It appears that the world of musical theatre has a message for lawyers: listen hard and stand up for what’s right!
Tonight’s Laurence Olivier Awards saw the Royal Shakespeare Company’s musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda sweep the boards with a record seven wins. With a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by the Australian comedian Tim Minchin, this story of childhood imagination overcoming the tyranny and closed-mindedness of adults has wowed London.
Last year’s best musical was Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s Legally Blonde. The well-known story of the ditzy blonde who turns out to be a fantastic lawyer as a result of her enviable people skills, suggested that the ‘good’ lawyer is not the most aggressive or the most articulate, but the person who listens, observes, and cares.
Matilda, too, is concerned with ‘law’. But here it’s the rejection of ‘bad’ law: the rules of the terrible school Matilda attends are made to be broken, and her telekinetic powers (themselves defying the laws of physics) allow her to succeed in breaking the authoritarian grip of the awful headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Where there’s an injustice, Matilda says, action is needed: ‘Just because you find that life’s not fair it/ doesn’t mean you need to just grin and bear it” she sings (Minchin).
So, although the path to justice may not be smooth or well defined, musical theatre certainly has some thoughts on method and direction. And judging by the success of these shows, they give the temperature of public opinion. Lawyers take note!