An Open Letter To The Shows That Made Me Who I Am Today

An Open Letter To The Shows That Made Me Who I Am Today

A reflection on Broadway shows, and the unique perspective they bring to adolescence and affect the way the fans (like me) grow up.

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I don't just like Broadway musicals because they astound. I don't just like Broadway shows because they are brilliantly done, or because they get me singing tunes unique to everything else on the radio. I don't just like them because I know nothing compares to the feeling of standing outside a theater, ticket in hand, hearing the blares of New York City's taxi horns or the loud hustle of voices crowding the sidewalk. The reason I like them, and become so engaged, is because amongst all the singing and dancing and relative dramatics, I see myself.

"History has it's eyes on you." From my seat in the orchestra section, I smile at this line. Not only is it so exquisitely sung by the dark skinned, blue coated revolutionary on stage, but because it is such an intelligent way to convey the image of the battered, but brilliant, rebels that serve as the focus of Hamilton. Of course, there's nothing about the musical that's not extremely intelligent or well-researched. It introduces the fact that those in history are flawed, not the cardboard cutouts we paint them as. It's what drew me to the show in the first place, and what keeps me listening. It's what got me reading the entirety of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and up to the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, solely to learn more about the topic. The realization that these figures, though living long ago and conquering near impossible odds, are ones I can relate to stimulates my intellectual curiosity and brings new intellectual dilemmas I love exploring.

There's also a scene in the musical Next to Normal that perfectly captures the feeling of struggling with mental illness in the midst of a loving family who can't understand.The mother is seated between two men, one her husband telling her he thinks he knows what she's going through, and the other her son, a figment of her imagination as a personification of her disorder, comforting her. Each supposedly bring messages of love, but only the son's can truly reach her. As one who has been in the mother's place, I remember the feeling of a whirlwind swirling inside the head while the only "sane" thing heard is the disorder's "'voice'". I have since conquered this adversity and become stronger because of it, so I can recognize the intelligence of such a scene as this while still feeling completely understood. It's an impressive feat, the way the show brings my feelings across to a populace who may never have experienced them, so how can I not harness that understanding and try to do that for others. If there's just a chance that what I've gone through and learned can be helpful, like this show was to me, then I want to explore that idea.

There's also the musical Falsettos, brilliantly capturing what it means to try and fit into society while struggling with preconceived notions of sexuality and gender roles, and The Book of Mormon, full of humor directly reflecting my own questions about religion, and so many more too numerous to mention. If I wish to learn even more, there are books written, scripts annotated, and interviews filmed, all I do use, but there's nothing like connecting with other fans of the same shows. We are related through our love of these concepts and characters; I often read extraordinary insight not written by professionals, but by others like me who saw something they connected with.

"I'm just like my country, I'm young, scrappy, and hungry," is the indirect slogan of Hamilton and yet is an element of Broadway in which I directly see myself. I'm "hungry" for new knowledge and experiences, "scrappy" in defiance to established social and political norms I disagree with, and "young" and ready to use this defiance and knowledge to make a difference in my community and my world.

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The 11 Most Meaningful 'Dear Evan Hansen' Quotes

Eleven of my favorite quotes from the new musical "Dear Evan Hansen" that changed my perspective after seeing the musical live.
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The new musical Dear Evan Hansen, showing on Broadway's Music Box Theater is a suprisingly uplifting story about a boy who kills himself, and the star of the show (Evan Hansen played by Ben Platt) getting caught up in a messy lie, pretending to be best friends with the boy who took his life.

The story, however, is much more than one of sadness or suicide. It is one of love, the unconditional kind and the kind that you find yourself falling into. It is a story of friendship and forgiveness and owning up to your mistakes. But most importantly it is a story of accepting yourself and becoming confident in your own skin.

I was given the opportunity to see Dear Evan Hansen live on Broadway, and after hearing the songs live, the lyrics gave me a whole new meaning than when I would listen to them in my room through my headphones.

1. "I've learned to slam on the break, before I even turn the key."

Coming from the first song that was released off of the soundtrack "Waving Through a Window," this line helps charactarize Evan as anxious and nervous during interactions with others. Hitting the brake while starting a car is not necessary for it to start, but he creates this metaphor by saying he takes extra and unnecessary cautions before entering any seemingly simple and easy situation. As Evan is characterized, the audience or the listeners are able to connect better to him and to the story because more people than we may know must go through anxious thoughts and actions, that can be very difficult to live with.

2. "No one should stick it out or have any doubt that it matters that they are here."

"Dissappear," a song sung by Evan and his two friends as a proposal to Connor's (boy who committed suicide and was presumably best friends with Evan) parents about a project they are beginning to keep Connor's legacy alive, is a straightforward remark that "no one deserves to dissappear." This quote recognizes the struggles that many people face of hiding their struggles and not doing anything to fix them because they think it would be easier to hide it. It recognizes that people should not have to do this, and it is a request for people who are going through the things that Connor did to reach out and tell people that they are struggling, because it really does get better and asking for help is the first step.

3. "It takes a little patience, takes a little time. A little perseverance and a little uphill climb."

I believe this quote can relate to many things. It is a duet sung by Connor's father and Evan, titled "To Break in A Glove." Though it is literally talking about the correct way to break in a baseball glove, it can also be talking about parenting, school, or recovery from depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorders that can be consuming. Connor's dad was not anything of a prime parent to Connor, and this quote can mean that parenting a kid to your full potential takes patience and time. School, another big struggle in Evan's life as well as Connor's, takes patience but as does the most consuming and memorable aspect that the musical is addressing: overcoming depression and anxiety so that it does not consume you and lead to the decision that Connor ended up making. Though it may seem like a neverending cycle of depressing thoughts, to overcome them it takes patience and perseverance, much like any other accomplishment.

4. "Even when the dark comes crashing through, and when you need a friend to carry you, when you're broken on the ground you will be found."

From what is most definitely my favorite song from the soundtrack, "You Will Be Found" addresses the fact that so many people feel alone and feel as though Connor did. This line shows that even though you may feel alone and you may be at your darkest, deepest point, there will always be help and support and someone to care for you. You are not alone.

5. "I'd rather pretend I'm something better than these broken parts, pretend I'm something other than this mess that I am."

The line from "Words Fail" shows Evan at his most vulnerable. It shows the side of him that he wishes no one to witness because it is his worst side. I find this song to be the most emotional, and most importantly because the lyrics can be related to so well. With depression and anxiety, people can act out and do things as they see fit to make themselves feel better, which is partly what Evan did, pretending to be Connor's friend. This quote shows the reasons behind those actions, helping people in the same position feel relieved for the things that they think are going wrong only for them.

6. "When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around do you evern really crash or even make a sound?"

This line is another from "Waving Through a Window" and ties to Evan's anxiety as well. It shows the slow deterioration of one's mind, and how no one even notices when someone is going through things like that, hence the metaphor to the tree falling in a forest and no one hearing it because no one is there. It is making a notion to the fact, also, that people are so afraid to discuss the issues of suicide and depression and anxiety, and that it is a problem especially among youth.

7. "Why should I play the grieving girl and lie saying that I miss you and that my world has gone dark without your light?"

This line from "Requiem," sung by Connor's sister and parents, is a different perspective of what happened to Connor, a more cynical perspective. While it may seem insensitive, I enjoy that Zoe (Connor's sister) stands her ground with her relationship with her brother and remains indifferent, instead of lying about loving him just because she isn't able to anymore.

8. "If I could tell her how she's everything to me, but we're a million worlds apart and I don't know how I would even start."

Although this is about how Evan feels about Zoe - not Connor - it shows how crippling it can be to wish you could be able to tell someone something, especially about your mental disablities, but you feel like you can't because you aren't close enough or don't know where to begin.

9. "So you got what you always wanted, so you got your dream come true, good for you."

This song is a turning point in the musical where Evan's actions begin to creep back up on him. It shows that even though you get what you wish for, it isni't always perfect all together. This line shows also that what you first think you want isn't always going to lead to the perfect life or the perfect girl or the perfect family, and you must not face your struggles with lies as Evan did.

10. "Your mom isn't going anywhere your mom is staying right here no matter what, I'll be here."

This comes from the song "So Big/So Small," when Evan apoligizes to his mother about abandoning her essentially for Connor's parents and she confesses to the hardships she has faced as a single mother who doesn't make much money. This is one of my favorite quotes, because it displays unconditional love from your family, and shows that no matter what it is you go through and no matter how much loathe you may feel for yourself, your family loves you and supports you.

11. "Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a great day and here's why: because today at least you're you and, well, that's enough."

These opening words to the finale close up the message of the show: that you are enough, no matter what anyone tells you and no matter what you begin to tell yourself. Making mistakes is human, as is having depression or anxiety, and just because you make mistakes or you have depressed thoughts does not mean that you are any less of a person than someone who doesn't feel the same as you. This musical and this line taught me that no matter what, you are wanted, you are needed, and you are worth it no matter what you do or what you go through.

Cover Image Credit: Dear Evan Hansen Official Website

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My Top 10 Musical Songs For Boosting Any Mood

Break a leg!

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I was exposed to the world of theater early in life as one of my older cousins was very active in the musical theater community. I grew up watching her perform in a multitude of different roles such as Annie in "Annie," Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde," and the kangaroo in "Seussical the Musical." This exposure to show tunes at such a young age sparked my love of the genre. Now, when I'm studying or working, I like to put on the soundtrack of one of the musicals I've watched a million times (such as "Les Mis" or "Mamma Mia") so I can focus on my work while still listening to music.

My years of obsessing over musicals have to lead me to find some pretty awesome songs, these are some of my favorites.

"Take A Chance On Me" from Mamma Mia.

"Mamma Mia" is one of my all-time favorite musicals and this song is one of the reasons why. The song is sung by my favorite character, Rosie, while she tries to seduce one of Sophie's potential fathers, Bill after Donna and Sam get married. It is a fun loving song which leaves the audience in tears from laughing so hard.

"Dead Girl Walking (Reprise)" from Heathers.

This song is one of the final songs in "Heathers the Musical." The premise of the song is a bit more hard-hitting than "Take a Chance On Me." In this song, the main character, Veronica, has faked her own suicide and has come back to school to confront her psychotic ex-boyfriend, J.D. to stop him from blowing up the entire school. It's a pretty intense song but has amazing lyrics and rhythm.

"Ireland" from Legally Blonde The Musical.

This song confronts the subject of broken dreams. It is sung by my favorite character, Paulette, as she recounts her dreams of finding someone to love. She is trying to comfort the main character, Elle after she tries to dye her hair brown to impress her ex-boyfriend. I think the song is super important because it establishes the relationship between Paulette and Elle. It also shows the caring nature of Paulette.

"Everything I Know" from In The Heights.

"In The Heights" is a super cool musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about a group of Hispanic-Americans living in Washington Heights in NYC. "Everything I Know" is sung by the character, Nina, after her Abuela dies. It's a very emotional song that made me cry the first time I listened to it, but it's beautifully written.

"Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" from Les Misérables.

Speaking of emotional, "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" is another song that made me cry the first time I listened to it. The song is sung by Marius a few days after the battle where he's the only one of his friends to survive. He goes back to the cafe where they would meet before to grieve and reminisce the loss of his friends. The song is a haunting reminder of the real-life cost of war.

"It Takes Two" from Hairspray.

"It Takes Two" is a song from the musical, "Hairspray." Link is the character who sings it and it's just a fun song about how a man needs a woman to complete him. While the premise is a little sexist, it's a fun song that is super catchy and fun to sing along to.

"There! Right! There!" from Legally Blonde The Musical.

This song is another fun one to sing along to. It takes place in the courtroom while the group of lawyers and law students examine a witness who they aren't sure is straight or gay. The lyrics of the song are hilarious and it's fun to sing a long to with a couple of friends as different parts. If you're looking for a fun chorus song to sing with a couple of friends, this is the song for you.

"When He Sees Me" from Waitress.

"When He Sees Me" is a song from the musical "Waitress." It's sung by the character, Dawn, while she expresses her insecurity with regards to going on a blind date. The way the character sings the song is super fun, however, there are serious tones of insecurity in the chorus when she sings, "Is what if when he sees me, what if he doesn't like it? What if he runs the other way and I can't hide from it? What happens then? If when he knows me, he's only disappointed? What if I give myself away, to only get it given back? I couldn't live with that."

"One Day More" from Les Misérables.

"One Day More" may well be my favorite song out of this list. It's sung by the entire cast of Les Mis at the end of the first act and foreshadows the tragedy of the second act. Each of the members of the main cast has some type of solo where they express their hopes for the next day. However, it's clear that not all characters will get their happy ending which adds to the intensity of this astonishing song.

"She Used To Be Mine" from Waitress.

This is another emotional song for my list. This is a song is sung by Jenna, a young waitress, as she looks back at her life before she was in an abusive relationship with her husband and before she found out she was pregnant. She feels as though she has lost all hope in life and how she thought her life would turn out so much different than how it did.

These are just ten of my favorite songs from musicals. To be honest, I usually have two to three songs from each musical that I'll listen to on repeat, so it was difficult to narrow down my list. Whether you enjoy show tunes or you hate them, I'm sure they'll be one song from this list you'll enjoy!

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