A musical like this could not be made in the United States, where every genre is assuming the look and feel of a corporate commercial. JA ZUSTER,NEE ZUSTER restores the nostalgic 1950s in all of its campy, middle class glory, and the reason it manages to do so is that the 1950s idyll which haunts the American Unconscious as the Era of Innocence actually took place in Holland. During those post-war times, Nederland was truly neighborly, perhaps because the Market didn´t conquer everything, so there was still meaning in the notion of ´´the good neighbour´. On the other hand, no sordid underbelly you would see in a BLUE VELVET, because readers, we Dutch have so much money that if all the dikes of the Netherlands collapsed tomorrow, we´d go on for another 150 years at least!!!
So JA ZUSTER returns to the 1950s lovingly, avoiding digital enhancements, then introduces a string of characters you can only really meet in Holland – a dominating socialist nurse with a heart of gold; her flabby husband and son, clearly victims of the nurse’s overbearing care; an obsessive Calvinist neighbour complaining about stains, noise and other anal matters, as such hygienic types tend to do; a young couple having an Umbrella van Schenbourg-style romance in the midst of the family’s constant bickering. And then this setup, of course, attracts the gay barber across the street, who is the nurse’s favorite boy…
In stark contrast to American musicals, the story is not about the talented person who goes from rags to riches thanks to fairytale intervention. Rather, the point is to reestablish, in a campy way, the same petit bourgeois complacency that American musicals usually glamorize.
Shortly, readers, it’s a delightful musical in the proper John Waters key. Not that Waters himself hadn’t borrowed from the English and Dutch comedic tradition – his ”Serial Mom” is a riff on the BBC comedy ”Keeping Up Appearances”. In light of the looming cultural wars between the States and Europe, I think we should begin taxing our originality. It might shut down a few of the monstrous multiplexes, preserving some of the disappearing Dutch cultural identity. We certainly need more musicals like this, than bland remakes of ”Hairspray”.