I believe that every person has something in life that gives them perspective, gives them hope during difficult times, grounds them when they feel unsteady and celebrates with them when times are bright.
For me, this thing is music.
There are two musical items that literally changed my life. One is a musical artist. The other is an actual musical.
I’m going to talk about the latter a little bit today.
As I’ve mentioned before, I kind of hate things that are trendy. I shouldn’t, really. It’s completely snobby of me and I usually find out that there is a REASON something is popular. Like Harry Potter, for instance. I resisted that for years and when I finally gave in, I was in love. Or oatmeal toppings…delicious! Or green monsters…nutritious! Well, in early 1997 I was a freshmen in high school. A classmate, whom I namely knew through Maya came back from a trip to NYC and was talking about the most amazing musical ever. Before I knew it ALL of my friends were talking about it. I resisted, but eventually, I just HAD to know what the fuss was about. Maya had the CDs and I took them home for a listen. I was blown away. I ran out of my room and announced to my mother and stepfather: “I have to have these CDs!!” My mom told me I could have them for my birthday. I called Maya and told her she could have her CDs back in a month, when my 15th birthday was.
She was kind of pissed.
But I still kept them. I’m just that kind of a friend…. *cough*
And then on my 15th birthday my Mom handed me the money and I went to the music store.
The songs in this musical were magic to me. The libretto touches on so many powerful issues: AIDS, homelessness, love, family, friends, homosexuality, tolerance, class, race, gender, death, life, careers, hope, art, music, joy, struggle, hunger….it’s amazing. There isn’t even ONE song that I don’t love. I know the words to the entire musical by heart. It taught me so many valuable lessons while growing up and always gave me something to hold onto when times were tough. Something to remind me about how important the moment is. Even today, I am still inspired by it.
What is the musical, you ask?
(yeah….I used flash. I took it in 2006 though, so give me a break…)
I’ve still got those CDs from 13 years ago. They are scratched and worn. I don’t want to buy new ones though. I have sentimental attachment to my original copies. Throughout my teens, there was rarely a day that went by where I didn’t listen to at least one song from RENT. I’ve seen the show live six times. Every single time it’s come to San Francisco. The first time I saw it I got to see it with original cast Mimi, Daphne Rubin-Vega. The last time I saw it was with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, the original cast Mark and Roger. I also saw it once on Broadway. I wouldn’t be a true RENThead if I hadn’t seen it at the Nederlander, would I?
I even won $20 rush tickets. Two of my friends and I put our names in, but I knew I would be the one to win.
And I couldn’t deal without getting my picture taken with Mark Cohen and Angel Dumott Schunard:
So anyway, I’m pretty much in love with everything RENT. This is why I got incredibly excited when I found out about this:
I bought two of these immediately:
I drafted Curtis, my musical loving co-worker to go to the show with me. He went because it was at the Venetian Room, and The Fairmont Hotel is one of his favorite places. I went, for obvious reasons. Before the show we stopped off for food at Max’s, our typical stop before we head to shows together. We decided to split an entree, and I also decided to get a signature cocktail:
I got a “Kiwi Lemon Drop”, which was just about the best thing ever. Curtis and I shared this GIGANTIC sandwich…turkey, ham, tomatoes, bacon, avocado, lettuce, red onion and Muenster on sourdough. It also comes with red potato salad and a pickle…they brought us two portions of those, so we wouldn’t have to share. Can you believe that above is only HALF of the normal portion?! Even eating just half was enough to make me wish I could unbutton my top button!
After Max’s, it was on to the show, which was amazing.
Adam’s set was mostly classic show tunes, but done with his own modern twist. He was playing an electric upright bass, which I had never actually seen before. It was very cool and looked a lot like the red one in the middle:
After much Sondheim and really hilarious banter, Adam retired and after a brief intermission, Anthony came out. Anthony structured his set a little differently. He sort of chronicled his life through his song choices. He began with songs by people who had inspired him (leading off with Jonathan Larson’s “Why” from Tick, Tick Boom). He sang his RENT audition number, “Losing My Religion” by REM. He talked a lot about his mother, her fight and eventual loss to cancer. He sang “Without You” from RENT, which he had sung at his mother’s funeral.
It was a really touching and revealing way to structure a set list, and it touched me, as I often relate songs to specific events in my life. For instance, when my stepfather died, I gave my mom a wooden box. It had a picture on the front of my stepfather, taken when they went on their last vacation together. Inside, I had written the lyrics to the song “I’ll Cover You” on a piece of paper. I always think of the losses my family suffered during my sophomore year of high school when I hear that song.
Anthony also sang a couple of his own songs, including a song about loving a boy. He touched on the current “It Gets Better” project, and I was really glad about that. Truth is, all kids need to know that it gets better.
After Anthony’s set, both he and Adam came back out and performed “What You Own” and “Seasons of Love”, both from RENT. Adam even tried to hit the high note in Seasons. So. Funny.
I know I’ve just written this glowing review of the show, but yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t even wanted to go. I’ve had a bad few days….nothing catastrophic. Just several days of things going wrong and bringing me down. Yesterday I was grouchy and I wished I hadn’t even bought the tickets. However, Jonathan Larson’s music did it again. I was reminded that nothing I was upset about matters in the grand scheme of things. On the whole, my life is good, I have a million things to be thankful for and I need to get over myself and remember my favorite message from the musical:
Seriously. I bought the dog tag, as I tend to forget that the most important thing in life is to live each day as it is your last.
“There is no future, there is no past….”
What do you go to when you need grounding? Books? Music? Art?