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BWW Blog: The Phenomenon of the Musical Theatre Meme

Courtney, take your break.

BWW Blog: The Phenomenon of the Musical Theatre Meme

Ah, yes. The viral musical theatre meme. Inarguably beginning with compilation videos, this artform has morphed into TikTok videos, vague Twitter posts, and more. Today we will explore the humble beginnings of the musical theatre meme, and follow its path into the mainstream.

My first ever encounter with a musical theatre meme was a Facebook compilation video, of several Jo Marches in Little Women singing, yelling, screeching, and mumbling "Christopher Columbus!" at the end of "Astonishing". Spinoffs of these videos include: "Celtic Moods!" from "Ireland" (Legally Blonde), "It justifies the beans!" from "Maybe They're Magic" (Into the Woods), and "Body Language!" from "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid). These videos are extremely funny while providing a sense of self-importance to the watcher, as they are one of few who can even understand the joke. Many of these compilations can be found here

Even earlier is the series "Obsessed!" on Playbill with Seth Rudetsky. With posts beginning in 2011, Rudetsky's niche jokes, quick wit, and iconic guest stars cause me to CACKLE, and many of these videos have reached icon status. Camera movements are quick and sharp, which was a hallmark in many early meme formats. With Sierra Boggess's "and in a bed!" running joke, Christine Pedi's many diva impressions, and Keala Settle's "nobody cares!", Obsessed! has become a quotable series in my house. This series gives stars a chance to talk about their career, funny moments, and sing snippets with Seth. This allows for some side-splitting stories and good old-fashioned fun.

One of the harder-to-find memes is in Natalie Weiss's "bad performances." Most recently she has done this on TikTok with Ariana Grande's "Almost is Never Enough".

She is purposefully lowering and raising notes to make it sound flat or sharp, and making notes sound shaky and unfinished. These types of videos are extremely funny when they're done purposefully and with intention. Anytime I hear her do one of these videos, I am allowed to laugh, as I know I am not experiencing enjoyment at the expense of someone else's feelings.

From 2017-2019, Twitter reigned supreme in funny yet obscure musical theatre memes. With many working professionals having a Twitter, memes reign supreme in a bite-size format. This also creates a similar sense of self-worth to the original Facebook compilations, as not every single musical theatre fan is keen to shows like A Chorus Line and Light in the Piazza, which are the subjects of many a meme. However, many of these tweets still remain funny to a wide audience, such as this recent tweet by Max Grossman:

I would say musical theatre memes entered the mainstream when Cats (2019) came out. Most "normies" only made fun of the movie, but the true heroes came from the depths of Tumblr and Twitter to praise the movie for the ultimate joy it gave them in watching. Many fans have almost absorbed the picture as a cult flop, akin to The Room by Tommy Wiseau, and simply revel in the joy and laughter that a "bad movie" can give them. Many fans have specifically attached themselves to Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, and label him as the best cat in the entire franchise, onstage and off. Instead of simply dismissing this movie as being "bad", fans embraced it for what it is - a movie that brings joy in more ways than one.

Many other musical meme avenues exist, such as the My Brother My Brother and Me, a podcast that Lin Manuel Miranda is an avid fan of (LMM actually referenced the podcast in "We Know" in Hamilton, in the lyric "Unless... unless; an "-ism" that allows the brothers to add a twist to a goof). Tiktok has allowed funny impressions to blow up (Mandy Patinkin and Lin-Manuel Miranda being two popular choices).

@katiejoyofosho

Les Mis starring @umokayig as Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jean Valjean and James Penca as @mandypatinktok as Javert ##lesmis ##impressions ##musical

a?? original sound - Katie Jo


TikTok continues to showcase videos like: "How a man ____s in a musical", and allows singing challenges to showcase young talent.

@katiejoyofosho

Today we said goodbye to the apartment where we created our ##maninamusical series so we had to make one more before we said goodbye ?

a?? original sound - Katie Jo

Performers and fans alike have allowed the art of the meme to touch Glee (Matthew Morrison...), Shrek the Musical, musical theatre major struggles, and many more. I believe that musical theatre memes will continue to evolve and get even funnier!


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