Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ode to the Buffy Musical

Last summer, I began watching the sitcom Scrubs in syndication, catching as many as four episodes per day in no particular order - season one, season four, season two, they were all funny. The series is brilliant, featuring an outstanding ensemble cast, ridiculous daydream vignettes courtesy of narrator John Dorian, and a musical episode aptly named "My Musical".

In the Scrubs musical episode, a patient at Sacred Heart hallucinates that everyone is singing and dancing around her, as though they are performing in a musical. Is she crazy or genuinely ill? Who cares! We are in for a musical treat, and the particularly ridiculous song about stool samples is bound to get stuck in your head at the most inopportune of times.
You see....
Everything comes down to poo!
From the top of your head, to the sole of your shoe
We can figure out what's wrong with you by lookin' at your poo!
As fun as "My Musical" is, it just can't compare to the ultimate televised musical spectacle, the quintessential Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Once More, With Feeling".

Why is "Once More, With Feeling" so bloody brilliant? Let me count the ways (with bullet points!):
  • The episode was written and directed by Joss Whedon. Enough said.
  • Wait, there's more - Joss wrote the music and lyrics too!
  • Pop culture (and Broadway!) references galore.
  • There are no dubs here - the whole cast is really singing, inspiring countless fans to sing along.
  • Anya rocks out in a solo about why bunnies should be feared. (and for good reason too)
  • Buffyverse logic: singing + dancing = spontaneous combustion!
Mostly though, "Once More, With Feeling" is brilliant because it not only seamlessly weaves the reasoning behind the singing into the plot (a new demon is in town wreaking havoc, duh!), it also packs a major story arc punch with more character and plot development in 50 minutes than most series feature in entire seasons.

When the characters are forced to reveal their inner most thoughts through song, this is what we - and they - discover:
  • Buffy feels detached and discontent. Ever since coming back from the dead, she has failed to feel really alive ("Going Through the Motions").
Still I always feel
This strange estrangement
Nothing here is real
Nothing here is right
  • Anya fears bunnies - okay, not a big secret ("I've Got a Theory/Bunnies").
Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes
They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses
And what's with all the carrots
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway
  • In her love song, Tara boldly announces that she is under Willow's spell, not realizing that it's the literal truth as well as the figurative ("Under Your Spell").
I'm under your spell
How else could it be
Anyone would notice me?
  • Soon-to-be-married Anya and Xander reveal that they are full of insecurities, and like any couple, they bother the heck out of each other, foreshadowing a tragically doomed marriage attempt ("I'll Never Tell").
I lied
I said it's easy
I've tried
But there's these fears I can't quell
  • Spike's obsession with Buffy continues to grow as he encourages her to reciprocate his love, insisting he is the only one who understands her dark side ("Rest in Peace").
You're scared
Ashamed of what you feel
And you can't tell the ones you love
You know they couldn't deal
  • Dawn's excuse for becoming a klepto is that she feels ignored by the Scooby Gang, but can you really blame them? ("Dawn's Lament").
Does anybody even notice?
Does anybody even care?
  • Giles believes that he is standing in the way of Buffy's potential to fulfill her adult responsibilities, and the only way she can fully come into her own is if he skips town for good ("Standing").
The cries around you,
You don't hear at all
'Cause you know I'm here
To take that call
  • Tara discovers that Willow has used a spell to make her forget an earlier fight. Tara, already convinced that Willow is using too much magic, is heartbroken ("Under Your Spell/Standing Reprise").
Wish I could trust
That it was just this once
But I must do what I must
  • Buffy reveals that her failure to readjust/be happy is because when she was resurrected, she was ripped out of a heavenly dimension, and compared to that, living sucks ("Life's a Show").
Life's a song
You don't get to rehearse
And every single verse
Can make it that much worse
  • After the semi-successful "defeat" of the demon Sweet, the Scooby Gang feels lost and unsure, overwhelmed by all of the revelations of the episode - who wouldn't be? Meanwhile, Buffy concedes to a relationship with Spike, believing that she doesn't deserve any better ("Where Do We Go From Here").
Where do we go from here?
Why is the path unclear?
When we know home is near
We'll go hand in hand
But we'll walk alone in fear
Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Complete Sixth Season - $48.99

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Collector's Series - $164.99

Attending a theatrical screening of "Once More With Feeling" (ala Rocky Horror) and getting to sing along with fellow Buffy fans and Whedonites - PRICELESS.

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