Raise Your Hopeful Voice; All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Musicals
I’ve spent the summer revisiting some of my favorite musicals. It’s been bittersweet knowing I can’t just buy a ticket and see a live performance. I long to sit in a theatre and watch the room grow dark and hear the overture or jump to my feet for a well-deserved curtain call. I hope we never take this freedom for granted again. Like a firework show, I’ve thrown one of my favorite musicals up each week so we can see how they light up the darkness. Some are heartbreaking, some brave, some catchy and fun, but I’m convinced these shows have made me who I am today.
Please enjoy this, the grand finale. A sustained boom and flash of the lessons I’ve learned from musicals. Here goes:
When I was a kid, I sang “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” for anyone who came to visit. I had a “stage” in front of the fireplace. Please accept my apology if you had to sit through that. But, cliché as it may be, it’s true. It may not actually be tomorrow, but our struggles, our fears, this virus will pass. One way or another. I can’t tell you how often I’ve found comfort in that simple truth. Speaking of beautiful clichés, Newsies taught me to "seize the day" and that "minute by minute, that’s how you win it". Laugh all you want, but I often summon those words when I need motivation. I’ve learned to "climb every mountain" and there’s "no day but today". Anything Goes reminds me that there’s "no cure like travel". And if it seems impossible, I’m reminded that "impossible things are happing every day". These lyrics can be a little cheesy, but choose to believe them.
My love affair with musicals has taught me some random things too. Like that there are 525,600 minutes in a year. Les Misérables taught me about redemption and the power of love, but I also learned not to make deals with innkeepers. One of my favorite musicals in high school was Guys and Dolls -where I learned that gangsters and gamblers can be romantic. I’ll never eat meat pies in England in case it’s one of Sweeney Todd’s victims. And while I’m on the subject of accepting food and drink, green drinks are out because of Wicked.
There are times I’ve sat in a theatre and the words pierced my heart in a way I couldn’t explain. Silly things like Matilda teaching me “If it’s not right, you have to put it right.” Imagine a world where adults understood that. I learned from Into the Woods that "no one is alone". Especially in this season, we all need to hear that. The Lion King. When the cast sang “He lives in you”, I cried my eyes out forgetting it’s a story about the animal kingdom because all I could think of was my heavenly father who watches over me and lives in me. I remember watching Sutton Foster on Broadway in Little Women singing her face off. She sang, “I may be small, but I have giant plans to shine as brightly as the sun.” How could I not be inspired by that?
Some messages aren't as sunny. Next to Normal taught me that "maybe we can’t be okay, but maybe we’re tough enough to try anyway". A line from Once, one of my all-time favorite shows, goes like this: “Take this sinking boat and point it home. We’ve still got time. Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice, you’ve made it now.” There are times when I feel like that sinking boat. When I’m at my wit’s end and I remember that even when I feel like I’m sinking, all I need to point it home and things will be alright. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I just need to be going the right direction.
If you’ve followed me this summer, or are just tuning in for this post, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the fact that Broadway is hurting right now. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking walking through the theatre district must be and that's just in New York. Theatre professionals everywhere need our help. Please consider clicking this link to donate to a charity benefiting those in the industry. You can also follow your favorite performers on YouTube or attend an online performance. Theatre people know the show must go on, so find a way to support them.
If you love musicals, you’ve probably learned from them too. Musicals have a way of transforming the way we think and process the world. Just like the characters in my favorite musicals, I sing a lot. In fact, I try to sing no matter what situation I’m in - difficult ones and joyful ones. Despite the situation, I’ll raise my hopeful voice. I have a choice.