Surviving Musicals

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I thought I remembered Hollywood’s The King and I from 1956 but it seems I remembered next to nothing. I’m sure you saw the movie at one time or another. Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr), a Welsh widow, is hired by King Mongkut (Yul Brynner) the King of Siam, to teach his children to be scientific. There are 106 of the little urchins but there is good news, two of his wives are due in February so his family allowance will be going up again. We can speculate from this background information that Yul did not suffer from erectile dysfunction.

The movie was quite a success and gathered five Oscars and two Golden Globe Awards. The only drawback for me was a sudden craving for Thai food and the restaurant down the street doesn’t deliver after 9:00. (Siam is now Thailand. Incidentally the movie is banned in Thailand, for political inaccuracies in the film which doesn’t surprise me.)  

There is a love story running through the movie as there always is whenever Deborah is involved, but surprisingly it is not between Deborah and Yul. She might have been interested but didn’t want to wait in line, or as the Brits say, in queue. And what woman wouldn’t be turned on by a bald-headed man with no undershirt and bare feet? Even I was getting excited until Mary threw a pail of cold water on me. Now the love story and it is, I fear, a tragic one. Lun Tha (Carlos Rivas) a Burmese rickshaw driver, who loves Tuptim (Rita Moreno) one of the king’s wives, drowns trying to rescue her. Tuptim is caught by the guards and Yul, being a decent sort of chap is all set to whip her and would have until Anna calls him a barbarian. I’ve been called a lot worse, but he takes great offense and starves himself to death. How could I forget that part? Nevertheless, I did.

Sadly we are never told whether Tuptim enjoyed matrimonial bliss with the King or if she even made it to the front of the line.

One more thing, a handsome British ambassador wanted to marry Anna and take her back to the UK but she turned him down after Yul gave her a £5 raise. Doug Ford obviously didn’t see this movie, 15 bucks an hour, give me a break.

Now, the reason I chose to write about this movie is there seems to be a trend towards bumping off the cast in today’s musicals. In Les Miserables they were dropping like flies. By the time the musical was over the cast party was held in a pickup truck passing by the drive thru window of a Broadway McDonald’s restaurant. Jesus Christ Superstar lost both Jesus himself and Judas. Eva Peron passed away in Evita and Bill Sykes and Nancy died tragically in Oliver although no one lost any sleep over Bill. At least Fagin and the Artful Dodger got away and are now working full time as fundraisers for the American Republican Party.

Ava Gardner ended up as a drunk in Showboat. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Magnolia Hawks (Catherine Grayson) hit a high C singing Make Believe and blew the eardrums out of Just Plain Bill. Billy Bigelow got snuffed in Carousel during an armed robbery. In the Mariposa Arts version of Carousel I played Jigger Craigin, Billy’s best friend who deserted him and ran away at the end of the first act. I had nothing else to do so I went down to the Legion sneaking back in for the finale. But by that time I was a little confused and sang the Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha; Come to think of it, Don Quixote, died in that one too. See what I mean? I hate to be the bearer of more bad news but I heard from reliable sources, that although none of the cast from Cats actually died, several were spayed.   

One of the greatest musicals of all time was Fiddler on the Roof and none of the lead actors died, although thousands got kicked out of Russia so I guess it couldn’t be advertised as a Musical Comedy.

It’s not that I don’t like realism in Broadway and Hollywood musicals, I do, but I want to go home from the theatre with a smile on my face when the show is over. We have to go back to happy musicals, not sad ones. Nobody got croaked in Oklahoma that I can remember. Annie never shot anybody in Annie Get your Gun. Other than someone trying to pull Doris Day’s bottoms down in Pajama Game the coroner wasn’t called. Of course, if the cad had succeeded the movie would now be the number one hit on Netflix.

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