Every time I hear Justin Trudeau speak, I wince; not so much because of the stunning vacuity of what he says, but because of his hammy, histrionic style. Watching him give a speech or hold a press conference is like watching a bad community theatre production of Our Town. The maudlin cliches and the over-wrought delivery make me cringe. So, I have some advice for Mr. Trudeau - if you're going to go all theatrical in your public utterances, learn from the Queen of Maudlin herself: Ethel Merman.
Merman, born in 1908, ruled the Broadway stage during the Golden Age of musicals, starring in long-running shows that are now classics. She introduced some of the great standards of the American song book - I've Got Rhythm, Everything's Coming Up Roses, and There's No Business Like Show Business. I find her fame a bit puzzling, much like Mr. Trudeau's. She had a voice like a fog horn and she looked like a female impersonator, and there was never anything subtle or nuanced about her stage performances. When I see videos of her Broadway appearances, I feel like I've been yelled at by a crazy neighbour to get off her lawn. And yet she dominated the stage for decades, and great composers like Irving Berlin demanded that she sing their songs. Watch this live performance of Everything's Coming Up Roses from late in her career to see what I mean:
Now listen to one of Mr. Trudeau's press conferences, after he was challenged for suggesting that if Stephen Harper got away with his hidden agenda, he might consider becoming a Quebec separatist:
Watch La Merman sing There's No Business Like Show Business, backed by The Boston Pops Orchestra:
and watch Young Justin from the recent interview which has landed him in hot water:
If Mr. Trudeau is going to go all Broadway Diva every time he speaks in public, he should emulate the greatest diva of them all. Ethel Merman was a superstar despite having a voice like a high school marching band. She dominated the stage because she didn't need a microphone to belt tunes to the back of a theatre in the days before electronic amplification, and she covered for her lack of vocal finesse with lush orchestrations, flamboyant costumes, lavish scenery and big hair. Trudeau already has the hair and the House of Commons provides the stage - I think you'll agree that if he wants to go full diva and yet cover for his lack of intellectual finesse, he'll need some of his admirers at the CBC to hook him up with their costume department. Maybe a rose in the lapel and a cape would do the trick, or has that been done already?