all this talk (writing and listening to clips) of musicals i have seen leads me to now talk about a couple of musicals that i have NEVER seen (i know! can you imagine that there are some that i have never seen? i guess “i’ve got a lotta livin’ to do” which just happens to be lyrics from a song in bye bye birdie.)
one of the musicals that i LOVE LOVE LOVE but have never seen on the stage is ragtime. it was on broadway in the late 90‘s. which were the years when i had three children at home and preschool and i wasn’t going anywhere but publix. so few broadway musicals are shown in publix. sigh.
it is based on a novel (thank you wikipedia) and is mostly sung through with a lot of ragtime (hence the name. think scott joplin’s maple leaf rag) and gospel music. it starred two of my FAVORITE broadway actors. two actors whom i have NEVER seen perform live. so sad. for them and me... audra mcdonald and brian stokes mitchell. it also starred a young lea michelle (who is now on the tv show glee. i have this against her... she pronounces her name leA, which is wrong.) a little side note... audra mcdonald also makes an appearance in my favorite play/movie of all time, margaret edson’s pulitzer prize winning play w;t (or here is the film version, wit.)
back to ragtime (i will go back to the play wit tomorrow. just wait.) i love THESE three songs the mostest...
till we reach that day. (not the broadway production. but you get the idea.)
so many plays to see. so little time.
which is why i have this crazy idea that there are musicals in heaven. or as my friend, debbie, who told her son when he asked if big bird would be in heaven, “if that is what you need to be happy in heaven then big bird will be there. but i think that maybe by the time you get to heaven you won’t need big bird to be eternally joyful.” she got that from the message version of the Bible. it just seems (right now in my imperfect and very limited version of myself) that i will need musicals to make me happy.
it is when i am sitting in the dark theater watching a musical where i feel the closest to what i think Heaven will feel like to me (and every real theologian reading this just cringed.) but i can’t fully explain it (and by typing that i just launched in my head to the song electricity from billy elliot when he tried to explain how he feels about dancing... “i can’t really explain it. i haven’t got the words...”. i find it hard to express HUGE concepts without launching into a broadway song playing out in my head.) perhaps it is something about being a part of the story being acted out there in front of you. the soaring music. the voices blending in harmonies. show stoppers. three songs being sung at the same time and making sense. i just disappear into the mystery of it all. in what is a teeny tiny infinitesimal way compared to the Greater Musical that i will join one day. a great musical makes me yearn for Heaven in a way far beyond the sufferings of life make me yearn (maybe because i have attended far more musicals than i have had to suffer in this life. the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.) don’t get me wrong, daily the ugliness of life (of my own sinfulness) makes me want that perfection of our Heavenly Home... but it is the SHEER MAGNIFICENCE of BEAUTY and WONDER of life makes me truly YEARN because even the most magical musical moment falls short somehow of what i KNOW IN MY SOUL must exist. it is always one note short of eternity.
as always c.s. lewis says it the way i wish i could say it (which is why he and i are living next door to each other in heaven.) in his retelling of the myth of cupid and psyche, till we have faces. when i read this passage it stopped my breathing for a minute because it so concisely explained the feeling that i have had many times in my life in “longing for death”...
“i have always — at least, ever since I can remember — had a kind of longing for death."
“Ah, Psyche,” I said, “have I made you so little happy as that?”
“No, no no,” she said. “You don't understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine … where you couldn't see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home.”
“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that's all the life we have known before it)
into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.”
i am sure that everyone has their “thing” that makes them so happy that they yearn to push back the veil and see the beauty that must be beyond... mine is musicals. yours may be sports, music, the mountains, the ocean, gardening, art, movies, books (ok, mine may be books also), a good meal (ok, mine may be french silk pie also.) eric liddell (chariots of fire) saw this in his running, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
c.s. lewis (again with the lewis quotes!) saw this everywhere... and saw it as a marker of what is to come...
“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them;
it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire;
but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,
breaking the hearts of their worshippers.
For they are not the thing itself;
they are only the scent of a flower we have not found,
the echo of a tune we have not heard,
news from a country we have never yet visited.
– CS Lewis, 1942, ‘The Weight of Glory’
“…that was not the real Narnia. That has a beginning and an end.
It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here …
And of course it is different, as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”
CS Lewis, The Last Battle, p.159-60
“It was when I was happiest that I longed most...
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...
to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
(paraphrase of the quote from Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis)
or in my case... to find the place where all the musicals came from. perhaps there is a place even greater than broadway. the narrowway. ha. sometimes i crack myself up Biblically. a place where there are stories and singing...
The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;
in His love He will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
don’t you think that means that there are musicals in Heaven? starring Jesus? and me? i hope so...
wheels of a dream...