Hometown. One word with so many memories of friends, family, love, hate, failures, achievements, stupid crazy adventures and life lessons between it all. As I was driving home this weekend and singing my heart out to Ben Rector and Kacey Musgraves, I couldn’t help but smile to myself and feel a touch of joy tickle my heart as I thought about everything my small town has taught me, and continues to give to me every time I return from the south.
I think the majority of people can agree that times have been tougher and more emotional lately. We hear horrible news stories and wonder what the world has to throw at us next and if there can be any saving grace to the darkness that is seeming to close in on our lives. This past week, I have felt an immense heaviness on my heart from the events that have happened within our country, and it seemed like nothing could shake me from this internal weight.
And then, once I returned home, my mom gently reminded me we were going to watch my high school’s production of "42nd Street" before they take it to the International Thespian Festival this week. My eyes lit up and my heart leaped because for the first time this week, I could escape this world and go into one full of light, music and magic. Something about musicals has always stirred my soul and caused me to pursue musical theater since elementary school all the way through my senior year of high school. Being on stage is both a terrifying and adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding, eyes sparkling experience, but being a part of the audience has never lost its magical touch on me.
As I sat in the audience during the show, I was transported back to the 1920s with glitz, glamour and the story of a girl who made it big in show business. Is this story realistic? Of course not, but that is the beauty of musicals because anything is possible. From my red, cushioned audience chair, I took in the multicolored lights and backdrops of New York City, New York, glamour sets of train stations and dressing rooms, tap numbers that were performed by high school students who should be professionals, songs that sang to my heart about trying your best and succeeding and watching the story of a girl who was a nobody come to the top and become the star of the show.
When the curtain closed and the orchestra pit began the final song, everyone in the audience shot up to their feet and hollered, clapped, cheered, talked and laughed about how amazing the show was. As I looked around, everyone had pure joy on their faces and the students on stage were hugging each other and crying because they knew their hard work had paid off. More than 600 people in the audience were transported back in time, including myself, and all of our spirits were lifted by the magic of the musical.
After the show, I met up with old friends and even said hello to my costume lady from high school. Everyone agreed this show was the perfect mixture of amusement and storytelling. My former costume lady even told me about a guy who had been in musical theater with me and had come up from Florida just to see the show. He had been in an extremely dark place emotionally because two of his friends had been killed in the Orlando shooting. However, after he watched this show, he told her that he felt like his spirit had been lifted and he could go on. That is what musical theater is about. Not only do people feel something while they are watching the show, but that feeling of pure happiness can only come from something special that continues past the closing of the curtain.
Who knew a group of high school students could create an experience that touched the hearts and souls of more than 600 people. That is art at its finest. While there may be darkness in the world at any given point in time, there is always a spark of magic somewhere to be found. For me, that is watching musical theater, but for others it may be a completely different outlet – playing guitar, ukulele, cajón or any other instrument, painting a canvas or wall, sketching in a notebook or on a napkin, decorating a room, enjoying a walk around the park and taking in the beauty of nature or whatever suits your little heart’s desires. In the end, do whatever lifts your soul and gives you a sense of magic in this life because there is always something beautiful to be found.