Broadway veteran Donna Lynne Champlin creates her own Solo CD on a budget of $1000 and a time limit of 6 weeks.
Friday, November 13, 2009
THE MAGIC 8 BALL SONG
I first heard this song in my dear friend, Ian Knauer's car when we were driving home from a weekend of shows at The Goodspeed Opera House. One of my favorite things about riding home with Ian (besides the fact that he had a really comfy, sassaroonie KIA mini van, and endless fabulous stories from his childhood "when he was a tow-head") was that he had all these brilliant mix tapes of music I’d never heard before.
Yes. I said ‘tapes’. Because this was pre CD. Anyone too young to know what I’m talking about- Google “when I was your age.com”.
Ian and I have extremely similar tastes in music and since I’d pretty much grown up in practice rooms and dance studios I had a woefully weak grasp on popular music in general. In fact, the only popular music I ever heard was in dance class and inevitably performed by Madonna, Barry Manilow, Michael Jackson or Huey Lewis because those were the only acceptable artists to create dance routines to in my youth.
So, it would often be the case…that we’d be sitting and chatting and then all of a sudden a song would come on and I wouldn’t be able to pay attention anymore. It’s like the music would suck my ears in like a magnet and nothing else had sound. I'd hear in the distance....
“Hello? Helllloooooooo. Donna Lynne……”
Soon he learned to just wait til the song was over and then….I would inevitably pummel him with questions,
“Tell me EVERYTHING about that song! Where is it from? Who’s singing it? Who wrote it? Where can I find it? Play it again, play it again, play it again!!!!”
So he would play it over and over for me and then tell me everything he knew about it. He introduced me to Billy Joel’s And So It Goes, Liz Callaway’s Moon and Stars, even recently not two years ago we were working at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s FULL MONTY and I borrowed his car. His recent mix-CD was in the player and on came one of the most gorgeous renditions of “She’s Got A Way” I’d ever heard. Except in this case, it was sung by a woman with an incredibly familiar voice and it was called “He’s Got A Way”.
The minute I got to the theatre that night I went through the whole thing again,
”Where is that song from? Who’s singing it? Who wrote it? Tell me everything!!!”
**Btw, if you don’t know of this rendition by Bernadette Peters from one of her recent concerts- I implore you to go buy it immediately on Itunes. Not that it’s anyone’s business either, but I believe this was recorded soon after her beloved husband died tragically and knowing that will serve only to crush your solar plexus even more when you hear how plaintively she sings it. Genius. Absolute. Genius. **
THE MAGIC 8 BALL SONG
This tune, I learned from Ian as we listened to it on loop for most of route 95, is from the musical Das Barbecu written by Scott Warrender. It also, luckily for me had one of its first productions at Goodspeed (which has one of the most complete musical theatre libraries in the country including scores and scripts). Obviously, the minute we got back to campus I found it in the library and put it in my book. The singer was the brilliant Sally Mayes who can even somehow make a belt sound poignant.
I was hooked from the first lyric.
“You grow up with your daddy gone.”
“A man cannot be counted on.”
“And then one firey day…”
This is already in two lines....my life story.
“A hero comes your way…”
Oh thank Christ….FINALLY!
“As solid as the rock you dance upon.”
Ha! I knew there were men out there that were ‘solid as a rock’. I KNEW it.
“He takes your breath and your heart away....
Talk to me Sally....give me good news.....
You wear his ring and he swears he’ll stay…”
Ohhhh!! They’re actually really engaged and not 'pretend' engaged like I get....
“You close your eyes and then, before you count to ten…”
Marriage? Kids? Happily ever after?!
“You find you’re somehow...."
yes? yes? yes?
wait a minute......wait....what?
Now, as disappointed as I am for the girl, because believe me- I know her pain 10 times over…I’m absolutely fascinated as to what she’ll do next.
Will she give up and save herself more pain?
Will this be another song about standing up for yourself and telling all men in general to go fuck off? Cause I like those too but…I can’t ever seem to BE that girl in real life.
Or will it be about her trying again….and again…and maybe….MAYBE…because she never gave up….finally finding true love?
Oooooorrrrrrrr...maybe there’s another way to get on this ferris wheel that everyone else seems to have figured out how to ride...
The song is now......
an aural magic 8 ball, basically.
I have, in 4 bars of musical interlude music-
given this song all the power to dictate the rest of my life.
It's either that powerful...
or I am somewhere....
the song continues....
“Each summer night, a county fair….settles on the edge of a town somewhere…”
Why the hell are we talking about county fairs now?
slight panic ensues...
Momma is not spending the rest of her life trolling around county fairs like some sorta carny-trash....I need REAL Ann Landers shit here Sally...COME ON!
…..and then the song unfolds.
The County Fair being, obviously a metaphor for the ‘dance’ of love, marriage and whatever else follows- that seems to come so easily for...others. And what it's like to watch it all from the side lines, while desperately wishing to be included.
Because yeah, you can go to a County Fair by yourself...but it sucks.
And you can go to a dance by yourself....but it sucks.
And you can go to weddings by yourself....but it SUCKS.
And not for nothing gals, but stop dreaming about meeting Mr Right at the 'singles table'. You will always end up babysitting everyone else's children or grandparents. So heads up ladies and GRAB A GAY before you go to your next wedding stag or you will become the worst paid hired help in all the land.
Cause here's the thing.
I am this girl.
depending on how you look at it-
the hopeless romantic AND the dumbest, most stupid girl on the planet.
In fact, I was really close to naming this post THE HOPELESS ROMANTIC/STUPID GIRL SONG. Because after a while.....?
From where I'm sitting?
The line between "Hopeless Romantic" and "Stupid Girl" becomes thinner and thinner and thinner. And I don't say this to garner pity, because it's almost as if I'm standing back and watching myself on an episode of The Wild Kingdom at this point...the observant Aquarian in me has clearly taken over this department.
when I listen to this song...
depending on where I'm at in my own life....
I don't know whether to cheer this girl on for not giving up...
or to slap her across the face at least three times with a really big fat smelly fish so that she DOESN'T "find she's somehow all alone.....again", DOES get a bunch of sweet kitty cats and lives the rest of her life in peaceful solitude.
Btw, let's talk about the brilliance of that "somehow" in there.
"You find you're SOMEHOW all alone....again."
Jesus Christ, that 'somehow' is just PURE genius because it really.....betrays-
again, depending on how you look at it-
her pure and trusting heart?
her deeply flawed delusional state.
And the delicate balance in this song....
between that heroic girl who refuses to let bad man after bad man take every last bit of her heart- and the pathetic girl who literally begs, begs, BEGS to be invited to the County Fair is astonishing to me.
Because what's so incredibly frustrating about the County Fair is that you really CAN'T go, unless you go WITH someone. And this girl knows it. Because she wants the dream. Well, we all want the dream when we're younger.
Believe me, you go through enough tragic relationships and you're all of a sudden just happy to find a man who won't punch your mother and knife you in your sleep.
So. This County Fair for this girl....is 'the dream'.
And it only works when you go with another person.
Sure, you can 'dance' alone....but you can't waltz.
You can ride the ferris wheel...with all that room in seats 'built for two'.
And you can go with your brother...but that goodnight kiss can get reeeaaalllly awkward.
And the real kicker for women....is that we have to WAIT to be asked. I mean, this is the part that absolutely kills me. WE have to WAIT to be asked to go to a County Fair that WE want to go to more than the person who's asking us, IF we're lucky to even be ASKED.
I mean, the whole thing is absurd really.
Let's turn the tables...it's like. If getting married was akin to going to a strip joint, and all the men really really wanted to go...but the only way the men could ever go to a strip join was IF it was up to the WOMEN asked the MEN to go with them. Yeah, there might be a few gals who thought going to strip clubs was something they'd really want to do too but...at it's core....it's ludicrous. The whole thing.
Say this girl just full out Sadie Hawkins' this guy and asks HIM to go the County Fair...
and the guy turns out to be once again, just another guy who said he'd take her but then...
never shows up.
Which clearly has happened to her before.
After a while, you have to really wonder...
Is her tenacity to get to that County Fair admirable?
or is it now, merely stubborn and self destructive?
And this is not even questioning whether or the the County Fair is even a good time once you get there....cause that REALLY depends on who you ask but....
...let's talk musically about this song for a second.
Sally BELTS this whole song. From tip to tail man, she just wails this shit.
Which is amazing. Truly amazing.
But, I really feel that the song...'hurts my heart' too much to belt it.
Plus there is a place in the song for me where...
this girl literally BEGS for this man to take her to the fair-
and in my mind, she becomes...
she definitely tips her hand when she says,
"OH PLEASE WON'T YOU TAKE ME THERE??!!!!
AND MAYBE WIN me a teddy bear?
we could grab another chance...
in the summer....
Oh God that part just rips my guts out.
It's literally like watching a train wreck for me.
and so i 'saved' the belt for just that section.
To me, it just makes it sound all the more....desperate.
Because it's the one moment where she just loses her facade and just drops the whole girly, flirty bullshit of,
"Hey wouldn't it be NICE if we went....look at all these couples....wouldn't it be NICE..."
hint hint hint hint hint HINT.
and she just....
well, 'because why' exactly?
it could go either way.
Does she lose her shit because she just loves loves loves loves THIS guy?
Does she lose her shit because at this point she's just absolutely terrified she'll never ever get to the Fair and figures at this point, any dream will do?
she just finally busts and flat out BEGS for him to take her and in that moment....
you just know....
and she knows...
that she's just blown it.
and the guy doesn't want her anymore.
because she's 'needy'...
because she's 'soft'...
I mean, she might as well have just started naming their unborn children for him...with the begging.....it would have been just as bad.
the worse part....
she tries to.....fix it.
"Oh you'd sure be a sweet sweet sight tonight.....I swear...."
Oh God....is she still....trying to fix it? oh god girl...have some...pride...
"When we light up the lights real bright tonight, somewhere...."
oh honey....please....PLEASE just stop...making a fool of yourself...as his eyes now, are just...scanning the horizon for someone better to talk to....she's lost him...maybe he didn't hear me, she thinks... so she says it again....
"We could light up the lights real bright tonight, OUT there....."
He excuses himself to go talk to some other chick who's just way better at this game....
and she's standing there...
at the very edge of this fair...
in front of the ticket booth...
with the sounds and the smells and the laughter so so so so so close.....
and a million miles away at the same time....
"at the County....Fair."
And the song ends.
I love LOVE love this song because it's so.....mercurial for me. That's the ridiculously AMAZING thing about this song. I can literally be in the polar opposites of emotional states and yet, this song will always always move me. Always.
I might be inspired to give love one more chance, brush the dirt off and put up yet another Match.com profile...
or it might make me absolutely livid, decide the whole game is for losers and then remove my Match.com profile.
It holds great power over me, this song.
It always has.
because I alternatively love and hate this girl.
I love her heroic tenacity, and hate her vulnerability.
I love her resilience, and hate her transparency.
I love her purity of heart, and hate her stupidity.
And so, this song really is a MAGIC 8 BALL.
Because it never fails to tell reveal to me whether....