Saturday, December 31, 2011

It Only Takes A Moment

I love all of the arts, particularly musical theater and movie musicals. If I had my dream job and a do-over, I'd be born into the Hollywood heydey of the 30's, 40's and 50's, as a gofer, set designer, costume maven or poster artist, just to be around such talent and exciting performances of the time. As I grew up I was a weird kid going to Catholic school singing the Buffalo Bills rendition of "Lida Rose" from The Music Man and countless other movie musical scores I'd watched on tv or heard over and over from my parents vinyl record collection. In my teenage years, the musical as an art from was changing as society changed in the turbulent 60's, uncertain 70's and then the 80's, and my friends and I were now singing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar as the musical resurged on stage with Andrew Lloyd Webber and co. Julie Andrews, Barbara Streisand, Liza Minnelli-great actors with great voices, who filled in the gap, but movie audiences lost interest.

Still I loved Barbara Streisand in Hello Dolly!. That, too, had a subtle undercurrent of feminist viewpoint. No matter-and mixed in with all of these memories, is the memory of an actor whose face stuck in my head, but his performances were so magic and quicksilver alongside these heavyweights of the theater you'd hardly remember except that he made other actors look really good in comparison. My all time favorite love song in a musical is "It Only Takes a Moment" (used to such great effect in Pixar's Wall-e) sung by this skinny gangly dance man with a goofy face and tenderly shy voice. The actor's name-Michael Crawford. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom...I knew the actor's name who was chosen to play the original role, but the voice that sang my favorite love song doing Music of the Night-I would never, ever have made that connection had I not seen the film clips in a program on the making of the stage musical. I can still remember Michael Crawford running around in a toga in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and here he is, the robust, passionate, serious, sexually charged Phantom with a voice that a body can never forget.

I think I just sat there and took in the information-then I checked it online. I recognized the face as soon as they flashed the old film clips of his performances in movies and on TV pre-phantom. But I thought, no, it can't be...not THAT guy. I'm probably the only person on the face of the planet who didn't know this. Then I giggled and I loved the thought of it. Imagine-an already successful actor in comedy doing a total about-face literally, snagging the role of a lifetime in a Victorian stage melodrama. WOW!! Kudos to Andrew Lloyd Webber for picking the only actor who could have done the part with such powerful expression his name is now synonymous with the role. How did he see the potential in the man? And how did Michael Crawford transform himself? One thing he did upon learning that he was a major contender for such a role was practice six hours a day for two months singing Music of the Night. He already had the acting and stage experience-what most folks did not know, but he did. He knew he could do it. He made himself into the Phantom.

I thought about this, and co-incidentally had been reading about another person who was an unlikely candidate for the fame she achieved in life, writer Erma Bombeck. People tell me I have a gift for writing, so I researched writers I admire and would like to emulate. She is first on my list, and upon taking literature classes in college, failed assignments repeatedly. She re-enrolled in a Catholic college and was finally told by a priest she had a tremendous gift to share in her writing. She married, raised a family, lived the life of a suburban housewife, and created an entire syndicated world in her newspaper column "At Wit's End".

Other people come to mind as I consider this concept...Moses. A baby marked for death, Prince of Egypt, outcast sheepherder and savior of Israel. Huh? Seems God doesn't waste any experience. I look at my life and think-how now? What do I do with what I have learned in my life and my experiences? Erma Bombeck's great prayer to God was that she used every bit of everything He'd given her and not die until it was all gone. I like that prayer. There was another person whose early life was probably very forgettable except that in one incident her life was transformed. She was cast to the ground by an angry mob holding stones, ready to take her life for a sin she'd committed. Then suddenly someone began to write things in the dirt. After a time the crowd seemed to leave. She looked up to see the person writing and He asked her, "Who condemns you?". She replied, "No one, my Lord". He told her, "Neither do I. Now go your way and don't sin any more". I know this is the end of the written story, but I'd like to think this woman went home, scrubbed the streaked make-up off her face like a bad dream, burnt her clothes and walked into a new life. The old just a memory of that moment and Someone who believed in her and gave her a new start. It only takes a moment.

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