Have you ever had one of those days that would be vastly improved by the addition of a 4-6 minute musical break? Of course you have; if there’s one thing that unites us all as a species, it’s a deep and abiding need for our lives to some day, perhaps only for one day, be a musical.
(Of course, if I had Sutton Foster’s dance skills, you’d catch me tapping down the street like a maniac, but that’s beside the point.)
There never seems to be more of a need for a song-and-dance break than September in New England. Poised on the brink of two seasons, never certain whether it’s bathing-suit-hot or #SweaterWeather, we all develop a uniquely Yankee sort of edginess. Woe betide any tourist asking for directions to the USS Constitution or the Aquarium; they’d find a more welcome reception were they standing in the middle of the 405 holding up four lanes of traffic. Of course, New Englanders aren’t particularly known for our warmth, but there’s something about the dividing line between Summer and Autumn that cranks the curmudgeon up to 11.
I’m not proud to say that I’m not immune. While like everyone I try to put my best self into the world every day, I won’t lie and say I haven’t crossed the street to avoid a passel of tourists or used a few choice words when nearly run down by a tour trolley, but at the end of the day that isn’t the person I want to be.
Enter the mental (and, let’s be honest, the occasional actual) musical break.
When I was a teenager, there was nowhere I felt safer, freer or happier than my high school theatre. If you can picture in your mind a prototypical drama geek, you can picture me – I spent half my life on that worn old stage goofing around with my friends and giving our director gray hairs, pausing only for the occasional dramatic Antigone recitation. And while I was flatly useless during dance workshops, there was something joyful in rehearsing every aspect of a musical, and until recently, it was something I’d lost.
Until one night recently I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole. Somehow, half an hour of bunny videos and Conan sketches led me to a playlist of Tony Award performances, and there, right at the top, was the transcendent Patti Lupone singing “Rose’s Turn.”
Is it a joyful number? Not really.
Did it make me remember that time a bunch of eighth graders wandered into our shabby little theatre and found a few of us belting this out like it was the last time we’d ever have a chance to sing?
Absolutely. That joy, that searing feeling in my lungs – it all came flooding back. And there was a sort of peace in thinking about a time when literally nothing mattered as much as my friends and I trying to out-diva one another. Of course, ten years later, I’m much more aware that life isn’t a musical. Not all endings are happy and not all days are full of melodic interludes.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t live like they might be.