Oh, The Drama
It was our first date. It would also be our last. The lanky creature sitting across from me, a police officer with 31 years of life experience to my 20, had just delivered a startling confession.
“What do you like to do?” he asked.
“Musical theater!” I told him. “I perform in a Broadway review troupe at school.”
His eyes looked like the empty bubbles on a standardized test sheet, registering none of the above. “Musical theater,” he said. “I have no idea what that is.”
Ahem. No idea what that is?
I suppressed the urge to point out that the words themselves — “musical” and “theater” — tell you what musical theater is, and instead said, “You’ve heard of Broadway shows? In New York City? In which actors sing and dance upon a stage?”
Again with the SAT eyes.
“Oklahoma!” I prompted. “Annie, Grease, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof?”
It was like trying to educate a cactus about snow. Pretty shapes made of water? Falling from the sky? Preposterous!
I wanted to throw up my jazz hands and shuffle-ball change my way out of the restaurant that very instant. This man was an officer of the law. How he thought he could protect Nashville’s citizens without knowing at least some of the words to “Summer Nights” was beyond me.
Of course that was before I knew. Musical theater is not for everyone.
It was not for my previous boyfriend’s father, who had sat rigid and stone-faced while his only son took center stage wearing a shiny gold unitard in our college production of Cats. The suit was my idea. As that season’s costume director, I had painstakingly sewn little strips of fur to it to accent his neck, wrists, and ankles. And yet, while my sweetheart and his giant kitty feet leapt and pranced and informed the audience about what Jellicles are and Jellicles do, I swear you could hear his father’s voice rise up over the orchestra crying, DUMP HER!
When I finally met the man I would eventually marry, I made absolutely sure he had heard of musical theater.
Oh yes. I did.
At least once a year to my eternal horror he tells the story of how, on our first date, I tried to seduce him by popping in a cassette tape of myself singing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story.
Vixen! What man could resist?
There is also a slight chance that on that very same evening I might have subjected him to some brief video footage of myself performing numbers from Beauty and the Beast, Miss Saigon, Into the Woods, and South Pacific. Maybe. I can’t really remember over the sound of my cheeks smoldering with a red, hot, burning shame that will never die.
Musical theater: it’s what happens when one’s desire to sing show tunes eclipses the need for social acceptance.
And I repent! I have seen the error of my ways. I have also seen enough amateur productions of Fiddler on the Roof to turn my brain into a matzo ball.
I have seen how at its worst, musical theater can feel like a Rooms To Go commercial gone horribly wrong. One minute a man and a woman are mispronouncing bedroom suites, and the next they’re lunging off leather ottomans, lamenting their star-crossed love in two-part harmony.
I have seen the discomfort civilians must endure when attending a cocktail party peppered with thespians, knowing that at any moment one of us might leap out from behind a fichus tree singing “Send in the Clowns.”
After all these years, I concede. Musical theater is not for everyone, and it’s best when left to the experts.
But it will always have a special place in my heart.
And in my shower, when no one else is home.