Falling Slowly: My Love Letter to (Contemporary) Musical Theater

Strange thing. I fell into musical theater pretty late. But I fell hard, and never got back up. And I guess I’m extremely happy as it is: sitting teary-eyed, in great seats I spent two hours rushing in line to get, as the Pippin cast opens with “Magic to do” fills me with joy words can’t describe.

Like many in my country, I used to think musical theater was fun but only consisted of weird people who jumped on tables and started to sing whenever the plot got too dull. My knowledge was limited to the repertoire that was broadcast on TV or movies, namely West Side Story, Grease, Flashdance, and The Sound of Music.

But then, getting to a bigger city, I witnessed the magic on stage. And there was no coming back. Everything I thought I knew about musical theater was wrong, and I wanted to join the circus.

Expressing emotions and storylines through songs brought the whole plot to another level, every single event happening became really relatable, and having an orchestra, performers and a whole crew joining in to showcase a live creation was close to perfection.

As to now, I am constantly amazed by the talent, individuality and level of musical theater performers: the wonderful versatility of Audra McDonald, the incredible range of Hadley Fraser – who can play Javert and Marius couple years apart and makes a terrific Raoul – and all the Sierras, Patinas, and Pattis that I am forgetting to mention. Every single performer filled me in with a stronger need to need to create life on stage and commit to tell a story honestly and truthfully through song, dance and theater.

Nevertheless, I had a tiny problem. Being mixed and of unclear ethnicity to other people, I’ve been told numerous times that I could never play this or that, historical characters.

And that’s when contemporary musical theater came along and opened a whole new world to me. I stumbled onto the amazing and witty song “Random Black Girl” by Kooman and Dimond on YouTube. And there, the “Don’t think you’ll ever be cast as Eponine or Cosette” line cracked me up and totally made sense to me. Beyond the well-known pieces of the classical repertory, I also dreamed a dream where I could sing to the sound of music while being me. And that material was there, all over YouTube. As I clicked from video to video, Broadway Sessions to Contemporary Classics, I felt like a kid in a candy store.

An amazing variety of songs, either witty, comedic or pretty serious but all relatable and wonderfully written. Scott Alan, Drew Gasparini, Jonathan Reid Gealt, Kooman & Dimond –  the list was endless. And I was now telling myself, “You’ve got possibilities.”

So now, the same way I’m grateful for all the Playbills I got to hold in my eager hands while the lights were dimmed, I am just grateful for every new musical theater score I get to hold when I work on new material. And time and again, their relatable storylines and music move me the same way Broadway openings do.

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