Last week was a week. A short one, due to Labor Day, but it packed all the fruit punch of a normal five-day week into four whiny, molar-erupting (him), preschool-adjusting (her), morning-nap-boycotting (him) days. It was a week that called for showtunes (on a custom-created Pandora station that I named Showtunes & Chardonnay) to be blasted at full volume by about 3:00pm on Friday.
Showtunes are my comfort music (mac and cheese is my comfort food if you’re wondering). I know this somewhere, in the same kind of way that I know that I always put on my left shoe before my right, or that when I can’t sleep I rotate from back to right side to stomach to left side and then eventually fall asleep on my back. I know it, but I don’t really think about it until it’s Friday afternoon of a veeeeerrrrryyyy long (short) week and I’m blasting Wicked while vacuuming.
Oddly, until today I never thought about how consistent a thread this has been in my life. My obsession with various musicals and soundtracks dates way, way back. I associate different songs with different times. Yes, we all do this with music – it’s a powerful kind of multisensory mental scrapbook – but I never really thought about it with this particular genre.
There’s a 12-year-old version of me playing Amaryllis in the 6th grade play The Music Man, singing “Goodnight, My Someone” with a bad case of laryngitis.
There’s a 13-year-old version of me listening to Phantom of the Opera at my next-door neighbor’s house. Over. And over. And over. Singing, hitting those crazy high notes – not well, but hitting them.
There’s a 14-year-old version of me choreographing a lyrical jazz dance in my bedroom to “On My Own” from Les Miserables. Crying when I saw the stage production. Pretty much wanting to BE Eponine in real life. Which is weird, right? Except that maybe being fourteen is like being a ragamuffin girl plagued by unrequited love who wanders the city at night dressed as a boy just in case she runs into her crush and his pretty girlfriend. Actually, I think being fourteen is exactly like that.
There’s a 16-year-old version of me graduating to the very edgy (at the time), hip (at the time), and adult lyrics of Rent!, which I saw performed in Los Angeles with THE Neil Patrick Harris (at the time just a grown-up Dougie Howser) as Mark. Memorizing every word to “La Vie Boheme” without really understanding half the references.
There’s an 18-year-old me taking voice lessons and somehow finding ways to apply the lyrics to 1970s stage sensations to my late-90s love life. Jesus Christ Superstar‘s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” remains one of my all-time favorite songs to belt out when no one over the age of 3 is listening. “I Loved You Once in Silence” (Camelot) is right up there too.
There’s a 21-year-old me, living in England and momentarily obsessed with Ireland, checking out a brand new Andrew Lloyd Weber show called A Beautiful Game. I don’t know for sure, but I think this show flopped royally and I don’t know if it ever even made it to the US. It doesn’t matter because I LOVED it. One of the most hauntingly beautiful (and exquisitely sung on the soundtrack) songs in all of musical theater is “If This is What We’re Fighting For”. O M G.
There’s a 23-year-old me blasting “What I Did For Love” (every performer’s personal anthem, no?) on long snowy drives to and from Nutcracker rehearsals.
And on Friday there was the 31-year-old me seeking comfort still in these silly (but profound, I’ll maintain) lyrics and big orchestral swells, symbol-crashing climaxes and gorgeous, vibrato-rich vocals. Same me, same soundtrack, different frustrations to drown out. Same ultimate satisfaction in a full-volume singalong to “Defying Gravity”, only now I have a curious little audience of two. Hopefully if I start them early enough, they too will come to know the power of a little Broadway therapy.