Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy (Macy's) Thanksgiving (Day Parade)

I have come home for Thanksgiving and while peeling potatoes this morning I watched the beginning of the Parade.

Now, I understand that it's a given that the performances in Herald Square are generally lip-synched and that, in their original conceptions, they are not truly designed for this kind of public, outdoor venue. Neither of these facts, however, excuse the opening number "We Give Thanks Today," performed by 470 children all dressed in fall-colored pajamas, which made me want to turn around and go back to France so badly that I sincerely considered making a break for the Jersey Shore.

This song-and-dance number is a sign of everything that's wrong with musical theater today. It looked like something put on by Susie and Ben for the camp talent show in Wet Hot American Summer. The choreography was uninspired, the song lyrics were inane and tasteless (particularly the solo from the kid whose "character's" dad was a soldier in Iraq), and the whole central idea really just didn't make any sense.

The premise for the performance was that these children were all excitedly waking up on Thanksgiving morning and thinking of all of their reasons to be thankful. It's a nice idea, and I think Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday (I flew over 3000 miles so that I could be with my family today), but it really isn't the kind of day that inspires children to do a little jig of excitement when they get up in the morning. That's Christmas. I'm Jewish and I know that. Thanksgiving is a nice day of hanging out with your family, cooking, watching the Parade/football game, and eating way too much turkey. Unless you're performing in the Parade or playing football, it's really a low-energy sort of day, nothing to be overly excited about upon waking up in the morning, particularly if you have two bags of unpeeled potatoes waiting for you.

I don't mean to sound overly critical of a children's performance. The kids themselves were great and, unless they had a hand in the actual conception of the performance piece, I hold them blameless. I'm sure it was a great experience and a lot of fun for them, as the New Jersey Herald article that I link to describe. I just think it was a stupid idea from start to finish and that the song that spawned it never should have been written.

As Americans, whatever our individual politics may be, I'm sure we all have lots to be thankful for, but an under-thought and over-produced song and dance that looks more like a Gap commercial is not going to remind us of that.

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