Musicals were a big part of my ex-husband’s family. His two Aunts, Uncle and Mother had all made a living in the world of Broadway musicals, and in some cases continued to do so. I have always found musical theatre to be a curious art form in and of itself, and the fact that the English spelling of “theatre” is frequently used when writing about this genre peaks my curiosity as well.
According to that ubiquitous source, Wikipedia, musical theatre, the art of telling stories either through or with songs, may date back to ancient India’s Natya Shastra, or at least to the ancient Greeks, who included music and dance in their stage comedies and tragedies as early as the 5th Century B.C. Aeschylus and Sophocles even composed their own music to accompany their plays.
The first theatre piece that conforms to the modern conception of a musical is generally considered to be The Black Crook – with a book by Charles M. Barras and musical adaptations by Giuseppe Operti – which premiered at Niblo’s Gardens in New York on September 12, 1866. However, The Golden Age of the Broadway musical is generally considered to have begun with Oklahoma! (1943), and to have ended with Hair (1968).
I met David John Madore on a flight from LA to NYC. A musician and composer, he and his young daughter worked in the musical theatre business, and he had just gone through a divorce of his own. We talked the whole flight about our divorces, and when I told him about this project his eyes lit up. I knew he had to be part of it.
On the day of delivery, I received a MP3 file via email from David. I listened to the song. David had brilliantly done what musicals do, taken this very serious document and turned it into a contrived, overly dramatic musical number. It was the perfect song for State of the Union: The Musical. Like a lot of musical theatre songs, without the experience of the stage play, the songs sound so corny and trite, which is perhaps why we love them so much. David’s song revealed all of the melodrama of the agreement, yet it exposed its drama in such a way that it was uplifting, making me think that of course I would get over this divorce, and be Singing in the Rain once again!
At first, I don’t think David understood just how perfect his song was for this project. In fact, I think my original comments on the song hurt his feelings. I continued to explain that in the context of an art project, a musical theatre number would be viewed within that frame and thus would call into question our own preconceived notions of what a love relationship is. He had composed a true break up song that exposed all that was not evident in a legal agreement, the emotions. Our emotions are often very simple and base, and I think this song brings out the sadness in a divorce, which, even more than anger, is the biggest emotion one experiences at the end of any relationship.