The stars keep burning. (Or: The closing of The Bridges of Madison County has me all fired up about theatre.)

I had a plan.

After I moved into my apartment and started my job and was settled into both, I was going to save every extra cent I could and get on a plane to New York City to celebrate.  Besides the fact that I miss my East Coast family something fierce and I haven’t seen most of them in six years, I miss the theatre just as fiercely.  We have theatre in LA, but I don’t have a theatre buddy, so I always seem to miss things I want to see when they are here.  So I thought, I’ll fly to New York and celebrate with The Bridges of Madison County.

Why Bridges?  I love the novel.  I am a sucker for passionate and heartbreaking romance.  Jason Robert Brown is my second favorite composer. (Georgia Stitt is #1, and something tells me JRB would be totally ok with that.)  And fun fact:  Kelli O’Hara is my absolute favorite theatre performer.  I’ve never seen her live, so to see her in Bridges felt like a no-brainer for me.  It also comes as no surprise that the Bridges score is incredible. Kelli O’Hara opens her mouth to sing those notes and it sounds like heaven.  Steven Pasquale is smooth and dreamy.  The two melt perfectly into this show and the whole cast has created something beautiful.

The Bridges of Madison County closed on May 18.

I read this really great article and interview with Kelli O’Hara in The Hollywood Reporter yesterday and it got me all fired up, even more so than I already was over this.

I am heartbroken.  Not just because I didn’t get to New York to see it, but because this show closed far before its time.  I know it’s silly to have a plan like I did when it comes to theatre, but this whole situation just makes me want to yell:  WHAT IS HAPPENING IN NEW YORK?!

This show has the most beautiful score I have ever heard in my life, which is perfectly matched with the source material.  Jason Robert Brown’s music has always been deep, intense, complex and very heavy.  All of these factors make it difficult to execute for most, but do you know what else shares those characteristics? Bridges.  This is not a light-hearted parade of sunshine and rainbows.  It was never supposed to be a show that provided you with songs you’d skip down the street singing along to.  Bridges weaved its light through its music completely intertwined in telling a story.  This show created its light from the people who transformed themselves to bring it to life.  Bridges is a thing of beauty, a true, unapologetic piece of art.

I haven’t been to New York to see a show in six years, but even then, it seemed all people wanted was spectacle — things they already knew.  I kind of see Disney and shows like Wicked as the catalysts for the metamorphosis of this art form.  Is this really what people want?  Something shiny, that they can walk into the theatre and marvel at while dancing and singing along?  Those kinds of shows are great in their own right and each has a heart, but why now should every show that comes in as a new musical fit into  that mold?  It all comes down to money and what sells and that’s sad, especially for a city that boasts of its art.  The thing about art is, it lives in a space of creativity and self-expression.  This is what art is — ANY art form.  Art connects human beings.  It takes our hearts and souls and puts them on display to teach one another how to live.  So, let’s strip away the money, the shiny and the spectacle for a second, shall we?  Art is simple, there’s no reason to complicate it.  Art is supposed to break molds and make space for new ones.

When it comes down to it — what does the theatre mean to you?

You can believe in whatever you want.  I have a very strong faith and my own set of beliefs, but I also believe in theatre.  Seeing whole worlds come to life on stage is like a religious experience for me.  Theatre is like church for me.  Stepping back and taking in that I’m watching someone else’s imagination take flight or watching their hearts beat and souls exist outside of their bodies makes me feel grateful to be alive.  I feel intimately connected to the strangers before me on stage and in the audience with me, because those moments will never come again – they will always be something special.  Seeing a show, I know there is something out there bigger than us, that guides us to painting the world to be something magnificent.

Bridges did this on its own. Bridges, in my opinion, is everything that theatre should be and seems to have lost.  Why theatregoers can’t see how vital this is, is beyond me.  Sometimes you don’t need flashy.  Sometimes you just need a story.  Sometimes you just need a connection.  Who are we as a society if we move so fast we can no longer stop to appreciate and value this concept?  Teach your children the arts, so they will know what they don’t understand.

My heart has been so achingly missing New York City, but maybe we were right in breaking up all that time ago.  When things like this happen, it makes me feel like no matter what, if I ever go back to that place,  the things that used to set my heart on fire will just leave me disappointed.  I hope one day that won’t be the case.  You are a beacon, NYC, but your far away light looks so dim from the sunlight over here.

Thank you to The Bridges of Madison County for restoring my faith in the art form that is my every reason for being.  Thank you for filling my heart to overflowing and breaking it at the same time so that I may feel my own humanity.  Thank you for being smart enough to know that something so simple can create the most sacred kind of beauty.  I am saddened that your beauty was taken for granted and was left to fade away. The rest of us who couldn’t get there will not let you go.  You did everything right.  Thank you.

There is a performance and album signing for Bridges in NYC on Friday May 23rd.  If you are in the city and are able, GO.  Go for those of us who can’t.  You can get the details here.

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