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Sunday, 5 September 2021

REVIEW: Breaking Into Song – Why you shouldn’t hate Musicals by Adam Lenson

Adam Lenson is a Theatre Director and Producer who specialises in musical theatre. As such he has showcased the work of hundreds of writers in his attempts to broaden the mix of what musicals can be. So this book, which seeks to challenge our expectations of musical theatre and demand more from those who write, produce and go to see it, comes from someone who is not an armchair critic, but who is doing something practical to address what he sees as the challenges and opportunities facing the medium.

The book is really an extended essay, pleading the case for musicals to be allowed the same artistic status as other forms of theatre, whilst also stating how musical theatre itself needs to change for this to happen. As an essay, though, it lacks supporting evidence. Lenson makes a lot of assertions. For example about ‘those’ musicals (without stating which ones), about writers, about producing theatres, and about audiences. 

A key element in his argument is that a significant proportion of people hate musical theatre in a way which they would not claim to hate paintings or hate films. So the subtitle (‘Why you shouldn’t hate musicals’) is an appealing tease, but ultimately perhaps misleading. Because this book isn’t aimed at people who hate musicals but rather more, it seems, at those who produce, write and enjoy them. It’s a stern ticking-off for years of complacency and repetition – as Lenson puts it re-papering the same room rather than inventing something new.
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