Saturday, July 17, 2010
Life: The Musical
If film has taught us anything (and let’s be frank, it’s taught us most things) it’s that life simply doesn’t work without a soundtrack. If Glee has added anything on to this educational bandwagon, it’s that if we could all sing (we can’t, let’s be clear, don’t delude yourself, the Idol judges were correct to reject you) then life probably would be, should be and, dare I say, could be a musical. The lot of us are all so utterly dramatic in our own heads, so prone to stage-managing our entrances, so enamored with costume changes, so keyed towards the holy glow of the boom-tish laugh line (that tells the world we are both cool and funny), that if we occasionally broke into song and dance it would just make sense.
I was reminded of our propensity to stage mental musicals just the other day. Livinia reported that as she leapt into her car to race against the clock to get her visa in time for her flight the next day her radio automatically began pumping ‘I Will Survive’, followed by ‘Eye of the Tiger’, followed by the timely ‘She’s A Maniac’ (when listed it really does seem like she accidentally got into a time machine, instead of her car). She is now in Santorini, Greece, and by god if she doesn’t have an experience worthy of Mamma Mia! then she’s just not trying.
Perhaps life would be better if we could pre-program the song book to match our days, but we seem perfectly capable of finding the Musical moments anyway. Most of my memories come with a matching theme.
I am most famed in my family for a song and dance number I choreographed aged 7 to a Bette Midler number. It was not ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, nor ‘The Rose’. No, it was the thematically troubling ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ – the tale of a woman who can’t be at a lunch appointment* because she has shot her unfaithful lover, then been hung on a willow by a lynch mob.
As I faithfully re-enacted the lyrics to my gaping family in the lounge room (Key Performance Moment #1: “From under her velvet gown, she drew a gun and shot [shot!] her lover down…”) I failed to see the problem. It was, after all, the most descriptive tune I could find (Key Performance Moment #2: “They strung her up on the willow across the way, and the moment before she died… she lifted up her lovely head and cried, madam…”). There’s probably nothing quite like watching a 7 year old pretend to hang herself while belting out a show tune. Why I did this remains unclear (though it’s now a commonly requested drunken classic at family gatherings – dead horse, beaten), but I suspect 7 year old me simply knew that life only really works when it’s a musical.
Musical moments pepper both the mundane and the significant occasions. Who knows why I insist on humming the theme tune to Charlie’s Angels whenever I am waiting for something? It’s certainly not a result of watching the TV show… because I’ve never seen it. Why would the cremation centre where we farewelled my grandfather insist on playing a cheesy instrumental version of ‘I Can’t Live (If Living Is Without You)’? If it was to cause my sisters and I to belt it out in a moment of black humour during the car trip home then it succeeded.
I know why I used to provide jazz hands to my own internal version of ‘Le Freak’ (“Ah, freak out!”) while at my old job, occasionally concerning crew members by incorporating them into a dance set to a song they couldn’t hear. I fully understand a family performance of ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas one night last Christmas holidays that led to one of my aunts nearly hurling on the beach the next morning. I don’t think anyone on my street can comprehend why I begin doing sideways slides and jazz leaps when the theme for Austin Powers starts playing on my iPod.
When I found out Dad had bowel cancer last week I began inexplicably humming the opening few bars of Bohemian Rhapsody for 2 days straight.
Music is what we do to express what we can’t. The fact that most of us really can’t sing (or dance) is the only thing that keeps us in check. I know I can’t sing because in a compulsory Drama class choir in Year 10 the self-nominated group leader had to ask me to mime because I was putting everyone else off. Then there were the 5 different musicals I tried out for – the best I did was being a dancer in Romeo & Juliet. Dancers in Romeo & Juliet? you ask… it also involved the entire cast wearing white plastic masks which we slowly removed and raised to the sky while choral music played in the final scene. Sometimes the musicals in our head are better anyway.
* Side note = if I had shot my lover and been hung by an angry mob for my troubles (and my name was Miss Otis), then not being able to make it to lunch would probably be the least of my regrets.