The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
After hearing countless words of praise regarding Charlie Rosen and his Broadway Big Band, I got myself a ticket to see his latest concert at 54 Below. I can now include myself among the massive fan base that Mr. Rosen and his 17 piece orchestra have accumulated. Perhaps one of the most stunning features about the entire night was watching Charlie Rosen onstage not only dream up a sound so explosive and impacting, but also hearing (and seeing) it come into full fruition in a way many would deem impossible.
We are caught in an age of practicality and logistics. Too often I hear how musical theatre writers suggest that theatrical limitations or the inability to obtain legal rights prevent them from writing what they actually want to write. But the truth of the matter is this: you do not need millions of dollars or a piece of paper in order to express yourself as an artist.
Charlie Rosen and his incredible Broadway orchestra served as an indelible and inspiring reminder of this credo. Obviously money and legality can exist as obstacles. More often than desired, they do. But seeing those obstacles be overcome simply make the artistry all the more thrilling. Why else would Antonin Artaud write a play like Spurt of Blood, in which the stage directions include “A hurricane separates them. At the same time, two Stars are seen colliding and from them fall a series of legs of living flesh.” Whether we all want to share the dreams of Mr. Artaud is a different story. But like it or not, the man said what he wanted to say, and a hundred years later audacious theatre directors are still tackling his play.
After getting my Bachelors, I decided to meet with a friend/New Musical Theatre writer to talk about careers, projects, and the overwhelming panic I felt after leaving the world of academia. One statement he made was quite clear: no matter how great you are at writing musicals, the odds of you making any money in the next several years are slim. This is just a given nature when it comes to the relationship of theatre and money. While at first the notion felt rather frightening, it also liberated me of any pressure to write something “commercially viable” or producer-friendly. In fact, it simply made me want to write about whatever I wanted to write about.
Luckily, it seems as if we’re living in a community that’s embracing the writers who write what they’re passionate about. So I’d like to raise a glass to the crazy musical theatre dreamers in the world. To the ones who dreamed up a musical with no plot and two dozen cats running around the stage. To the ones who dreamed up an “R” rated puppet show a la Sesame Street. To the ones who wrote a musical as a wedding present, only to have it dance on Broadway. And to the ones who dream up 17 jazz musicians on the 54 Below stage. Not every dream becomes a reality, but that’s usually how the most unexpected and impacting works of art happen.
If someone ever says to a writer, “That would never make a good musical,” or “No one would want to produce that,” then that might be their cue to grab their pen and paper and start writing.