Book Review – You've Got to Have a Dream

You've Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the MusicalYou’ve Got To Have a Dream – the message of the musical by Ian Bradley (SCM Press £16.99)
What will we have a theology of next? Ian Bradley’s book is a theological reflection on musical theatre.

We’ll start at the very beginning. Despite cheerfully admitting that it is rather difficult to locate references to God in the Savoy Operas, the author (Hon Life President of the St Andrews University Gilbert and Sullivan Society) chooses them as the starting point on his quest through some of the most ubiquitous and dominant cultural icons of modern times.

Ian Bradley makes grand claims about the importance of musicals. In particular, he makes the suggestion that musicals have taken over from late night Sunday television drama as the primary vehicle for portraying contemporary conflict and debate in the sphere of religion. This seems a bold claim. If true, it suggests that serious debate has become more and not less the province and domain of those with ready access to metropolitan theatre.

The dominant theme in this book is of the dream motif which runs through much musical theatre. The suggestion here is that the musical has at times proposed that if you follow your dream, then all will be well and more recently, that dreams do not always come true.
In recent months, the debate about the power of musical theatre reached a new high point with the intensely moral and utterly controversial Jerry Springer the Opera. Sadly this book was completed before that debacle. Should the book run to a second edition, a further chapter about this more recent controversy would be welcome.

This book will appeal to fans of musical theatre interested in probing under the surface of their favourite shows as well as to all those interested in the relationship between religion and popular culture. It will also appeal to liturgists, who need to know what they are up against.

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Published in inspires, the magazine of the Scottish Episcopal Church