‘Come On!’: Melissa Barrera Talks Hollywood Hiding Musicals And Doesn’t Hold Back About Joker 2

 Melissa Barerra In The Heights/Joaquin Phoenix Joker.
Melissa Barerra In The Heights/Joaquin Phoenix Joker.

Historically, musicals have been one of the most popular types of movies ever. In recent years, that certainly hasn’t been the case, but musicals still occasionally do gangbuster business at the box office, leading to the question, why is Hollywood trying to pretend that musicals aren’t musicals? It’s a question that In the Heights star Melissa Barrera is also asking, It turns out even she has been taken in by the trend, and she really doesn't like it.

Normally, if you were making a musical, then you would likely use music from the film to help promote said musical. And yet, the early trailers for the recent Mean Girls, Wonka, and The Color Purple all neglected to include any songs in their advertising, seemingly trying to trick viewers into going to see them without knowing they were musicals. Melissa Barrerera made her debut in In the Heights, and as a lover of musicals, she's not a fan of this trend. She tells IndieWire she feels “weird” about the way musicals are rejected, and wonders if audiences are just connecting musicals with a lack of quality. She said…

Maybe it’s a quality thing. Maybe the quality diminished, and then people started not liking them, and then that’s why they judge now everything that comes out.

Barrera points out that for decades nearly every movie had elements of a musical in it. It was far from uncommon for characters to break out into song. But that has certainly changed in recent years. Musicals are still popular. The Greatest Showman was a box office juggernaut less than a decade ago, and yet, it seems that now, while studios are apparently confident enough in musicals to still make them, they’re not confident in advertising them as such.

No movie seems immune to this marketing strategy. Even the new Wicked trailer, for a film based on one of the most popular Broadway musicals in decades, doesn’t include any singing. Most people are going to know it’s a musical just because Wicked is well known, but there likely will be some who would be surprised to learn that.

Barrera admits even she didn’t know Wonka was a musical and there is at least some anecdotal evidence that a few audience members are walking into these movies to be surprised by the fact they are musicals. One movie that is currently riding the “It’s Not a Musical” train is the Joker sequel. Barrera singles that one out, as the news about Joker 2 being a musical has been around almost as long as the sequel has been announced, and yet the Joker: Folie à Deux trailer doesn’t include any signing. Barrera continues…

Right now, The Joker sequel, they’re trying so hard to say that it’s not a musical when, dude, it is. Come on! We already know how many songs there are in the movie. It’s a musical, so this fear, like the trailer is not including any songs and stuff like that, … I think also audiences reject the idea of feeling manipulated, and so I think that makes it worse. They release a trailer where there’s no music, and you’re like, ‘What is that? What even is that?’ and then they release the last trailer a week before it comes out, and then they have music in it, and everyone’s confused.

A big part of the promotion around Lady Gaga being added to the Joker 2 cast has been built around the fact that we know the pop star will sing. But a lot of people who go to movies don't read the news about movies (unfortunately) and thus some could miss these important details.

Musicals are certainly not a genre that everybody loves. Many people might certainly steer clear of a movie they knew to be a musical. But people also don’t like being surprised when the movie they're expecting turns out to be something else, and you’d think going to a musical they didn’t know was a musical would leave some audiences frustrated they’d been manipulated into going to see a movie they wouldn’t otherwise have seen. At this point, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away.