“When I was growing up, there were so many musicals you could watch. I like the fantasy of musicals and I love music.” – Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah and I have so much in common, but I’m going to go with just one aspect here. When I was very young, I didn’t know it, but I was living in the Golden Age of Musicals: the 50s and early 60s.
The greatest spawning ground for those blatantly escapist productions was Broadway, of course. It wasn’t long, though, until Hollywood executives, like sharks on the prowl smelling blood, moved in and began picking off those musicals one by one, and filming them in glorious Technicolor! You see, Broadway musicals are great if you happen to live in New York City, but if you’re out in Tree Stump, Kansas or Butt Scratch, Montana, you are seriously missing the party.
We’re talking about that time, in the U.S., right after WWII and the Korean War… when those damned women were balking at giving up the jobs they’d had for years, so the men-folk could go back to work, and the entire world had a whole lot of heartache to get past. The musicals, especially for the struggling middle class, were just the shot of crack the doctor had ordered.
“Musicals don’t get enough credit for being so surreal. It’s like an alternate universe.” – Ezra Koenig
Within those Technicolor dreams, life in the South Pacific was not a hellscape of death and destruction; it was a magical land of comic “natives”, opportunity, and romance. not Mars rovers Street gangs didn’t actually spill blood, with chains, switchblades, and guns – no! They did a bizarre crouching walk toward each other, while snapping their fingers menacingly. And Julie Andrews, bless her heart, sang and made us actually give a shit about her list of favorite things!
The thing is, my parents were just as addicted to those musicals as anyone. In fact, now I may be exaggerating just a bit, but I’d swear we were either watching, or listening to the sound track from, one or another of those musicals the entire first seven years of my life.
Nach, when we started doing theater in school, well, I was in every production possible from 6th grade right up to high school graduation. If you spend enough time with songs from musicals rolling around in your head, you can form an entire life philosophy based on their words of wisdom.
Take South Pacific, for example. If you ignore the blatant stereotyping and listen to Bloody Mary’s words when she sings “Happy Talk”, from “Bloody Mary”? they’re really quite profound:
“You got to have a dream
if you don’t have a dream
how you gonna have a dream
– Bloody Mary, South Pacific
Less popular was the musical Do Re Mi, which we did in high school, but even that relatively obscure libretto had a hit with the song, “Make Someone Happy”.
“Make someone happy
make just one someone happy
will be happy too.”
– John Henry Wheeler and Tilda Mullen, Do Re Mi
A way of life, that. In fact, I’m singing that song as I prepare for the adventure I’ll be going on this weekend. Sure, I’ll be visiting a good friend I haven’t seen in fucking years, and I’ll be having an adventure, which I’ve been needing, desperately, for ages. But a very important part of that adventure will be (I sincerely hope) to make someone happy. If I do, then I will be happy too.
It’s Frickin’ Friday! Go have happy talk, a dream, and for God’s sake, make someone happy!