The hidden value of a trip to the west end

Tuesday 28 September 2004

Musicals including Les Miserables and The Lion King provide their audiences with a distinct philosophy of life, as well as entertainment, according to a University of St Andrews theology lecturer.

The Rev Ian Bradley from the School of Divinity believes that churches have a great deal to learn from modern musicals and could usefully incorporate their spiritual and theological values, and the pastoral care they offer, into their services.

Dr Bradley’s new book – You’ve Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the Musical – highlights the fact that musicals have often focused on serious and social issues as far back as Showboat in the 1920s which dealt with racial prejudice and family breakdown. The musical version of The Wizard of Oz, filmed in the late 1930s as the US emerged from the depression, offered the following clear message “Believe in yourself, stick by your friends, fight for what’s right and things will get better¿ and, during the cold war, seeking something to reassure the public in the event of a nuclear attack, the BBC lined up The Sound of Music as the first film that would be broadcast after the bomb dropped.

Dr Bradley also argues that the musicals of the late 1990s and early 2000s have taken over from the late night Sunday television documentary slot as the vehicle for portraying contemporary conflict and debate in the sphere of religion. For example, in the case of Martin Guerre and The Beautiful Game, about terrorism and Catholic-Protestant divisions and, in the case of Whistle Down the Wind, about the nature of faith and belief. Even Disney’s The Lion King points an ecological moral and a message about sacred kingship and facing up to responsibility.

The theme of dreaming is also central to the ethos of the majority of musicals but, in his book, Dr Bradley shows how it has developed and changed from the more optimistic message of the 1940s and 50s which suggested that ‘you can do it if you follow your dream’ (and, therefore, that you’ve got to have a dream) to the more realistic message in musicals of today that dreams unfortunately don’t always come true.

Written in an easy and accessible style, You’ve Got to Have a Dream 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 and to students of liturgy and contemporary Christianity.


You’ve Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the Musical is published by SCM Press on 14 October 2004 priced £16.99 paperback. To request a review copy or to arrange an interview with the author please contact Fiona Marsh on 020-8870 4972 or mobile 07973797370 or e-mail [email protected].


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information, please contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or [email protected]; Ref: press releases/Bradley-book View the latest University news at

Category Research

Related topics

Share this story