Behind the wooden slats of the built in cabinets in our orange shag carpeted den, my parents had a really cool reel to reel stereo. The music was so appealing in its white boxes with my dad’s handwritten labels in black. There was opera on Sundays, classical always, but most compelling were the soundtracks.
We were a Musical family.
Not a musical family as in a family who makes music, no. With the exception of piano expertise that diminished exponentially with birth order, we did not play instruments.
We were a Musical family, as in musicals. On stage and screen.
We did not act in musicals, no. We sang to be sure, and we could recite the scripts of many productions, but when I say that ours was a Musical family I mean that our family was into show tunes.
Where did it start? As long as I can remember, there were musicals. Godspell was an early favorite, as were The Sound of Music, Annie, and Jesus Christ, Superstar. It wasn’t all wholesome and bibles though, I can still say every single line from the soundtrack of the original broadway cast recording of A Chorus Line, although Dad did edit out the provocative “orchestra and balcony” number. And Pippin – remember Pippin? We had a video recording of a stage production with Ben Vereen as the narrator and the guy from the Greatest American Hero as Pippin. He was so smoking hot in that net shirt.
Our biggest show had to have been Joseph. Ahhh, Joseph. We saw it on stages from junior high to Broadway. How many times did we go to the Downtown Cabaret Theater to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat? Every. Single. Line. Just ask Beth, who once had the distinct pleasure of transporting three drunk sisters across the international border in her Spud McMod while we serenaded her from orchestra to curtain call.
As we grew older, and the shag became berber and the reels became cassettes and then CDs, our penchant for musicals remained. Ellie and I once did a three month lap around the country, and belted out every single line of Little Shop of Horrors at least 3 or 4 times a day. Once we treated a relative stranger in St. Paul to the whole rendition, pausing only long enough to inform him that his kitchen cupboards were organized all wrong.
My kids enjoy a musical, one kid more than the other, at least on record. They’re products of the Disney machine, and the soundtrack of their early childhood was sung by Simba, Ariel, Mogli, and Cruella; but they have an ear for the oldies as well. When my boy was little, he was known to sport a jaunty hat and dance around yelling “Step in time! Step in time!” And my girl’s heart was broken by Dorothy’s plight, so much so that she has yet to make it all the way through to the satisfying click of red heels.
They are also products of their mother, and have their own favorite songs from the soundtracks that have been known to reside in my car stereo for months after I see a show or a movie, like “the uh oh song” (track 3 from Moulin rouge), “the growling song” (track 7, disc 2 from rent) and “oh man, not THAT one again!" (any track from Mama Mia), and yes, even a select few from Hedwig, but certainly not every single line.
Life should be more like musicals. Wouldn't it be effective if, in moments of extreme emotion, we just burst into song? Did you see Enchanted? I love when Giselle suggested that Robert sing to his estranged girlfriend, otherwise how would she know his true feelings? Imagine the staff meetings if we sang the really important stuff. Imagine how much more enjoyable it would be to break up or make up with someone, to teach your kids an important message, or struggle with a difficult decision. I wish I could sing this post to you, to illustrate my affection for musicals. A singing blog... now we're talking.