My first week of college (gosh, THIRTEEN years ago now) we were treated to a whole host of bonding experiences. I met the girl who would become my best friend for the next four years in a canoe (I signed up for the ‘adventure’ orientation); we formed a little crew with a few other similarly-minded gals by confessing that none of us had much (read any) experience with boys (this was a sore point with us at the time. If only we’d known to count ourselves lucky!)
One of the organized activities during the week was a talent show in Dana Auditorium. I didn’t sign up to perform because I have no demonstrable talent. Instead, I watched.
I don’t remember any act except one. A beautiful girl with an acoustic guitar came onstage and started strumming. Then she opened her mouth and sang a song she had written. “Shake Me.” She had us trembling within seconds. Her voice was gorgeous; the whole auditorium fell silent as if all of us had stopped breathing in unison. That night a thousand crushes were born. I was convinced my girl crush would prove stronger than anyone else’s. Thereafter I always referred to her by her full name, Mary Johnson* – famous people/crushes/etc, always the full name, right?
Mary had another song, not one of my favorites, but even her less than earth-shattering numbers were good. “Do Something,” it was called. The chorus was pretty straightforward: “do something, do something, do something, because you can.” (With a voice like Mary’s you could get away with such lyrics).
Last night this song came rushing back to me. My friend Dani called at 7:05 to see if I could meet her at 7:45 for an 8 PM performance. That left about 30 seconds to decide before I had to dart out the door.
I heard Mary’s song in my head. Do Something. Do Something. I’ve revealed here that I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately: going out less, moping around more. I know well enough that the way out of this is to just, well, go out and do something about it.
So I did. I knew it didn’t matter what I did, I just had to join the city again. Dani said it was an opera-slash-comedie musicale, neither my cup of tea. But then she said the magic word: “free.”
The Theatre du Chatelet is “a l’italienne,” all red coloring and rounded balconies (be careful when choosing your seats – many have obstructed views).
So what are we actually seeing, I wondered? “Magdalena: A Musical Adventure,” the program told me. New York cast.
I won’t go into the plot because, frankly, it’s absurd. Though it was obviously a professional show, I can’t help but think of high school when I see musicals. The 2-dimensional characters, the silly storyline, the random breaking into song and dance that adds up to little.
Still, I was glad to be out of the house. And the decorations and costumes were quite nice (we got the free tickets from Dani’s roommate who worked on the decor. 200 hand-painted lanterns – beautiful!)
Parisians continue to impress me with their cultured ways. Here we were, an unexceptional Monday night, and it’s a packed house at the theater. I love that such cultural outings are simply a way of life.
But these same sophisticated audiences also surprise me with their sometimes naivete. Most of the story took place in Colombia, but there was a short scene in a cardboard cutout Paris. The audience seemed to love the song about “Crepes Suzette” the best. (Really?)
The biggest laugh of the night came in a scene when a Colombian cook tried to open an oyster with a hammer. The dismayed Parisian swooped in and said no! You have to flirt with the oyster, it’s love that coaxes the oyster to open its shell. This had the audience in stitches. (I remind myself that the French supposedly loved Jerry Lewis at some point – sometimes I’m just not going to understand their taste).
I’m not sure I’m on the road to recovery yet, but I’ve made a good start. I’ve done something. I guess I’ll just keep doing things.
By the time I return to the Theatre du Chatelet in a month’s time to see Mikhail Baryshnikov (I paid for that one; I’m dying to see him!), I just might be back to full speed.
And hopefully Misha will show the Parisians something that actually warrants appreciation. Though I guess high school musicals were fun, too.
Mary Johnson’s married name is now Mary Johnson Rockers, which is just such a cool name for a musician, no?
So friends, what are y’all doing these days?