When I was five years old, I believed with my entire heart and soul that I was Christine Daae.
The first time I saw it, we still lived in Connecticut and my nana was in town and we went into the city to see it. We bought front row tickets off the street, and I am pretty sure that was my first Broadway show. Afterward, I remember getting a really bad bloody nose - but that doesn't have anything to do with this.
I was Christine for a long time after. I dressed in a majestic purple ball gown for Halloween. My mother dressed as the Phantom. In hopes of keeping me warm in the cold October in Connecticut, she forced me to wear a turtleneck underneath my ball gown. I was devastated. My mother wished to ruin me and she didn't understand that temperature would not deter my passionate desire to reveal to our neighborhood that I WAS AN INGENUE OF THE OPERA, AND A MUSE TO A DISFIGURED ANGRY MAN.
I blame my ways on my father. He is the most heterosexual man and loves showtunes more than any other human. I still have visions of him pulling into our driveway with a cigar hanging out of his mouth, and his windows down with music blaring. Because of this, my childhood was full of visits to the theater and I was probably the only first grader that knew who Sondheim was. I remember my dad driving a friend and me somewhere and he played Miss Saigon. It was like our own inside joke when she was terrified and thought there was a helicopter looming over us. No, dear child. WE ARE GOING TO SAIGON!
For a few years, Camille and I went to a small catholic school. We weren't catholic, and had not grown up in church, so our knowledge of the Bible was limited. One time, the teachers asked if anyone knew what Christmas was about. Camille, the preschooler, responded soberly and proudly: "JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR." We knew the basics because my mom, aunt, and Camille and I would perform the musical in our living room. I always fought to be Judas because he had the best songs. If you are silently judging our blasphemous family - please, do not. We knew not what we did, and I'm happy to say we all now know it be a sacrilege. (But I still know all the lyrics).
In middle school I spent my summers at musical theater camp (translation: I was the coolest). High school for me was voice lessons and chorus and musicals. I auditioned for the School of Creative and Performing Arts by singing a song from The Sound of Music while my mom waited outside the room for me. I still remember how excited I was when the acceptance letter came in the mail. Ultimately, we decided it wasn't the best direction for me at the time. I don't regret it. I'd be a very different person if I had gone. No matter, though - because it is in my blood. At any given moment, there are showtunes coursing through my veins. You may think I am just Fran, but I could be Millie Dillmount right now if I really wanted to.
Or, depending on my mood: Amneris from Aida.
After a semester in college, I met my best friend Hanna, and we quickly learned that she was also a theater nerd. (She was actually a theater major at the time). I knew that our friendship would last forever when she told me that she was Bloody Mary in her high school's performance of South Pacific. Maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal to you, but she got EIGHT spray tans so she would look native. THAT'S COMMITMENT.
My roommates and I (Hanna included) would later go on to skip a whole morning of classes so we could see RENT the day the movie came out in theaters. We practiced much restraint in not singing along to La Vie Boheme, and I'm still mad that Christmas Bells wasn't included in the movie.
I keep thinking about performing and how it's the most exhilarating thing I've ever experienced. As far as public speaking goes, it doesn't make me break out in hives or anything but I still get pretty nervous. When you're a character, though - there's so much freedom. Even though it's not a path I chose to take for the rest of my life, I love going to see shows and knowing that the actors onstage feel alive.
I know that during Defying Gravity, while everyone in the audience feels the breath escape their lungs and their hearts fall into their stomach - Elphaba knows that's what they are feeling and she and the cast and the orchestra and the sound and light technicians are making that happen.
My hope is that one day, my children and I will fight over who gets to be Elphaba or Glinda in our living room performance. You'll notice I included myself in that fight - because while I will love my children I am not giving up a great role that easily. PLEASE. (And if Bryan protests, we'll make him be Boq).
What say you about musicals? Were you in them? Do you love them? Do you find them cheesy?