As I know I have mentioned at least once around these parts, I can sing the entire score of “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”
I can also sing the entire score of “Evita” from beginning to end. I know most of the songs from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Aspects of Love,” or at least I used to. I’m a little shakier on “Starlight Express,” but I suspect the lyrics would come back to me if I listened to the soundtrack again once or twice.
As it happens, back when I was in junior high I was a huge fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. I used to listen to them over and over and over. (To those readers who may or may not be members of my immediate family — I’m sorry.) I had the original London cast recording of “Evita” and the movie soundtrack from “Superstar,” and for some reason those were the ones I listened to with sufficient frequency that I could probably even hum the musical intros to the different songs without having to think about it. (Just writing that, the horns that play in the opening bars of “Simon Zealotes” popped into my head.) I even wrote a paper for 8th grade Honors English about the composer.
[Insert obligatory joke about obvious gayness here.]
And then, at a point I could not specify no matter how hard I thought about it, something occurred to me about those musicals, specifically the ones with lyrics by Tim Rice. Some of those lyrics are really, really clunky. I think “Superstar” suffers from it less than either “Dreamcoat” or “Evita,” but all of them to one degree or another feature at least a few songs that might as well be called “Exposition Set to Vaguely Repetitive Music.”
This isn’t to say that Tim Rice isn’t a talented lyricist. The man has Grammy Awards and Tony Awards and three Oscars, which is more than I have. Many of his lyrics are quite fantastic. But some are not so good as I once thought.
So that’s this week’s Question — what have you historically really liked that suddenly you found to be more flawed than you first realized? Not totally awful, but simply not quite as good. Maybe you’d still enjoy it were you to encounter it new today, but not to the point that you did when you first came to love it. The movie with acting more stilted than you remember, perhaps? Or the novel that, on re-reading, totally telegraphs its plot points in the first few chapters? The television serious that went downhill well before you recognized the shark in the motorcycle’s rear-view mirror?