Put that in your libretto and tweet it

Brevity is the soul of wit. There’s good stuff in little bundles. Less is more.  

We’ve heard all these and more, all advocating that less need not mean lesser, that small need not mean sub-standard. Everyday examples illustrate the relative truth of this:  a pithy one-liner can make a point far more incisively than a lengthy and detailed description ever could; bite-sized chunks of exam revision are proven to be decidedly more effective than cramming; the diminutive doses of deliciousness served up for the judges on MasterChef Australia are, without question, exquisite.  Even our daily lives have become smaller, with the enforced transition from expansive workplaces to the confines of the bedroom with a laptop – rather grandly labelled the home office.

Musical theatre, by contrast, is B.I.G. From the lavish costume design and packed auditoria to the histrionics of prima donnas, everything musical theatre is writ large.  The concept of smallness is at odds with this arena of the spectacular and extravagant. Yet, with the cultural privation wrought by the current worldwide crisis, perhaps the time is apt to experiment and adapt: can the largesse of the musical be concentrated into a miniature format?  Can less be more?  With the musical-deprived masses forced to make do with ersatz televised productions, perhaps it is time to see if the musical as a genre can translate into another medium. And the medium of the moment is the ubiquitous Twitter.  What can be more delightfully undiluted, given the restrictions posed by chunks of only 140 characters? 

So here goes, with decocted versions of two of our best-loved musical productions – minus the small matter of the music itself, of course…

Phantom of the Opera

@TalesFromTheLair

Beauty is only skin deep. Or is it? Listen up – hear my story and decide for yourself. 

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Just so you all know, I’m the star of a musical and the musical is based on a Gaston Leroux book. That’s right: I’m the star. Follow me for a reimagining of a reimagining. Yeah, I can be post-modern.

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Okay, so I wear a mask. But so would you if you were me. That’s why I’m on Twitter and not Instagram…  It’s congenital! It’s not my fault!

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Childhood trauma confession: I was kept in a cage because of my grotesque appearance –  I was the freak show in a travelling fair! Where are children’s services when you need them? # SobStories

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I wish I could show my genius to the world. I’m a pretty terrific musician.  But I’m forced to live like a wild animal in my lair, while the beautiful people hobnob above me in the Palais Garnier Opera House. Not that I’m bitter.

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This subterranean world is getting me down! I try to amuse myself by putting the willies up that warbling diva, Carlotta – she’s convinced I haunt the Opera House!

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Carlotta has been scared off! Mission accomplished. # ItWasn’tMe.

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The very fetching soprano, Christine Daaé, has caught the attention of the powers-that-be up there and has replaced Carlotta.  I had nothing to do with that <3

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Rival alert! Damn that Raoul! Okay, he’s Vicomte de Chagny. He’s handsome, I guess. But what does he have that I don’t? </3

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Hey, world out there – I’m Christine’s mentor, not Raoul! Don’t believe him!

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Mirror, mirror on the wall … Aha, Christine thinks I’ve been sent from her dead father… This is my in! Now, how do I lure her down to my crib in the sewers?

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Gotcha, Christine. I hope she likes what I’ve done with the place. Let’s hope my music of the night is enough to keep her here. Okay, I’m not the best-looking chap in the world, but I’m declaring my love on Twitter, for goodness’ sake.

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No! No! No! I’m furious – she unmasked me! She recoiled! Worst nightmare! My tears could flood the Seine!!

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How can I win her back? I know … I’ll send a note signed OG (Opera Ghost), insisting that Christine play the lead in Il Muto. That should do the trick.

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They defied me! How dare they?! And now Christine is in love with that douche! That mammoth chandelier is coming down, down, down!

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I’m lying low for a few months. Licking my wounds.

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Time to make my reappearance at the Masquerade Ball.  I know – I’ll go as Red Death. Aha, the perfect opportunity to make them accept my score for Don Juan Triumphant.

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Accosted Christine at her father’s grave today. Then the damned fiancé turned up and snatched her away. I need a plan.

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At last, the opening night of Don Juan Triumphant. Cunning plan: I’m taking over the lead role of Piangi then running off to the underground with my Christine.

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That Raoul fellow just won’t give up. The choice is yours, Christine: marry me or Raoul dies. # VengeanceIsMine

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You really think I’m giving up the finale just like that?  Cheats!  Go and see it for yourself after lockdown. I’ll lend you my mask.

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Watch out for that chandelier. #UnnaturalDisasters




Les Misérables

@BadBoyMadeGood

Jean Valjean was released from prison today. Nineteen long years for stealing a piece of bread.  Harsh.

***

Freed by Javert – his arch-enemy, no less. Russell Crowe would play him well in a film version, don’t you think?

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Okay, so only five of those nineteen years were for the bread imbroglio. The rest were for repeated escape attempts. Harry Houdini, he is not.

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Believe it or not, Valjean is one of the good guys. That piece of bread was for his sister’s starving child.  How worthy.

***

That damned yellow passport is causing Valjean no end of trouble. It carries more restrictions than a government-induced lockdown. How’s a guy to rehabilitate?

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To make matters worse, Javert is like a terrier. He’s relentless! He’s obsessed! Let it go, man… #VictimsOfStalkers

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Well, it was inevitable: parole has been violated. Time to dodge that bloodhound Javert, running around with his ‘Wanted’ poster.

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The art of reinvention is not only for the likes of Madonna. Eight years on, and voila: Valjean – AKA Monsieur Madeleine – is both factory owner and mayor. Who knew?

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It’s all happening: Valjean is now an adoptive parent to the orphaned little Cosette too! Told you he was worthy.

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Plot complication: amid the fomenting French Revolution, the blossoming Cosette becomes a major player in a love triangle, involving herself, Eponine and Marius.

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Thinking that Javert has faded into obscurity? Not so! With Javert exposed as a spy, Valjean wreaks his revenge on his old enemy. Javert has the last word, though…

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This revolution business is causing a real brouhaha. And the love triangle kids are well and truly caught up in it.

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This story could do with a little joy. Perhaps two of the triangle kids should marry and live happily ever after?

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So, what of Valjean’s destiny? No spoilers here. The denouement is best seen on stage…

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So do these two less-than-cheery truncated tales of everyday French folk serve as a credible substitute for full-blown, embellished storylines? Who are we kidding? As a slice of superficial amusement, it works.  But, much like the ironically-named ‘fun-sized’ chocolate bars that are nowhere near as much fun to consume as their 75g counterparts, the irreducible Twitter form cannot begin to satisfy the appetite for more; the appetite for the real thing. As mentioned earlier, musical theatre is big. It’s colossal. It’s visceral. The sillage of greasepaint, the farrago of patrons, the inexpungible atmosphere –  the epithet ‘small’ cannot be applied to any aspect of the theatre experience.

There can only be one conclusion: size matters.




Got one of your own? We’d love to hear it! Send it in via our CONTACT US page.

Sarah Johnson

Sarah is a British born Communication and Media Graduate from the University of Leeds. Sarah has written for a number of publications and has an avid interest in theatre and the arts in general.

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