The Musical Measure
In the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent, the cast asks:
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?
I measure my life in musicals. A musical accompanies almost every milestone on the timeline of my life. From watching Hello Dolly with my cousin in the conference room of her father’s office to the countless musical auditions that I’d rather forget, my life is essentially a collection of musicals strung together and woven tight into memory.
My earliest musical memories are of Upside-Down Cherry Dr. Pepper Floats, chicken salad sandwiches, and Meet Me in St. Louis. As a tween my friends and I choreographed musical numbers in my backyard to A Chorus Line and Jesus Christ Superstar ringing out from my parent’s record player.
Seeing 42nd Street and Into the Woods on Broadway at the age of 14 forever changed my life. I knew the stage would always be my home. In high school I played Aunt Eller in Oklahoma and the Star to Be in Annie. “Defying Gravity” became my motto at 16. No one doubted what I would study in college. Surprisingly, I chose a school without a musical theater department, but in turn was there as they began to build one.
I sang “100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man” and tap danced my way to Los Angeles.
Fresh out of college and skin already thinning I dove into a world I wasn’t ready to join. I continued to add to the weight of failed auditions that was already holding me down. Gone was the once bright-eyed girl who dreamed of one day belting “Suddenly Seymour” to a packed theater; I was lost and saw only my flaws. I call this period in my life, early to mid twenties, “The Musical-less Years”.
Loops of Annie Get Your Gun, The Last Five Years, and Bombshell have filled most of my late twenties. I found my way back to musicals through shows that are centered around performers. That’s the thing about musicals and the stage, they always find a way to beckon.
I recently caught a late showing of the new movie musical, La La Land.
La La Land is a beautiful film. Sitting in the theater, I fell in love with movie musicals all over again. I remembered why I fell in love with musicals in the first place.
A musical adaptation of one of my favorite movies, Waitress, recently hit Broadway. I can measure most of 2016 via the Waitress soundtrack. Depending on the day, “She Used to be Mine” is either a hopeful anthem or a heartbroken ballad. 2016 has been a roller coaster. I sit here at 29, jobless and uncertain of what lies ahead. But, amazingly I feel hopeful and free.
Sometimes saying what you feel doesn’t really convey what you feel. Singing. Dancing. Performing musical numbers. This is how I feel. I have woven musicals into my memories because simply remembering events isn’t enough, I need to remember the feeling. In the future when I watch La La Land or listen to Waitress, I’ll remember how I felt. I’ll remember why I love the stage, I’ll remember how all the good and bad moments in 2016 felt, but most of all I’ll remember that no matter what happened I ended the year feeling that the future held great things. That’s the musical measure.
I originally wrote this post prior to Christmas and since then we’ve lost Debbie Reynolds. I feel that it is only right to mention how much she affected my decision to study theater and her contribution to my overall love of musicals. We truly lost a beautiful, talented woman who inspired so many people. Her work and impact will continue to live on in the hearts of those she touched.