“Intermission Talk” from Me and Juliet

Of all the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musicals, Me and Juliet was probably the greatest disappointment. It did throw off one enduring standard, “No Other Love”, but despite an ambitious concept (a sort of proto-A Chorus Line treatise on theater), it never really fulfilled its potential. The plot was little more than an Oklahoma retread set in a Broadway theater, and the score was mostly composed of tuneful-but-generic ballads and up-tunes. However, it did feature two brilliantly inspired numbers that show what the show might have been if it had followed through with its premise…the introspective “The Big Black Giant” and this one. This number, appropriately positioned as the second-act opening, starts out with a collection of random bits of slice-of-life dialogue one might hear in an actual theater lounge, and then segues into a debate between genuine theater lovers and naysayers who insist the theater is dead. It’s a lot of fun to point out this number to modern theater snobs, because it demonstrates that even in the Fifties (which today’s theater snobs tend to view as the peak of their imaginary ‘golden age’), enough people were espousing the same absurd argument they’re peddling today that Rodgers and Hammerstein, of all people, felt the need to write a song about it. The arguments they offer even sound eerily reminiscent of those made by later theater snobs, showing, I suppose, that little has really changed about that class of people (granted, the ‘shows are too serious’ argument was more common in the Eighties and Nineties than it is today, but the point still holds). Admittedly, this song doesn’t feature a top-drawer Rodgers melody, but the unique brilliance of Hammerstein’s lyric more than makes up for it. If everything in Me and Juliet achieved this level of inspiration, the show would be considered a top-level R&H masterpiece today.

Verdict: Good, and a lot of theater critics and commentators today could really stand to take its message to heart.

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