Back in October, I got myself a Halloween present: a ticket to StarKid Productions’ new musical The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals. I posted a spoiler-free review of it here already, but now that the musical is available to watch on YouTube (and also on DVD/digital download), I’m going to sit here and talk about the more spoiler-y aspects of it. Aw yes.
So I loved the tragicomedy feel to this musical. It has dark humor, puns, and lots of clever dialogue and meta content. Anything that makes fun of itself or doesn’t take its own form too seriously is my jam. And this fits the (play)bill. But… (this is where SPOILERS come along) everyone died! Well, got turned into murdering, singing, dancing zombies with no free will. Same thing, really. But why did they all have to die?! I liked them!
However, as much as I enjoyed this musical (unlike Paul), I had several questions regarding the conclusion: was the meteor an accident or a purposeful object deliberately sent by aliens? Did Paul actually destroy it, or was that a lie told to Emma in the last scene? How did Professor Hidgens predict its landing, so many years before it arrived? Am I overthinking this?
Anyway, my point is, as entertaining as this dark musical-zombie apocalypse was, I had questions at the end. And was also sad for all the characters I liked.
And I really do like most of the characters. Bill and his struggle to bond with his daughter Alice makes for a bittersweet, compelling storyline. Charlotte’s haphazard attempts to hold together her marriage with Sam is also kind of touching (though, arguably, they are both equally to blame and perhaps equally bad people). Paul and Emma’s chemistry is strong and makes you root for them, especially after you learn Emma’s backstory, how she’s struggled under her sister’s shadow and just wants to make a life she enjoys. Even jerkish Ted has some good moments and great lines. Which is why watching them all being taken over by the music—losing any will of their own, though their memories remain—is sad. It’s weird to be upset when people start singing in a musical, so that makes for a unique viewing experience.
Some of the best moments were the references to real life/current events. The (fond) dig at Hamilton and how impossible it is to get tickets rings true for many—my audience loved that joke. The cops’ song was perfect, kind of calling out how sometimes instructions from law enforcement are contradictory and overly reliant on their weapons. And the song by General McNamara (played by Jeff Blim)… at the line “America is great again,” the audience—and I mean every single one of us—had a visceral physical reaction. It was a strange mix of discomfort and perverse delight, at least for me. Both a response to the “ugh, no, why” that that phrase will forever foster in me now, and also a response to the way they’ve twisted those words into a new context. That song is an exceptional bit of writing.
Also, the subtle calls to help the planet are wonderful. From Paul’s first interactions with the Greenpeace girl and the homeless man, to Professor Hidgens’ speech about the state of the world, this musical clearly is calling us out. Us, meaning humans in general. Like Paul, we tend to avoid people on the street, whether they are campaigners for a worthwhile environmentalist effort or hungry men who have lost their jobs. That scene is uncomfortably relatable, and therefore so important. Then when Hidgens asks if perhaps the world—with its war and climate change and incensed political parties—is beyond saving, all these details come together.
Ultimately, Team StarKid is, I believe, reminding us that we have done some bad things in the course of human history, but we cannot simply sit back and dance through life, hoping someone else will take care of it. That, or they’re saying it’s all futile because Emma got taken by the zombies in the end and I’m still upset. Who knows? Either way, it would make for a good debate: does TGWDLM believe we should fight to fix our problems or just let the apocalypse sweep us away?
Anyway, wow, this is a lot of rambling, but I wanted to put my thoughts on the spoiler-y aspects of this musical somewhere. Thanks for reading!
Update 2/26/19: I’m still obsessed with this musical. I love it.