Musicality

1.30.2013


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?

Tell me!

25 comments:

  1. I'm a HUGE musical fan. I was in a few growing up (started out as one of Cinderella's mice as my first role) and since that I've always been drawn to them. I've always had a huge amount of respect for the actors, and love seeing a show whenever possible. Although I think sometimes people easily overlook the individuals who help make the shows amazing - like you mentioned the stage workers, light techs and orchestra are all crucial in order for us to enjoy a show to the max. Wicked is one I've seen more than once (2 times) and the reference you make to Defying Gravity is spot on. The first time I saw it I literally shook with goosebumps. It was magical.

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    1. So true - it wouldn't be a show without everyone behind the stage that makes it amazing. I love hearing everyone's first roles. Mine was as a cat in The Very Busy Spider when I was in kindergarten. Hahaha!

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  2. Well friend, you're in luck. I grew up in a theater family - I was in my first musical in 6th grade and it was, the most exhilarating. I went on to get the lead in a Christmas musical but it was cancelled due to funding. I never auditioned again and I have no idea why. Off to see Jersey Boys next weekend and I'm beside myself with excitement. I was hoping this post would end with SO IM MOVING TO HOLLYWOOD

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    1. I have never seen Jersey Boys! How was it (or let me know if you haven't gon yet?)

      Hahah I so wish I had announced I was moving.

      I never had the honor of being in a Christmas musical, though! POST A VIDEO OF YOURSELF SINGING ONE OF THE SONGS.

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  3. I am a musical convert. My husband sounds like your dad-minus the cigar. When he first told me about his fondness for musicals in our early dating days I was a tad concerned but he opened up a whole world to me and there is nothing we like more than curling up on a Sunday afternoon and watching one or going to the theatre. In fact we went to see Blood Brothers in Bath's Theatre Royal last night-sadly we were most unimpressed.
    Neither of us have any desire to perform. We are very happy to support from the sidelines. You never know-maybe we'll raise a Rachel Berry??!

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    1. YOU ARE SO LUCKY THAT YOUR HUSBAND LOVES MUSICALS. I laughed out loud with the Rachel Berry comment. That would be amazing. Make sure you expose her to Funny Girl as a toddler. That's so interesting to hear that you were the one that had to be won over. Usually it's the other way around! I haven't heard of Blood Brothers. Investigating.

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  4. First of all, I'm always SO PUMPED when you blog after a long time away, and when it is about MUSICALS I get so excited that I have to type in ALL CAPS.

    Why on earth would you have a nonmusical, when things could be SUNG? This is the great question of existence. I love them all, and I'm pretty sure that I knew all the words to Sound of Music before I knew all the words to the Lord's Prayer, which happened fairly early so that's saying something. (Except, I don't know that boring song Maria sings with the captain in the gazebo because everyone fast forwards that boring bit.) Sadly however, I sing like a cat in a garbage compactor so I have been outlawed from musical performance. But that doesn't stop me. Just yesterday, I forced my students to sing imperfect verb conjugations for 20 minutes. This is my stage. And I am a star. I guess you could say that I defy gravity daily, only by gravity I mean snide student looks and unwillingness to participate in my songs.

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    1. I ALWAYS wanted to fast forward through "Something Good" and it was always my mom's favorite. Now I happen to love it. It makes me feel like a woman knowing that I have grown into liking a song I didn't before. Also, it is worth watching if only for the crazy SOFT BLURRY WARM FUZZY LIGHTING surrounding their faces as we realize Maria will not become a nun after all because she only wants to make out with Georg and WE CELEBRATE THE DEPARTURE OF THE STUPID BARONESS.

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  5. Hahaha, great post!! We, too, were a musical family. No cable tv, not even a color tv for several years or a vcr for many more, but we watched every musical that came on PBS and we had the record soundtracks to many. (Yes, I grew up in the 1980s, not the 1880s.) I knew all the words to Cabaret before starting kindergarten, and when I was 15 or so I actually asked my Baptist church-going mom how on earth she let me sing along about prostitutes, drug-use, and free sex. We also could act out each scene of Oliver! and West Side Story. One of my sisters loved Music Man, another Oklahoma!. Fiddler on the Roof was a great all-family pleaser.
    Oh, and it wasn't just the movie or recorded stage versions- my mom had the whole family signed up at the Fox Theatre (Atlanta's venue for touring productions) and we'd go see every single show at least once. My mom and my oldest sisters would usher, my closest-in-age sister and I would hand out programs. Nearly all of the shows I listed above, the Nutcracker every year, plus Showboat, A Chorus Line, Annie, etc. And we went to as many local performances as she could find, from community theatre to universities to high schools.
    But Phantom. Oh, Phantom. My sister saw it the first time it toured the States and brought home the soundtrack, which I promptly played 24/7. I was SURE I was Christine, but I chose the Phantom every time. Raoul was stupid. I've now seen it 3 times professionally, and probably a half-dozen local versions. In fact, my husband and I went to see The Wizard of Oz in West End last year just to see Michael Crawford in person.
    On that note, have you read Phantom, by Susan Kay? She basically expands his story and it's wonderful.
    Now excuse me while I go crank up the soundtrack ;)

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    1. Gesci - Another reason I (bloggy) love you! I always look for your comments on other blogs, knowing I'll read something interesting. Sound of Music is my #1 though.

      Fran - Hooray for musicals! My mom grew up n a family of 6 kids and they were always "playing" The Sound of Music (family favorite). It's passed down to my generation and I am also a big fan. Much to my boyfriend's confusion. :P

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    2. Gesci - loved your musical background and how much you guys were in the theater. I especially love that you liked performing Cabaret because HOW SCANDALOUS. But I am sure none of us actually knew what any of the songs meant. DON'T GET ME STARTED ON ANNIE.

      Cynthia - Agreed, Gesci always leaves great comments! She has such good stories :) Oh MAN I love The Sound of Music. That is really one of my favorites, also. There is really nothing better than Julie Andrews. Really.

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  6. I got into musicals later in life--I did, however, grow up singing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" because that's where my mom is from and we always listened to it as a family. But as an adult I have a love for musicals that I can't explain. AND THAT SCENE FROM WICKED GIVES ME CHILLS EVERY TIME

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    1. HOW COULD I FORGET EVITA.
      I remember it like every 1.5 years and realize I can't go on with my life until I watch Madonna and Antonio Banderas dancing with each other.

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  7. Fantastic post!

    I love musicals. I have fond memories of my fellow dancer friend and I in my basement, both perched on opposite arms of the couch singing the finale of Summer Lovin. (She was Danny, I was Sandy.) This was a regular occurrence however one time her Dad came to pick her up and we couldn't hear him arrive over our singing - we sang that final note like it was the last note we'd ever sing and there he was killing himself laughing at the bottom of the stairs.

    (Every time I see the words "Defying Gravity" together, the song begins in my head whether I want it to or not. Thank you.)

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    1. I am loving these comments because it sounds like we all had really great living room musical adventures. Oh my gosssh I love Grease. I remember singing all of it too and not really having any idea what I was actually singing about it. (Which, as a child was certainly a good thing...scandalous Grease!)

      You guys holding the last note made me laugh so hard. I cannot wait to have kids and witness their dramatics like that!!

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  8. This is wonderful!
    My mom and I try to watch the Sound of Music together once a year. How can I even begin to express my adoration for this movie, and Julie Andrews, and my crush on young Cristopher Plummer? Fiddler on the Roof is a close second-favourite.
    Sometimes I think musicals are cheesy, and sometimes they make me cry, but I always leave the theater smiling.
    Reading this just brought back amazing memories of family road trips listening to musical soundtracks, and belting out "Circle of Life" even though we were definitely butchering all the Zulu lyrics.
    Aida was also on repeat for a long time...
    Thanks for this Fran, it gave my day a lovely and welcome kick of nostalgia:)

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  9. Fran, Fran, Fran. What am I going to do with you? With every post, you cement yourself as my long lost sister/friend. I too grew up in the theater. Somehow I started playing adult roles when I was eleven so while all my normal sized friends were playing kids, I was the eleven year old school teacher towering over them like a giant.
    I forgot the words to "On My Own" in a vocal showcase in high school, so now every time I sing that song, it's my personal goal to ensure that I sing EVERY SINGLE WORD.
    I have seen so many different shows and every time I am amazed that I don't run up onstage and take a bow as well. Performing is so embedded in my heart. I've been putting on shows since I was just a kid and I'm pretty sure I've driven my mother crazy countless times with my childhood drama and bursts of song.
    It's high time we get together and sing the great duets until our vocal chords bleed.

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  10. adore adore adore this post so much. at the end of every sentence it was if you took the words straight from my past, my heart, my soul.

    (i grew up in the theatre, worked at a theatre in high school college, got married in a theatre, play musical soundtracks just as often as i do green day, the beatles, or current pop hits.)

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  11. I grew up on musical movies like Grease and Bye, Bye Birdie and how I loved them. I could watch them for hours on end. I remember wearing out the tape in one of our VHS tapes because I loved it so much.

    Then I grew up and started going to musicals. I am not a singer (in that my singing is more offensive than anything) but, oh how Wicked made me into a lifelong fan of lines being sung... Why bother with lines if they aren't lyrics? After seeing the play I decided to read the book... Such a disappointment because there was no Popular or Defying Gravity to make my heart soar. Damn you bookie boo!

    Phantom. Don't even get me started on the adoration I have for that musical. I could hardly contain myself during Angel of Music. And the fog-boat scene. Holy amazing. A-mazing. Literally I don't have the words to describe it.

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  12. When I was younger, I hated musicals with a passion. I don't really know why, but I did. But now...I LOVE THEM! I haven't seen very many and the few I have seen, they were only on the TV. (Oh how I yearn to go to Broadway.) Whenever we watch Sound of Music or Mary Poppins or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (my favorite) I always sing along. If I could sing, I would totally be in musicals.

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  13. What about Les Miserable? Fran! Are you going to be part of our production? We will let you be Jean Valjean.

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  14. Fellow theater nerd right here. I knew there was a deeper connection that we had. ;) My favs are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Music Man, Joseph (Donny Osmond sent our high school a signed letter congratulating us on our performance).....and oh so many more. Man of La Mancha. That was my breakthrough role when I wore a giant paper mâché donkey head and galloped around the stage. Yes. I was an ass. A legit ass.


    Way, way back many centuries ago. Not long after the Bible began....

    I am going to be singing Joseph all day tomorrow.

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  15. I was always spending too much time in ballet class to actually be in any musicals, but I love them SO much. My husband may get a little freaked out when I stage during-dinner-prep versions of "Cell Block Tango," but I converted him with Wicked. (I think Wicked converts everyone). We were a musicals family in the sense that I have held off seeing Les Miz STILL, because my mother hasn't been able to go with me yet. And would disown me if I went without her.

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  16. I have just stumbled upon your blog and I present to you some facts about me:
    1. I have a BFA in Musical Theatre and that is what I do for a living.
    2. My husband has the same degree and does the same thing.
    3. My dad is your dad minus the cigar. HE LIVES FOR SONDHEIM.
    4. So do I.
    5. I have a distinct memory of singing "if the end is right, it justifies the beanssssssssssssssss" on a swing in kindergarten.
    6. I have another distinct memory of forcing my (amazing, cool, popular) cousins to watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at a sleepover, promising they would "DIE LAUGHING" during the barn-raising scene. They did not.
    7. The lip synch contest was the HIGHLIGHT of 8th grade, and no one could understand my CONVICTION that the title song from Dreamgirls would guarantee a win.
    8. I am looking forward to reading more!
    xo Olivia

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  17. I have just stumbled upon your blog and I present to you some facts about me:
    1. I have a BFA in Musical Theatre and that is what I do for a living.
    2. My husband has the same degree and does the same thing.
    3. My dad is your dad minus the cigar. HE LIVES FOR SONDHEIM.
    4. So do I.
    5. I have a distinct memory of singing "if the end is right, it justifies the beanssssssssssssssss" on a swing in kindergarten.
    6. I have another distinct memory of forcing my (amazing, cool, popular) cousins to watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at a sleepover, promising they would "DIE LAUGHING" during the barn-raising scene. They did not.
    7. The lip synch contest was the HIGHLIGHT of 8th grade, and no one could understand my CONVICTION that the title song from Dreamgirls would guarantee a win.
    8. I am looking forward to reading more!
    xo Olivia

    ReplyDelete