I like musicals.
No joke. I really do. And for some reason I’ve found myself having to defend that lately–probably because it’s Summer, and that means outdoor theatre, and this year I actually have people to do that with, so I’ve been excited about it. People seem surprised that I like musicals. I don’t know why…I mean… I’m a songwriter. If you look through my records, it’s pretty clear that I’ve slowly been writing my autobiography song-by-song. There’s not much difference between that and a musical. In fact, I maintain that EVERY songwriter is secretly writing his own, personal musical. Except maybe for Sammy Hagar.
Here’s a brief list of musicals I genuinely love and why…
- Music Man – My brother was in it in high school.
- Little Shop of Horrors – For all of the reasons you’re supposed to…and my brother was in it in high school.
- Les Miserables – I’ve discussed this on the blog before. Started singing a medley from it in high school, fell in love with it, and some of the songs make me cry while driving.
- West Side Story – When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, by God!
- Jesus Christ Superstar – First time I realized heresy can be entertaining and make a valid point.
- Annie – Yes. Annie. I like Annie. I worked sound for it when I was in high school, and it was the first real play I’d ever worked on. Got a soft spot for it.
- Camelot – Specifically the movie version–though the play is great, too…but the movie has Richard Harris in it, and he’s so fucking Richard Harrissy!
- Guys & Dolls – I was in orchestra pit playing the bass for our high school production. Got the “Best Orchestra Pit Member” award at our awards ceremony that year. Still have the little statue thingy they gave me. Plus…I mean… “Luck Be A Lady,” y’all…
- Lil’ Abner – I wasn’t actually in it or involved (long story) but this is another one my high school did while I was around…and my friend Beth Ann will always be the quintessential Daisy Mae in my heart.
- Cats – Mostly I like “Memory.” Other than that, I don’t actually have much of a relationship with “Cats” at all.
- Fiddler on the Roof – I don’t even know where to start…but the music in “Fiddler” might be the best music in terms of pure writing quality in all of Broadway.
- Wizard of Oz – I don’t love the movie anywhere near on the level as my dad…but I’m a Judy Garland fan. So it’s a must.
- Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Again, specifically the movie. The Gene Wilder movie. Because Gene Wilder.
- Bye Bye Birdie – The movie is great, but I have a particular affinity for the production my brother’s high school cast did. Their Conrad Birdie was black, which added a whole other layer to the setting of the play.
- South Pacific – I have had “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right out of My Hair” stuck in my head for 15 years and it has caused some embarrassing moments.
- Tommy – It’s the by-God WHO. And it’s a movie and a lot of people will say that means it doesn’t count…but “Tommy” is one of the first musicals (or rock-operas, if you must) that I really poured over and fell in love with. Without it, there might not be a list at all. And Jack Nicholson tries to SING in it. It’s hilarious.
- Rocky Horror Picture Show – I mean…come on.
- 1776 – I am almost ANGRY that I’ve never actually seen the play, because I love the movie so much.
And there’s a whole bunch more that should be on that list that aren’t there, but this is off the top of my head and that’s where I’m stopping.
Musicals have been a big part of my life for a long, long time. Even with the absurdity of people breaking into well-choreographed song and dance numbers to describe mundane events in their lives…I love that. I love the absurdity. And the wit. And the sadness. And the escapism. A lot of musicals deal with some really heavy topics, but they do so by singing about them. Musicals taught me long ago that if you can sing about your problems, you can contextualize them, and–holy shit!–find people who identify with you and will stand and applaud during your curtain call. That’s important. That’s why every songwriter writes. And I’m indebted to musicals for a lot of who I am as a writer and as a person…and I don’t know why people find that strange.
And as a side-bar, if I went through my recorded solo records, here’s the list of songs I’d consider putting into the musical of my own life (though not necessarily in this order)…just in case anyone wants to make a playlist. I’m putting a * next to the songs I would use as major themes.
Derek Brink: The Musical
- Fall Apart
- Battle Cry
- A Song for Friendship
- Moments (Although–fun fact–I have never once played this song again after the final recording session for that record.)
- He Is
- Off My Feet
- Being There*
- Something More
- I Was Born
- Looking Back
- Things I Meant to Say*
- Good Things*
- Remember Me
- In My Heart
- Born in this Town
- A Turning*
- New Year’s Eve
- Nothing Stays the Same
- All My Ghosts
- Just Another Day*
- …and most of the new one, once it comes out.