The nightmare begins
The first speculative fiction novel I ever read betrayed me.
I stole The Sky Insidefrom a friend after watching her read it during math class. “What a unique plot!” I thought. “A colony of people living in a dome? Who engineer their own babies? And build robotic collies? Sounds like a one-of-a-kind reading experience!”
I wasn’t wrong.
After 229 pages, I wished death upon myself, the idiot protagonist, and his stupid robotic collie. The entire experience left me leery of “promising” concepts.
So when my mom told me she’d scored “primo” tickets to a musical version of Persuasion, I should have been suspicious. Instead, I turned off my inner alarm. I had theater, Austen, and one of my favorite people on my side.
I’ve written before about A Chorus Line, its tear-producing powers, and the excellent documentary Every Little Step which chronicles the audition process for the show. I loved today’s song before watching the documentary, but the explanation behind the song gave it new meaning for me.
Toward the end of the musical, one of the characters sustains a career-ending injury. Everything he’s worked for becomes nothing in one second–the thing he loves doing most, he’ll never be able to do again.
In Every Little Step, Charlotte d’Amboise’s father has severe arthritis as a result of his dancing career and was told by doctors that he had to stop dancing lest he destroy his body. He, too, had to give up his favorite thing on earth.
Some of this song’s greatest lyrics:
We did what we had to do
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow
Every line in this song kills me–it’s about leaving great things behind, but looking forward to even better. All the dancers–both in the show and outside of it–think the pain and the loss were worth it because for a brief time they got to do what they loved. I thought about this song a lot during my senior year because it felt like I was giving up so much. I like this song because while it acknowledges the pain of loss, it has hope for the future.
This is only part of the song, but I got to see this cast live and wouldn’t dream of posting another version:
You go, Morales.
Need cheering up?
Settle in, girls, it’s story time!:
This song was playing once when I gave my friend a ride home. Before getting out of the car, she told me, “I really like your Christmas CD,” forever giving me reason to play this at Christmas instead of Manheim Steamroller.
Many of my friends don’t like “Into the Woods” because after Act 1, it stops being fun. The musical transitions from a lighthearted send-up of fairy tale tropes into a dark examination of heavy themes, such as death, betrayal, and infidelity.
Oh, and throw in an absentee father because Stephen Sondheim had issues with his parents.
The musical used to be on Netflix, and I would watch it at least once a month, though I had to be in a special mood for it. I’d be down for Act 1 at any time, but Act 2 spoke to me when I wasn’t feeling so great. Sometimes you need to watch something sad to get all your feelings out. My friends watch “One Tree Hill” or “Grey’s Anatomy”; I watch musicals.
At this part in the musical, the Baker is at his lowest point. His wife is dead, there’s a murderous giant on the loose, he’s abandoned his son, and his crazy ghost father won’t leave him alone. He tries and fails to get a straight answer out of his dad, who only speaks in riddles. Angry and exhausted, the Baker gives up.
I know how the Baker feels. There comes a time when you feel so much you’d rather feel nothing; at that point, all you want is to be left alone, instead of dealing with more bad news, emotions, or change.
This summer has been the Summer of Doubt. Right now, I’m sick of uncertainty and my faith being stretched. I’m tired of people asking me questions about my future. I want a straight answer, too. I haven’t done much this summer and still I’m exhausted. Yet, as the Baker’s father explains, running away won’t help. “Just more questions…different kind.”
I understand why the film version cut this song…but I wish they hadn’t.
Need cheering up? Best song in the musical. The lyrics allow me to lament my love life and laugh at the same time. The princes know what’s up.
Astonishingly bitter and wickedly funny. Better flow and rhymes than most mainstream rappers.
I became a Sondheim fan after stumbling across “Company” on Netflix a couple years ago. The only downside to liking Sondheim is he’s not what you would call an optimist.
I’ve never seen “Assassins”, but I’ve listened to its soundtrack many times. It’s a bummer. I’ll be the last to argue that America is perfect, but coming out of a musical with a takeaway message of, “America is broken and can’t be fixed?” I’ll take “Memphis” with a side of “Sweeney Todd” instead, please.
“The Ballad of Booth” is one of my favorite songs from “Assassins,” offering both a biography of John Wilkes Booth and speculation about his motives. Booth himself joins in and pleads his case.
It’s obvious from this song that Booth and the rest of the assassins are nuts, yet they remain convinced they’re doing the right thing by killing the president. In Booth’s case, he thinks he saved the country and will be vindicated by history, when in fact his actions had the opposite effect. There’s something depressing about this misguided optimism–it makes his wrongful actions seem even more pointless.
There’s a line in this song that floored me when I first heard it. The mullet-tastic Balladeer sings of Booth: But traitors just get jeers and boos/Not visits to their graves/While Lincoln, who got mixed reviews/because of you, John, now gets only raves.
This song might not bring on all-out sobs, but you’re not going to feel good after you listen to it. You’re welcome.
Need cheering up? Not all of Sondheim’s stuff is depressing.
Bonus: this is the perfect song to put on your angsty “No one loves me” playlist. (No judgment. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t have one.)
Christian funerals have a different focus than others. Even the word “funeral” is avoided; many Christians prefer “celebration of life.” Because we believe the deceased person is better off in heaven and we will see them again, there’s an emphasis on joy rather than sadness.
I don’t disagree with that perspective, but it’s hard to imagine making that my reality. To lose someone–a friend, a lover, a brother–you love so much and then acknowledge it’s for the best seems impossible to me. Even knowing that person is in a better place, I would rather they were still here with me. That’s why watching “Rent” cuts me up (aside from the fact that it’s one big sobfest). No matter which version you watch, all of the characters want the same thing: they wish Angel was still alive.
Lucky for me, there are billions of versions of “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” on Youtube. Today’s post came down to three: Jesse L. Martin’s rendition from the 2005 movie, Michael McElroy portrayal from the filmed Broadway play, and Michael Levesque’s version from a more recent production.
A lot of people didn’t like the film version, and I can see why–compared to the stage play, it comes off as restrained. It, however, has most of the original cast. Jesse L. Martin’s tremulous vocals and shots of the others crying are enough to get me–by this point in the film, I was weeping (though that was in large part due to “Without You,” the subject of a future post.)
I’m not in love with Michael McElroy as Collins, but I loved the other actors. Their voices got progressively shakier as they proceeded with the funeral, so much that I was crying before I even got to the song.
I found the ensemble cast in the last version less than impressive. When Michael Levesque started singing, I was first impressed that that voice was coming from that body. His voice cracked several times and he had trouble standing. Finally, near the end, he broke down completely.
It’s still a toss-up and I’ll probably change my mind later today, but for now I’ll go with the Broadway version because I can’t get past the intro without tearing up. If you have time, please check out the other versions. Jesse L. Martin is forever my favorite Collins.
Need cheering up? Several songs were cut from the film version of “Rent,” so I had no idea this existed until I saw the Broadway version.
Pure chaos. Intricate harmonies. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. The best Roger I’ve ever heard. This is “Christmas Bells,” my favorite song.