Anyone who knows me personally, or via my twitter account, knows that I am a huge fan of musical theater and my dream is to one day be a critic for Broadway shows. But not everyone knows how I became interested in musicals or why I love them so much.
Growing up, I watched a ton of Disney movies, but I also watched “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady.” While these films were, and still are, my all time favorites, my love for musicals did not begin until I saw something that, in my opinion, was entirely different.
When I was around six-years-old my mom and stepdad (who at the time was my mom’s boyfriend), recorded the musical “CATS” when it was on television one night and my mom decided to introduce me to it. She only showed me a few scenes on the VHS tape, but that was enough to get me hooked. Next thing I knew I was watching the entire film while dancing to it, especially when Rum Tum Tugger came on the screen. Love him!
That’s right. It was not Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett or even Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry I danced to. It was John Partridge and his awesome shoulder shake.
I saw my first live musical with my grandparents when I was about eight. The show was “Beauty and the Beast.” I remember we were in the high seats and I had to use binoculars to see the what was happening, but I did not use them most of the time.
“Beauty and the Beast” was good, but at eight-years-old I did not really think about it or the cast. I remember wondering about the song “Human Again” because it was not in the Disney cartoon, so I was a little confused, but I went with it.
Another wonderful thing happened when I was eight-years-old. I discovered the music from “The Phantom of the Opera” on a Andrew Lloyd Webber CD in my mom’s car. There were only three songs from the musical on the album, but that is all it took for me to become obsessed with yet another one of Webber’s works. Needless to say the title song, “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You” were on repeat every time I was in the car. Sorry mom.
Two years later I had the opportunity to see “The Phantom of the Opera” on stage. The show was on tour and me, my mom and our family friend went to go see it. I remember the auctioneer was creepy, the cast was great and the thing that boggled my mind the most was the Phantom was the “bad guy.” You can imagine my confusion when the audience started cheering for him at curtain call. I did not fully grasp the meaning of the musical and it’s characters until I was in high school, but until that time I loved the music.
When I was 14, I got to see “The Phantom of the Opera” in New York. It was the first show I got the chance to see on Broadway and to this day I am still happy about it. This show has a special place in my heart and will always be my favorite musical.
“CATS” was not only the show that got my passion started, but when I was watching the DVD in high school I began to realize how much work was involved behind the scenes, mainly, the costumes, makeup, choreography, etc. That was when I really started to appreciate what goes into making a musical.
Fast forward. I was 19, in college and oh, my gosh! The stage recording of the “Phantom” 25th anniversary was going to be on DVD! My mom bought it for me after I asked and I spent my Valentine’s Day watching it. Who needs a date when you have “Phantom?”
Once again, I had a epiphany. Thanks to the close ups on the DVD I was able to see the orchestra and I was suddenly hit with appreciation for them, because I never gave much thought to the people who play the music. I was in awe of everything. Ramin’s “Music of the Night” made me recognize acting abilities and Sierra’s “Wishing” and “Wandering Child” made me think about vocals and range. Hadley Fraser was a joy to watch because of his facial expressions, powerful voice and charming smile.
Because of two actors who were involved in “Phantom” 25, I wanted to watch the hit musical, “Les Misérables,” which was filmed as a concert recording and had been released on DVD two years prior.
A bit of history. My mom tried to get me to listen to the “Les Misérables” soundtrack when I was at least 10. She saw it in London with my stepdad and thought I would like it. I looked it up, but it did not appeal to me and the title made it sound miserable.
Looking back now, I can honestly say I am glad I was older when I discovered the”Les Misérables.” As I was watching the 25th anniversary on DVD, I fell in love with it. The music was astonishing, the story was phenomenal and the actors, with the exception of Nick Jonas, blew me away. I also fell in love with the characters and was introduced to more actors.
I saw “Les Misérables” live for the first time in 2012 and I was very excited. It was on tour and the film version was set to be released later that year. Perfect timing! The musical was even more beautiful in person and the cast was amazing. A couple of years later I was able to see the the revival on Broadway and got the chance to meet Ramin Karimloo.
As my college years went by I saw more shows and my love for theater grew. I bought albums by actors and cast recordings. I paid attention to Broadway and touring group news, got more DVDs and read more books that musicals and plays were based on. Some were for class, others for enjoyment. My bedroom walls are now covered with posters and a few have not been framed yet.
When I started to learn more about musicals and actors in college, my family told me I should do something with my passion, but I did not know what and shrugged them off. It was not until later I decided I wanted to be a critic.
Once I changed my major to journalism and my minor to theater, everyone I knew thought it was a better fit for me. It was a long process (or so it seemed), but I finally graduated in December of 2015.
I graduated college with a higher respect for the arts because of classes I took, productions I helped with (I was always on crew) and my love for musicals intact. I can now say I do not just appreciate theater, but rather all forms of art.
Here is a reflection of what I have learned:
Writers pour out their souls and artists make theirs visible. Photographers capture moments and must choose several perfect photos out of the hundreds they take. Musicians work hard as they continue to play, read, write music and/or sing. No matter what form it is in, the arts matter.
Why do I love musicals? Because they tell a story, they inspire people and they are a joy to watch. The cast and crew work hard and I have learned to appreciate them. I fell in love with musical theater at a young age and it just grew from there. Eventually, it was something I had a passion for and wanted to critique. It all started with “CATS” and “Phantom.”