June 23, 2021

YA GOT ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX POCKETS IN A TABLE. POCKETS THAT MARK THE DIFF’RENCE BETWEEN A GENTLEMEN AND A BUM. WITH A CAPITAL “B” AND THAT RHYMES WITH “C” AND THAT STANDS FOR CANCELED! Commentary: The Music Man is the wrong Broadway revival for this crucial moment.

Ultimately, “The Music Man” sets forth a sanitized, insular and very white America — a vision regularly exploited by a recent president (who gained a following with scare tactics and sold a “think system” of his own) to stoke racial fears and pit Americans against one another. It asks audiences to cheer for yet another romanticized fraud.

“The Music Man” is selling tickets while the culture is calling for corrective lenses on such white-centered visions of American history and protesting in the streets for a new vision of modern American life. The same is true of the theater industry itself, as actors and arts workers marched for a more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist workplace.

It is highly unlikely that this revival will question its source material, as Daniel Fish’s “Oklahoma!” did; most recent restagings of “classics” instead attempt to reframe problematic plots as updates. Not that every Broadway offering needs to address real-world issues, but it’s concerning when productions not only turn away from society’s exposed ills but also inherently reinforce them for, as Horton said, “the widest possible audience.” In the words of Harold Hill himself, it’s “trouble with a capital T.”

Really glad to see the L.A. Times focusing on the big issues America faces in 2021 — “problematic” (read: beloved) Broadway musical revivals. As to why, in February, PJM’s David Goldman, aka “Spengler,” (certainly an appropriate nom de plume here) explored: Mediocrity’s Envy of Genius: The Dirty Secret of Cancel Culture.

The Cultural Revolutionaries at the New York Times this week reviewed the witch hunt against classical musicians, who stand accused of racism simply because the great Western composers happened to be white. Cancel culture is despicable in all of its manifestations, but I take this particular instance personally: I trained in the school of musical analysis founded by Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). My principle teacher was Carl Schachter, who also taught Prof. Timothy Jackson of the University of North Texas, the target of this particular witch hunt.

It’s all about envy.

It sure is. As Kevin Williamson wrote in his 2019 book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, “David Foster Wallace argued that aspiring amateurs who envy professional athletes suffer from the ‘delusion that envy has a reciprocal.’ They believe that if only they could get themselves on the other side of the envy equation, then all of the loneliness and dissatisfaction they feel in their current situation of envy would be transubstantiated into joy and contentedness equal in weight and scope. Envy and spite are two cocktails with a heavy pour of the same brand of hatred—and both are methods for trying to make that interior pain exterior.”

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