January 14, 2017

Love, Life, and La La Land

On New Year's Day, my husband and I went to the movie theater to see the new film La La Land. Just after Debbie Reynolds passed away (rest her soul), I found myself watching that famous song and dance sequence from her iconic film Singing in the Rain and remarked to my husband that I wished Hollywood would bring back the musical.

This was before I knew anything about La La Land. Then I randomly came across a December issue of "Parade" magazine with it featured on the cover. It's so funny how things like this happen.

I wasn't sure if my husband would like the film. He's not mad for musicals the way I am. But instead of sitting there worrying if he was enjoying himself, I got lost in the story.

**Spoiler Alert** If you plan to see the film, but haven't yet, you might not want to read any further. Although I'll try not to give too much away.

The story of an aspiring actress and an aspiring musician, the movie stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It won a ton of awards so it's probably already on your radar.

The colors are vibrant, the music will stay in your head, and the story will break your heart in the most beautiful way.

It brought both me and my husband to tears. What can I say, we're just a couple of romantic softies.

At first, I was not happy with the ending at all. But in some ways, it was true to the musical genre. I grew up hearing the music of musicals, especially Camelot, a favorite of my mom's.

It wasn't until I was around nine or ten that I fell head over heels in love with musicals, thanks to my grandpa. I was staying with my grandparents for the weekend and my grandpa took me to the video rental store inside of Kroger to rent a VHS tape. Most of the kid movies in stock seemed too babyish for me and I remember asking him to help me choose a more grown-up film.

He pulled a VHS tape with a red cover from the shelf and said, "Here, you might like this."

"What's it about?" I asked.

"It's been awhile since I saw it, but mainly a bunch of kids in New York. And it's a love story."

I was sold. We rented the tape and I couldn't wait to get back home to watch West Side Story. 

That first weekend, I probably watched and re-watched the film at least five times. Then, each subsequent weekend I visited, I would beg my grandpa to let me rent it again and again. I wanted to be Maria with her beautiful dark hair and white dress, at the dance with Chino but dreaming about Tony from afar.

We must have eventually gotten our own copy of West Side Story because I introduced my younger brother to it and he was hooked as well. Just last summer, while on a beach vacation with our parents and significant others, the movie came on TV and we could still recite nearly every word of dialogue and song.

Once I realized that musical films were a thing, I tried to see every one I could find. Cinderella, Oklahoma!, and Godspell quickly became favorites, along with A Chorus Line, Annie, My Fair Lady and Guys and Dolls. Actually, I don't know if I've ever seen a musical I didn't like. I've even been lucky enough to perform in a couple of them, including during high school and for a local community theatre.

Right now as I type this, the soundtrack to The Sound of Music is on my retro record player. Earlier this week, I scored a copy of The King and I at my local Goodwill.

There's just something so magical about stories set to music. And the way the actors burst into song to express what they are feeling brings something inside me to life.

Plus it's so comforting. For me, listening to musical soundtracks is like spending time with old friends.

There are so many hard things in the world these days. I'm not saying musicals are the answer, but they help me get through the day. Many an evening after a long day at work, or a Saturday while doing odd chores around the house, I can be found listening to my musical soundtrack records.

It wasn't too long ago that I told my grandpa about my getting a record player and that I was starting to collect musical soundtracks. He said, "but can't you get pretty much any song you want on your computer?"

Yes, but it's just not the same.