There enters music.
In musicals, there comes a point (18-20x per show), when the characters are so overwhelmed by emotion, saying what they feel is inadequate. So, naturally taking advantage of the orchestra at their feet, they start singing.
Throughout the song they’ll run a gamut of emotions and pitches and volumes… if they start softly, they’ll crescendo in triumph or anger… if they start at full volume, they’ll soften into moments of introspection or fear… but at the end, they generally know what they have to do next.
Well… they are the “Luckiest People in the World.”
This Sunday, July 26, marks the first anniversary of my father’s passing. In the intervening year, the world somehow has had the audacity to keep turning, and my family has had to find ways to move on.
As I considered how to best commemorate this via today’s blog, all I heard rattling around in my brain were show tunes… and not only songs about loss (“No One is Alone” or “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”). I heard songs of determination (“The Impossible Dream”), songs of whimsy (“Camelot”), silly songs (“Moses Supposes”), love songs (“It Only Takes a Moment”), angry songs (“Not a Day Goes By”), and heroic songs (“Into the Fire”).
My father was 6’6″… barrel chested… conservative… a country boy… and he LOVED musical theatre. The first “adult” (aka non-Disney) movie I remember watching with him was The Sound of Music. Although a good portion of the plot was not understood by my four-year-old-self, I do remember the songs. In particular, I remember how proud I was when I mastered the B-section of “Do-Re-Mi” (Sol-Do-La-Fa-Me-Do-Re, Sol-Do-La-Ti-Do-Re-Do); I couldn’t stop singing it to myself.
Being the enabler he was, he next purchased the Rogers and Hammerstein VHS collection and we worked our way through The King and I (loved it!), Carousel (too boring for little Meg), State Fair (one of my most beloved cassettes), and Oklahoma! (I liked the last song). In between, he showed me Singin’ in the Rain (I lost my voice imitating Lena Lamont), Hello Dolly! (my little sister would later beat me up for not telling her Michael Crawford played Cornelius, and Camelot (Richard Harris holds a special place in my heart forever).
I was hooked. I listened and watched anything he put before me… and over 20+ years, there was a lot of music we shared.
My father even went so far as to join the board of my school’s CAPPIES program, encouraging my theater-critic ambitions… all those stage-moms + my dad… his courage knew no limits. He also sat through many a voice lesson and nearly ALL my school concerts… as I said, a brave, brave man.
We went to my first Broadway show (at The Kennedy Center) when I was in high school. Thankfully, the Elton John score and colorful stagecraft of Aida made my mother a musical believer too! Every family vacation thereafter we’d try to go see something. And later, during college, every visit home usually included a show.
When we didn’t see each other (first due to university, and then to another cross-country move), I’d keep him in the know with my weekly reports (thanks Playbill!) of who was starring in what, and which of the newest musicals were worth the price of their soundtrack.
My father was a man of great culture and curiosity… and he encouraged the same within me (and my sister, and my mother… and maybe even the dogs, if they could appreciate a good Gershwin tune).
Because my father introduced me to musical theatre, I have learned that “witches can be right,” never to step on someone else’s cue, that beauty can change the heart of any beast, that there is more to life than “Great Big Stuff,” and that it’s always “A Grand Night for Singing.”
Now, I don’t know if the angel of music sings songs in my head… but I know my father still does. And every time I sing, or go to a show, or revisit one of those corny old flicks, I love and miss him with all of my heart… but I’m happy to have shared something so wonderful with him.