I share a theatre subscription with my mother. We have been attending live theatre together for many years and have enjoyed dozens of shows. Live theatre, musical theatre in particular, can be a transformative experience. For a few hours, as you sit in the dark theatre, your body and mind are transformed to another place. It is quite an amazing feeling. Even though what I see before my eyes is not real life, I always chuckle when the actors suddenly break out in song. When you are faced with a difficult decision or want to express your emotions to your friend or foe, do you begin to sing?
I started to think about this last week when I went to see the show, Annie. I didn’t have to do a Google search to figure out the plot and had seen the movie and various other live versions so many times that I could mouth the words to half the scenes. It was obvious to me when the big numbers would happen, like Tomorrowor NYC.
But still, I was so amused when President Roosevelt, surrounded by his close advisors, looked at them and firmly told them, “Sing like Annie!” Imagine if that’s how we lived our lives. If you can’t make a decision or don’t know how to express your feelings, just sing.
Imagine yourself at work one day. You are in a big brainstorming meeting. The group is frustrated and disagreeing on which direction to go. Then you stand up and belt out….
The sun will come out
Bet your bottom dollar
There’ll be sun!
Would your boss stand up and sing beside you? How about your disgruntled colleague who never smiles? Maybe the eager person who has been gunning for a promotion. But would it really ever happen?
How many men, once they are ready to take the big step to express love for a woman? Okay, there are probably a few of them who would get down on one knee and start to sing a corny love song. But most of the time, I doubt it. And would a woman answer in song as well and they would sing a beautiful duet? Wow, I’d love to see that.
Somehow it is perfectly natural in a play to break out in song. Would Jean Valjean’s soliloquy be the same if he did not sing Who am I? Could the Reverend Mother have expressed her feelings about Maria in the Sound of Musicif she didn’t sing Climb Every Mountain?Even in a movie it just wouldn’t be the same. How else could Elsa have made the decision to live on her own and be her true self if she didn’t belt out Let it Go?
Some would say this is simply an expression of art and that I should just let it go. Theatre is designed to be a transformative escape, to take the audience away from everyday life and give them a special experience. It’s not meant to be real. People don’t really break out in song in the middle of the office or if they are down on their luck. But, it’s fun to day dream about what life would be like if they did. I will have to think about that some more. Maybe I should sing about it.