Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why I can't listen to Hamilton

Everyone knows that Hamilton is a recent darling of Broadway and cleaned up at the last Tony Awards.  I'll admit I don't know much about it, and I don't think I've actually heard any of the songs or music from it, at least that I'm aware of.  There hasn't been anything about it that has called out to me.  I like musical theatre generally, but there usually has to be a particular reason why a specific show might catch my attention.  Several months ago, this chain of thought went through my head.  And then I had a realization and burst into tears.  Hamilton is the perfect example of the kind of show that my friend Robert would have introduced me to.

The first time that happened was in 1997, when the animated movie "Anastasia" was released.  I had liked the movie and really enjoyed the songs.  Robert and I hadn't been friends for very long, but in that short time, we'd discovered a lot of common interests.  He told me that the two people responsible for the songs in that film, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, had also previously created a Broadway show called "Once on This Island", and if I liked the songs in the movie, I might like the songs in the show.  And the next time I saw him, he gave me a CD of the show soundtrack.  And I loved it.  I have since seen a couple of small productions of the show, including a terrific minimal-set production one by International City Theatre that Robert was actually able to attend with us, and my dream would be to see a full-scale production of the show.

"Wicked" was another popular show that I had zero interest in.  I knew a lot of people who loved the show, and I'd even seen the television ads for when the touring production was in town, but none of the bits and music did anything for me to want to see the show.  My first positive exposure to the show elements was probably when a couple of the songs were sung on different episodes of "Glee", which I was a huge fan of.  That made me vaguely interested in hearing the songs from the show, and I asked friends if anyone had a CD of the show soundtrack that I could listen to.  I had made arrangements with a friend to borrow the CD the next time I saw them.  But before that could happen, the CD showed up from Amazon at my house.  Robert had ordered it and sent it to me.  I did listen to it and ended up liking it and eventually saw the show.

It didn't always work when Robert sent me a CD.  He'd told me about a show he was particularly excited about called "Spring Awakening".  He had mentioned it one night during a phone call when we were obsessing over and dissected a couple of episodes of "Glee", and he brought up the show because some of the actors on "Glee" had been in this production.  Yep, the CD arrived at my house a few days later.  He'd mentioned elements of the story to me, and in this case, I'd wanted to read the play first, so I bought a copy.  Because of stuff going on at the time, I think I only got about 2/3 of the way through the play, and so I've never actually listened to the CD.  It's on the list to do someday.

I had met Robert because of our mutual love of Disneyland, and partly because of him, I was introduced to a musical stage show that was in Disneyland in the late 90's called "Festival of Fools", based on the Disney animated film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".  I'd not seen the film but the stage show gave me an appreciation of the songs in the movie, which prepped me for seeing the full Broadway show when it debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse at the end of 2014.  The show is going to be at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in the next few months, and we're planning to see the show there as well.

The last time Robert introduced me to a show was in early July 2014.  I got a couple of emails from Robert that didn't seem to make any sense, but I didn't have a chance to ask him about it immediately.  And then a few days later, I realized the emails didn't make sense because they were regarding a CD that he'd sent me that hadn't arrived yet.  He hadn't said anything previously to me about this show, but he'd apparently been listening to the CD a lot and decided I might like it.  The CD was for Idina Menzel's new Broadway show called "If/Then".  I did get a chance to listen to the CD a couple of times, and I liked it, but the story is a bit complicated and takes a bit of work to follow.  And not everything is evident from just listening to the CD.  Robert and I exchanged a couple of messages after I'd listened to the CD but never had the chance to have in-depth discussions about it.

We lost Robert to lymphoma on August 7, 2014.  As it turns out, the touring production of "If/Then" came to Los Angeles at the end of 2015, with Idina Menzel in the title role, no less, and I was glad I was able to see it and loved the show, but it was difficult to process that Robert wasn't around to see the show and that I couldn't talk to him about the show afterward.

Which brings me back to Hamilton, which is the kind of show that I think Robert would have loved, that he would have been excited about, that he would have talked about a lot, and I wouldn't have been surprised when the CD showed up in a package from Amazon at my house.  I might like the show and I might not.  But I'll never know because since Robert isn't here, that CD is never going to appear and I'm never going to listen to it.  And no, this is not a hint for friends, acquaintances and strangers to send me the CD.  It wouldn't work because it's not from Robert.  Every time I hear anything about Hamilton, I think of Robert.  My non-exposure to Hamilton is just one small indication of everything I've lost out on since Robert has been gone, movies and books and music that I haven't been able to talk to him about, experiences (his and mine) that we haven't been able to share, everything about this crazy election this year that we would have talked about.  And Disneyland.  Oh, so much Disneyland.

Two years seems like a long time and yet has also gone by in an instant.  Hugs to everyone missing someone today.




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