Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Stop me before I sing again

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Stop me before I sing again

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My friend Erica just saw “Hamilton” and is in danger of appearing a little obsessed. Like me. She’s the one who gave me the cast recording, which I listened to many times  before I saw the show. As Wesley Morris said in his New York Times Magazine article, “To know someone who has this album is to know someone who needs a restraining order.”

It’s wearing. For me to ask Dr. D. to stand by saying, “Rise up!” “(Eyes up! Wise up!”) Those of you singing along right now know who you are. To wake up not knowing if what’s playing in your head will be “He got a lot farther by being a lot smarter/by working a lot harder/by being a self-starter” or the deliciously smarmy King George lines, “You’ll be back/wait and see/you’ll remember you belong to me.” I did say obsession. Or maybe it’s more like possession--being possessed by the songs.

Broadway and I have history. A brief mention of something can find me leaping to “It’s been a real nice clambake” or “you’re always sorry/you’re always grateful,” not always to the delight of the other person in the room “where it happens/the room where it happens.”

I love all those shows. I consider Cole Porter’s lyrics the essence of sophistication. The music from “Carousel” or “Oklahoma” makes me think  how revolutionary those musicals were when they first appeared. When I saw the Broadway revival of “South Pacific” a few years ago, its commentary on racism, first served up to an audience newly finished with World War II, felt even more astounding seen in our current century. And Sondheim--what can I say? The perfect voice for generations raised since Freud’s ideas became part of the air we breathe.  I even have a soft spot in my heart for “1776,” an earlier well-intentioned but forgettable go at portraying the Founding Fathers, for its rhyming of predicate and Connecticut. (It’s better in the context of the song. Trust me.)

And now this transformative musical that, thanks to the recording, has a reach far beyond the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Ok, possessed…obsessed….I’m there.

(An aside-- proof it’s not just me::
Me to Erica—I’m crazy about Daveed Diggs.
Erica, before seeing “Hamilton”: Who’s Daveed Diggs?
Erica, after seeing “Hamilton”: I see what you mean about Daveed Diggs.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant show has also made me think about how much the brilliance of hugely gifted people adds to my life. Dr. D and I recently heard Matthew Aucoin’s settings for several James Merrill poems. We saw Maya Lin’s moving River  of Pins , which can’t really be adequately conveyed by a photograph. I read Linda Pastan’s newest collection of poems and thought, with awe, of how she continues to cover the same ground, poem after poem, book after book, going deeper rather than repeating herself, never failing to offer new insight, new understanding, new mysteries. I read Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton before I saw the  show, and that, too, is unforgettable, and impossible to put down, which is a little inconvenient since it’s 700-plus pages. What touches me, what reaches out and makes me feel lucky to experience these and other wonderful works is the passion with which they are created.

I am filled with gratitude.

And I would probably earn the gratitude of those around me if I could just rein in my Hamilton habit a little. (“I wish I could say that was the last time/I said that last time/ It became a pastime.”) Maybe if I just think of all those amazing works of art that I am grateful to have seen and heard and read, I can find the antidote to my obsession by thinking about—(oh no!)--”what they did for love…..”

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