Dear Friend: A Note On SHE LOVES ME

img_9808
My life is a mess. Changes are happening faster than I can keep up with them. Most of these changes have and continue to be extremely difficult for me. I’ve had to detach from the majority of social media to be with myself, to meditate and pray through every turn life seems to be taking.

For now I’m going to put aside my messy life and the added devastation over the state of the world, to talk about something that brought with it more joy than I ever imagined possible.

Last year for my birthday, my Gramma handed me a check and told me to “go have an adventure with it.” I was completely shocked. My Gramma has never done anything like that. In true “me” fashion, I got on a plane to NYC as fast as I possibly could to be with my heart family. This trip was truly the most magical I’ve ever had in that city. Maybe one day I’ll write about it in more detail here, but right now I need to discuss the power of theatre.

On May 1, I went to see SHE LOVES ME at Studio 54 with three of my sisters. Let’s be real here, I went to this show in the first place because number one, seeing Laura Benanti on my NYC trips has kind of become the thing that My Person and I do together. Number two, the accessible seats are in the front row and I desperately wanted to hear Laura Benanti sing “Vanilla Ice Cream” right in my face. This is a thing that actually DID happen, but I was not prepared for the experience I was going to have in the theatre that day. I wasn’t prepared at all.

Leading up to this day, this particular trip had been pretty hard on my body physically. The flight was harder than usual. Once I was there, I was in a constant state of adjusting to what felt like a million different kinds of pain. Never once did I complain, because I was with my family, in my city, I was taken care of and loved. Real love means someone sits with you through pain and breaks out funny Benanti videos to make you laugh through your tears and get you pumped for the next day’s joy. (Thanks Diana. Love you.)

And joy was had that day, indeed.

From the moment we got to our seats, the excitement was shooting out of my face. I was smiling all the way up to my eyeballs and I don’t think that smile left my face for at least a week afterwards. I held My Person’s hand and as soon as the show started it was like I left the theatre and was taken to another place. There are many kinds of transcendent theatre experiences and SHE LOVES ME is transcendent joy. (Well, aside from the part of the end of Act One that depresses you right before intermission. Thank goodness for a later happy ending. It is a “romantic-ish musical comedy” after all.) There was a moment in Act Two when Zachary Levi sang part of “She Loves Me” on the steps of the stage right to me and Janice and I melted into my chair. I was pretty sure I’d never come back from that. It was the most perfect moment.

That said, this cast is wonderful. Laura went above and beyond for me when she did not have to.  My heart will remember her small act of kindness, that was much bigger than she’ll ever know, forever. Then we were escorted to the stage door where Nick Barasch was adorable, Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi were both equally kind.

There was tangible magic in the air as my sisters and me walked away from 54th Street. We were goofing off and singing our conversations to the tune of “Vanilla Ice Cream” and practically skipping in the rain. If real life were a musical, this has been my favorite scene in mine without question.

It was hardest it’s ever been to say goodbye when I left the city this go-round. I got home to LA and was doing everything I could to try to get back to my family and this show before it closed in July. At the time, I didn’t know that it was just a “see you later.”

On June 30, SHE LOVES ME was live streamed on BroadwayHD all across the world. History was made that night as it was the first show to ever do this. I am so grateful for this and I will never understand how it was THIS production that got to make this feat. All I wanted was to see it one more time. Instead for the last week and a half, I’ve gotten to watch it as much as I want to. (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve watched, the number is high, but the joy… The joy will never leave me.) On the night of the live stream, my sister Diana sent me this text:

img_9871
I am so thankful I experienced this show with human beings who understand the power of live theatre.

To the cast of SHE LOVES ME: Thank you. The time I spent in that place with you changed me. I can’t imagine another theatre experience being as special as this. The world is so dark and broken right now and you have been a light that has shone through the darkness. You all made the world better with the gift you gave to us through your hearts and passion every night.

To the Roundabout Theatre Company and everyone at Studio 54: Thank you for this show. Thank you for every single helpful, accommodating and kind human being who worked to make that one day extra special for me and my friends without being asked. I will never forget it.

And finally, to Laura Benanti: When I got back home, I wrote you a letter. I never do that, so I’m not sure if you received it, but in case you didn’t… Thank you. There’s nothing I can say to you that will ever be enough. You didn’t know me, but you gave me your time and that is precious to me. You made me feel appreciated for supporting you. I have a very sensitive heart and soul. I am big on human connection. I believe we are all here to uplift and celebrate each other in this life. What connected in my heart that day, opened the sky for me. You made me feel like I am worthy of something wonderful. You made me embrace my own humanity when I wasn’t really feeling it at the time. Thank you for being so real, so kind and so human. You’ve forever changed me. Your place in my heart has grown beyond a capacity I never saw coming. Just… Thank you. Please continue to take care of yourself and do your own thing. You make the world brighter just as you are.

She Loves Me ended its run today. My heart doesn’t even have room to break because the joy and memories are holding it strong. And yet, this isn’t goodbye. In November for my birthday, I’ll get to see the show again in a movie theater. I don’t know how things like this keep happening with this show, but I’ve learned not to question it at this point. My Person calls it a connected invisible thread. Nothing can break it. I know, I just know, it’s God telling me it will always be here and be a reason to believe in something better.

I love you, you beautiful, joyful little sweet show. Thank you for bringing out my joy face.

Advertisements

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.