Friday, November 25, 2016
"Dreams Don't Die, So Keep An Eye On Your Dreams!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
When I read the opening line of Stephen Holden's review for this film, I wanted to smack him. He said, "I am one of the few people to have seen the original production of 'Merrily We Roll Along.'"
Well, guess what Stephen??????? I saw it twice! The first time on Halloween night, 1981, and then the following Saturday night, so there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Maybe seeing 'Merrily,' or having claimed to, has become what Dorothy Parker said about the Yale prom--"If all those in attendance, were laid end to end, I wouldn't be at all surprised." Me either, Dorothy.
Watching the remarkable documentary film Lonny Price (the original Charley Kringas) has made is not only fascinating to me who saw the show, it is like watching my past life unfold. No, I was not in 'Merrily,' but there were so many connections to my life around it, now and then, that I feel as caught up in it, as anything else.
In a question answer session, afterwards, Mr. Price said he was one of those kids who could sing every verse of "Company." Over here, Mr. Price! Me, too! And that also includes some other Sondheim works, including, of course, 'Merrily'.
To this day, I cannot see a production of "Sweeney Todd" without a deep emotional reaction, during the song "Johanna," when Todd sings, "If only angels could prevail, we'd be the way we were." The line is beautiful, but what is informative here about me is that during the time I saw this--several times--on Broadway, my mother was dying of lung cancer. And the reason I kept going back to see the show was that line, because in real life I so much wanted things to be the way they were, knowing they could not. And this was how I coped with that.
By the time 'Merrily' was getting on its feet, I was in grad school at NYU, making inroads in the city. At the bookstore where I worked, was a young woman, Mary Rose Wood, who, we all knew, would leave, at various times, as she was auditioning for something. When she was cast, she told us, and what the show was. That is how I first heard about "Merrily We Roll Along." I was so excited about she, and others of my contemporaneity, being in a musical on Broadway, I could not wait.
On that fated Halloween night, at the box office, I met a gentleman, with whom I would be friends for 29 years, David Semonin. He is gone, but seeing this documentary took me back to that night, and memory.
As for that viewing, here is what I remember. When the 43-year-old Franklin Shepard came out at the graduation, I thought how old that age was. I was 26, at the time. Years later, when I reached that age, I listened to the Original Cast recording, and realized how this show and my life had morphed. I was no longer those young kids; I was the older set in Act One. How could this be possible?
What else? I was enraptured by the score; I had to sing it! I loved the poster, I thought Ann Morrison and Lonny Price were our Stars Of Tomorrow, and I related to it as an anthem of youth, not a warning of what to watch out for.
Well, I made my forays in New York. I made a success of it, not like the actors or characters in the show, but still, I had, in my own way, arrived. Time kept moving, during which I met my beloved, and we saw the ENCORES production of the show, several years ago, and that is when I realized I had come full circle with this show. Because, at the end, when all are on the roof, singing "Our Time," what in 1981 I thought was just a beautiful song became, now, a heartbreaking experience in which the past 25 years flashed before me, and I recalled that I had, in my own way, been one of those young people on the roof, and now, sadly, I was beyond that. That ship had sailed.
All this went through my head while watching "Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened." Which doesn't mean I did not enjoy seeing the cast members today--it was a blast--and looking back on a show that had meaning to me, too. But, I am telling you, when the piano intro started, and Lonny began singing "Good Thing Going," I cried. Ditto "Our Time."
Anyone interested in musical theater should see this film. But it is also a film about youth transitioning to age. One generation is represented on screen, but it is something that happens to all, if you stay on this planet long enough, and I think that is as much of a message the film puts out, as it does about theater.
Thank you, Mr. Price, for encapsulating Theater and the Human Condition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!