King from a cartoon into a record-breaking stage success, and sees how musicals have captured contemporary life in shows like Rent and Avenue Q. Neil recreates classic numbers to reveal the secrets of their songwriting, including The Rocky Horror Show's Sweet Transvestite, Don't Cry for Me Argentina from Evita, and Les Miserables' Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Neil meets a host of top musical theatre talent, including master lyricist Tim Rice, Lion King director Julie Taymor, and leading composers Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q and Frozen).