It was either 1992 or 1993... either way, it was at least 20 years ago. I can barely believe it. Can you? I took your Musical Theater class every single semester that I was at the University of Arkansas. It was my favorite, and certainly most humbling, class. I love musical theater. I love acting through song more than anything else in the world, even though I'm not naturally a gifted singer.
You helped me learn things about the way music is written for performance, and how to enrich every word, even the repeated ones, with meaning. I remember very little about college. But I remember you. And I remember that theater. And I remember our class. Thank you.
I just thought of you because I heard a song that I tried to perform when I was newly-20. It's a song from the Broadway musical "City of Angels," (no, not the movie, which I've never seen) one of my favorite musicals ever. The lyrics are hugely clever, the subject is one that is close to my heart, and the 40s "feel" is so much fun. Actually, I performed another of the songs from the show, "You Can Always Count on Me" for one of our fund-raiser reviews, and everyone was a little surprised that I could "belt" like that.
This song, however, was different.
This song is ironically named "Funny."
How'd I fail to see this little bed time tale was funny?
I could cry to think of all the irony I've missed!
What an unusual twist
Right at the end of it.
Who could see that this pathetic scene would be
Once you strain to find the grain of humor
Life double crosses with style
Forcing you into a smile
So it can kick you in the teeth.
We can all laugh till it hurts
At my expense.
I'm accustomed to working on "spec."
I always pick up the check.
I think it's funny.
Who could top or make this comic op'ra more
You could weave in some deceit to even up the
You'd have us all on the floor.
That would be roaringly
Sad enough my life's a joke that suffers in the telling.
Just another hoary chestnut from the bottom drawer
I've heard so often before
That I can't laugh anymore.
When I was finished with my performance, you and everyone else critiqued it, we talked about it, but in the end you said that no matter how much I polished the delivery, you would never buy it. You told me that I had not experienced enough life to pull off this song. I wasn't mad, but I didn't really understand.
I understand now.
And you were right.
Hearing the song now, I start to shake a little with rage, thinking through it as an actor. I get where the character is. Much of it is his own fault. He's made stupid decisions. And he wants to do the right thing, but he just can't catch a break... So he's ready to give up.
There is never a situation in which I would need to perform this song... unless someone decided to do a cross-dressing performance of "City of Angels" somewhere other than Austin (because I'd never be cast in a part versus all of the talented actual musicians around here), but if the opportunity arose, I could do it this time. It stinks, but I could. And I thank God every day that I don't relate to it in the present tense.
Just wanted you to know that you hit the nail on the head. That wasn't the only time, but it is one that stands out in my memory. Thanks for being good at what you do. And thanks for helping me realize that life experience makes for better performing all the way around. I find that to be true in my writing, and that's something at which I happen to be a bit more gifted than the whole singing thing, anyway.