I've recently been rereading some stuff I wrote immediately before and after Hurricane Katrina. This was on of the pieces I thought was interesting (even after 7 years). Enjoy!
July 5, 2005—West Side Story rehearsal
I’m sitting in a theater waiting for the final run through of West Side Story to begin. I would prefer to be at home waiting for Tropical Storm Cindy to come, hopefully getting me out of work tomorrow. If that happened, I could stay at home reading Chuck Klosterman and being mad at him for beating me to the deconstruction of Lloyd Dobler while I fall more in love with him (Chuck, not Lloyd). I know he will never be Lloyd Dobler and I’m totally okay with that.
Instead I am waiting for West Side Story to begin. And considering how bad the weather will be when I leave the theatre and wonder why rehearsal wasn't canceled. What if a tree falls on my car? I wonder who'll drive me home if that happens.
As I wait, I return to thinking about Chuck and realize that he has it all wrong. It has nothing to do with Lloyd Dobler and everything to do with the musical:
Tony & Maria
Anita & Bernardo
Nellie & Emile
Maria & the Captain
The Camelot love triangle
Fanny & Nicky Arnstein
Mimi & Roger
Collins & Angel
Collins & Angel
Sarah & Sky
Adelaide & Nathan
Millie & Jimmy
Millie & Jimmy
The list goes on. Love is at its height in a musical. Characters fall in love within minutes and SING about it. Amazing. When I was younger, I dreamt of finding my Tony (not that I wanted him to die) or Emile, the older, wiser Frenchman. One of the first productions I worked on at this theatre was a production of South Pacific. I could listen to Emile sing “Some Enchanted Evening” every day of my life. This love was eventually replaced with a full on love affair with Lou Reed that has never ended. A leap but a worthy one.
Musicals give a false sense of security in the notion of true love. Musicals are formulaic. You know that the lovers will be together forever by the end of the first song. Like fairy tales, happily ever after tends to rule in musicals. Even in many tragic musicals there’s still a glimmer of hope before the lights come up. At the end of West Side Story there is a hope that the divide between the gangs will be bridged following Tony’s death and Maria’s emotional exit (did I ruin it for you?). We, as an audience, don’t know what really happens but we can hope.
And that, Chuck, is why it’s all about the musical. Lloyd Dobler is a hip man’s Tony (without the whole death thing). Remember he and Diane are from two different worlds. Her father doesn’t think Lloyd is good enough. Lloyd doesn’t want to “buy, sell or process” anything as a career. That has musical potential written all over it.
I guess my point is that no one will ever be Tony or Lloyd or Emile. We can hope for it, but most of the time we settle for Joe and write 67 songs all about him. And that has to happen too. Because when Joe breaks our heart we can always return to Tony and Lloyd and feel better about ourselves. We'll wait in a darkened theatre for the first song to begin and hope that this is the time that love triumphs all.