you’re sitting at a one-man show (Raul Esparza doing Sondheim) and he’s talking about Company and he mentions an alternate ending song and you think “oh my God! Is he going to do “Marry Me A Little” ? And he does.
And you cry because a) you love that song and b) you knew that trivia and c) because you got a huge jolt of the person who taught you so much and d) because you are sorry/grateful (see how I slipped that in?).
I grew up watching movie musicals. LOVED them. Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Donald O’Cnner, Gene Kelly….heroes in my youth. I loved these movies because my mother did. She took us to see them and we watched them together on T.V. The best part was that she was a dancer before she started breeding and I could, still can, spot here in a host of old MGM movie musicals. I also loved musicals of stage shows, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma…you get the picture, but movies.
As I got older and decided I was going to be an actor, I gravitated to “real” plays. The fact that I cannot carry a tune had a huge amount to do with that. Musical theatre was not a passion of mine because I could not do it and because it always seemed “forced”, beaking out in song in the middle of talking. Granted it didn’t bother me at the movies, but I think that was mainly because the leap of faith already happened, it was a movie anyway so what if they added songs, it was all fantasy. Somehow stage was more “real” and musicals were silly. Of course there was A Chorus Line, but that was all sung and brilliant and a breakthrough and so real…
I always had an affinity for musical theatre, I just couldn’t admit t because I couldn’t do it. That’s the bottom line. So I ignored it a lot. Until I couldn’t anymore because I fell in love with a musical theatre nut.
I knew right from the start; he talked about all the musicals he was in or directed and I believed him and enjoyed his stories. Very early on in the friendship we enjoyed before something shifted into love he gave me a gift of the Le Miz cast album .I wrote another post about the first time I heard him sing.The first time he met my best friend was at a Barbara Cook concert (I wasn’t that familiar with Barbara Cook at the time, but was schooled on how she originated on Broadway all the roles that Shirley Jones eventually played in the movies.)
My musical theatre training began with Tom and I learned so much. Not only the music, the songs, but the backstage gossip and the iterations of songs in plays (hence Marry Me a Little as the pre-cursor to “Being Alive). Tom also loved nothing more than BAD musical theatre, or musical theatre with insane casting or community musical theatre…we saw it all. While there were a lot of horrible (but hysterical)performances, there were also revelations. I saw a production of my Fair Lady in Pasadena with Gary Beach playing Alfred Doolitle that had me laughing so hard that I actually threw up a little..brilliant. I also saw Jerry Lewis eat the scenery in Damn Yankees and, debacle tho it was, it was a lot of fun. I saw musicals in London and on Broadway as well as in La Mirada and Pasadena. I saw all the touring companys, Le Miz and Beauty and The Beast (my son’s first musical and a prouder dad there never was). We saw Cathy Rigby do Peter Pan and the kid actually got to fly, using Cathy’s rig. Tom had connections and used them, and we missed nothing, and usually from house seats. We were subscribers for years to Reprise!. And I learned so much and grew to appreciate an art form that is essential to me now, that I love with all my heart.
And that sometimes brings me to my knees with sorrow and loss and regret, because I miss him so. A night like tonite, where he knew all the songs, knew all the stories, and had passed them on to me so I knew them too…no words for that, the mixed emotions that I felt.
That I will always feel.
I know that. Sometimes it stops me…I desperately wanted to go see the recent revival of Follies, but, but….I couldn’t do it, because I would hear his voice. I cannot hear Most Happy Fella and the love song that Tony sings, that Tom sang to me. Whenever I do go to shows, I cry. It’s ok, I’m ok. I’m just crying at what is lost to me, and I hold on to the joy inherent in most musicals while mourning the loving mentor that taught me so much and showed me how valid the musical was as an art form (or how crappy/funny they can be in the wrong hands)
I remember a road trip we took for our first anniversary, and how the cast album of Company was on over and over because I was determined to learn all the words, I thought it was brilliant. And how I learned of the alternate endings (there were more).
And what resonates in my head this moment is:
why look for answers when none occur.
You always are what you always were, which has nothing to do with, all to do with (him)…