Tilting at Windmills || Man of La Mancha

If I haven’t mentioned it before, my gateway drug into classic film was the movie musical. My Father, a trained psychologist, used them to entice his daughters away from a glut of cartoons and into the world of “live-action.” I admit, with all honesty, that I was once terrified by this prospect. I’m not sure precisely what traumatized me about non-animated cinema (I suspect I glimpsed something that I shouldn’t have and my young brain just kind of shut down on the matter), but for years any film that occupied more than two-dimensions gave me a deep sense of unease. 

My Father, however, was undaunted by the challenge, determined to share with us the (age-appropriate) films he loved. A clever man (I learned early-on the significance of Dr. Jeffrey’s Ph.D.), Dad noticed how I relished my Disney Sing-Alongs. Music then (no-imminent-pun-intended), was the key to getting little-Meg to watch something other than Aladdin for the ninth time. We started with Singin’ in the Rain, then Hello Dolly!, and then moved on to the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection. By the time I left my single-digit years behind, I had fallen in love with cinema’s song-and-dance-men (and women).

One afternoon, I recall Papa telling my sister and I to go to our rooms and see what was on our beds. Scurrying down the hallway, I discovered the double-VHS version of Camelot, while my sister, who was a devoted fan of Wishbone, in particular the episode entitled “The Impawssible Dream,” found Man of La Mancha (1972) propped up on her pillow. As summarized on the film’s IMDb page: “The story of a mad, but kind and chivalrous, elderly nobleman, who, aided by his squire Sancho Panza, fights windmills to save his Dulcinea.” 

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Sit Down, John: The Music and Mythos of 1776

The backstabbing, the compromises, the pleading, the tears, the struggle… the DRAMA. In a word (two words): American Politics. And with such heightened emotions playing out upon a national stage, why wouldn’t you set it to music? No, this week’s entry is not Hamilton, but that other tuneful tale about American history: 1776.

As summarized on the IMDb page: “a 1972 musical retelling [by Sherman Edwards] of the American Revolution’s political struggle in the Continental Congress to declare independence.”

Continue reading “Sit Down, John: The Music and Mythos of 1776”

And on the Seventh Day She… Sang

No rest for the wicked, as they say. Also, sitting inside and listening to the rain pouring and splish-splashing outside made me a little stir crazy. So, here’s a tune that always makes me feel like grabbing a mop, or a broom, or an unsuspecting friend and start twirling around.

When Words are Not Enough


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.