Last weekend was my very first trip to South Coast Repertory, a venue I had heard nothing but good things about from numerous LA theatre patrons for years. This Orange County venue has hosted a plethora of notable theatrical works and seems to do a great job of balancing their seasons with old favorites and new, contemporary content.
This particular Sunday I drove down to Costa Mesa with my life-long buddy and entertainer Zoe, a recent graduate of the Loyola Marymount University screenwriting program. Once was not new territory for either of us. When I was 17 years old, after seeing it once himself, my dad took me to watch the film (my very first R rated movie in the theaters) and I instantly fell in love. Never before had I seen a love story that was so real, that I truly believed could actually happen. For that reason alone the film would resonate with me for life. It's an honest and musical storytelling of real love that had to be silenced. I LOVE this movie; it's definitely in my top ten and pulls at my heartstrings for personal reasons. I had already seen the original Broadway Cast performance a few years ago and was delighted by the stage adaptation and of course wowed by Steve Kazoo's Tony-award-winning performance. The musical adaptation certainly captured a more hopeful, maybe even lighter vibe than the film's more tragic (yet realistic) tone. I like the film better than the stage show, although I was still content with the adaptation. Plus Edna Walsh is on book, so the Irish humor is on point. Zoe had seen the film once before and was not fully invested in it at the time. She listened to the Original Broadway Cast recording more often than the film soundtrack, although she had never seen the show performed on stage before. "Leave," was already one of our favorite numbers.
Later that week, I was talking to a set designer friend of mine on the phone about my experience. "It's like even though the production was good, what was happening on stage to me was almost irrelevant," I told him. I was nearly shocked to hear myself saying this, as a theatre practitioner that typically values every aspect of theatre for how it serves the production and tells the story. "I could have closed my eyes for the whole show. It's the music that I'm connecting to, assigning meaning to, remembering moments from the film, remembering something some guy said to me or the way he looked at me or the fist time he touched my shoulder," I said, "The music from this show is all it takes to get me there. It's a very emotional experience for me." He was impressed and told me that he had never been that deeply impacted by a film before. And this is coming from a guy who watches like EVERY movie. My heart breaks for this couple, because I know that this situation is very real and happens a lot more frequently than people have the strength to write about. The play doesn't necessarily make me want to change anything about myself, but it does honor and validate the notion that even when something, something like love seems right, there are some times when it has to be hidden, to be put away for the sake of others at stake. There is something beautiful about that sacrifice that makes the love even more real.
Zoe had a deeper appreciation for the production over all, as someone who was not distracted from the work of the theatre by their own emotions and pre-assigned feelings for the story and music. She enjoyed the choreography, the subtlety in the delivery and the humor and also found all of the actors doubling as musicians to be incredibly talented. And I do agree with her about all those things, I was just lost in a world of my previous experience. She, on a different note, is highly anticipating SCR's next musical production of Ella Enchanted.
I realize I've hardly talked about this production specifically. I apologize if this piece of writing seemed too self-involved, but that's what art does. It affects you personally. What can I say? I'm enraptured by this music. And to the production's credit, they got me there. If you have never seen this show or film, I would encourage you to experience the magic of this story. About two people who meet each other in the right place at the wrong time. Ugh, I want to cry just thinking about it; it's so beautiful. Once runs through Sept. 30 at South Coast Repertory.