From Romeo to Footloose – Los Alamos Reporter

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BY CHARLIE STRAUSS
Los Alamos

You’re in trouble in River City! Not in the billiard room The music man, but here in Los Alamos. LAHS kids can perform a Broadway musical number — and you know what that leads to.

I found myself perplexed by Valerie Shelley’s exquisite channeling of giddy villains in Footloose – Americans of all ages rooted for dancing kids to go after stiff prudes in this blockbuster movie. Harper Valley APEs have always worried about Elvis and the Beatles corrupting our youth by shaking their hips. You can bite into his delicious wrath here, here, and here.

A quick trip to YouTube will show you a slew of high school performances from the Cell Block Tango of the musical Chicago, and these are certainly not “pornographic” (as Mrs. Shelley excoriated). My God, the lyrics have a double meaning regarding a split leg dance move! By comparison, Shakespeare’s 13-year-old Juliet consummates her marriage to an older man and chuckles at Victorian innuendoes of the anticipated climax; Romeo’s puns visualize an anatomical conjunction; the Montagues like non-consensual actions. The Bard is rougher and more explicit than the Tango’s three-word lyrics. Needless to say, Shakespeare’s plays often and painstakingly consider why certain people deserve to be murdered. On a completely independent aside, did everyone enjoy Spielberg’s PG-13 West Side Story?

Real prisons are no laughing matter, of course, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying comedies like Hogan’s heroesor Orange is the new black. A dance set there is surely as realistic and awful as Jail House Rock.

So, without ‘dirty dancing’, innuendo and jail, let’s get to the Tootsie Pop hub: Ms Shelley’s claim that it celebrates domestic violence. It is indeed a sensitive subject, whether by a Depp or a Heard. So I immediately understood Mrs. Shelley’s grave concern, when she confused this dance with glorifying domestic violence. In fact, it 100% conveys the opposite notion and is also effective in disarming the understandable visceral discomfort of the subject.

So, despite the mild teasing I offered above, I want to address this complaint seriously now, as I believe Ms Shelley was sincerely moved to express her discomfort despite her misunderstanding.

The musical Chicago follows the classic Greek tragedy in which unchanging character flaws seal fate. Audiences know the main character is delusional because she has no remorse and sees death as her ticket to fame. Tango’s job is to expand this theme of the lead role’s specific personal flaws into societal significance: the murderesses rightly proclaim that they were vindicated – while the audience is appalled at their naked self-deception when the victim is accused of popping chewing gum. . (“Pop” is literally the first word of the song). The brilliance is that the gender reversal of the obnoxious “she had him come” refrain reveals just how pathetic it is. Cleverly decontextualized, any “justification” of domestic violence is firmly rejected without the need to provoke sensitive audience members with graphic depiction.

If I were the director of the LAHS choir, I think I’d introduce the number by noting that the energy of black theatrical performance and its gallows humor shouldn’t be confused with domestic violence or murder, but it’s is rather a powerful reproach. This entertaining satire exploits role reversal to expose how delusional it is for one party to find cause to harm or escape remorse through selfish anger. Shakespeare probably could have used more, now that I think about it.

This musical number is not a grating anachronism either, because its message remains current and must be underlined. Recently, the TV show Joy, a hit show with teens and adults, made that same point. try to educate the Joy girls about domestic violence, their instructor asks them to sing a song about women leaving abusive relationships. But when the girls are playing Cell Block Tango where female revenge is taken at face value, the apoplectic professors tell them that they have completely missed the point of the mission and explain that the song exposes the derangement and not justice or evasion via the deliberate evidence of the trivial justifications of women.

Mrs. Shelley also plays the duck of sacrilege. She misinforms that “Mormon” is a slur and invoking “multiple wives” is a pernicious attack on the LDS Church. But in the absence of historical revisionism, Book of Mormon followers were a real, proud, pioneering group, and multiple wives were historically no shame. The song does not attack the church: it is not implied that the LDS tolerates multiple wives, and it does not confuse historical “Mormons” with the current church. Moreover, she is wrong about the lament of the song. The husband was not murdered because of religion, but “brought her in” because he tricked her into pretending to be single.

So was Valérie Shelley doing a publicity stunt for us by playing the minister in Footloose and gently poking fun at the self-proclaimed prudes with a healthy dose of Harper Valley hypocrisy? Bravissimo! I remember Jonathan Swift.

Unfortunately, satire sometimes gets lost: Spike Lee said he had to read the definition of the word satire aloud to the audience in the opening scene of his film Bamboozed. Its unspoken condemnation of blackface via the brilliant inversion of African American actors in blackface makeup pleased too many heads. In the same vein, the Cell Block Tangois final, and say againlyrical strikes his self-reflexive sarcasm, daring the public »Can you tell us that we were wrong?”

With all this big publicity, I hope everyone shows up for a “wicked” good performance. I stand in solidarity with the director’s choice of this classic, much-loved, enjoyable and educational material. Thanks to the school administration for equanimity under Henny Penny Fire and Brimstone. I can’t wait to applaud the children at their performance. Due to the school being closed last week, the performance has been postponed.

The scheduled time is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in LAHS this week, but that changes, so check with the school.

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