Cinema: Sore Glums Absolute Beginners

Directed by Julien Temple Screenplay by Richard Burridge, Christopher Wicking and Don MacPherson

Musicals used to trade in innocence. Fred Astaire could get a thrill just from being caught in the rain with Ginger Rogers. Gene Kelly shouted, "Gotta dance!" as if it were a battle cry or a mating call. But those carefree days seem as distant as Ike and Mamie; musicals have more serious topics--Argentine dictators, pointillist painters--weighing on their souls. Musicals used to be called, oh, High Spirits. Now London's hot song-and-dance show is Les Miserables, which locals translate as The Glums. That is precisely the disease afflicting the modern musical. Artistic ambition and a social conscience are all very fine,...

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