Isn’t it always when you least expect it that something unexpected happens LMAO. I know that sounds silly, but seriously, I had little interest in what I thought would be just another retro-tribute musical thrown together to capitalize on Broadway going baby boomer ticket buyers who need a night out away from their favorite “NCSI” or “Dancing With The Stars” variety show.
I’ve known a Carol King tune or two, one with specific and significant connection to my life so when I got a call from Eli Marcus asking if I wanted to jump in and join him and some friends to see it in previews I was like, Ok, why not, and I went with no, if not little expectation, and boy was I surprised.
“Beautiful, The Carol King Musical’ is sure to be such a big Broadway hit and meet only rave reviews. It’s really good. It’s the kind of good that will have people going back to see it multiple times just to get another fix.
Let’s just start with the story and dialogue. Who knew Carol King had such a rich history in the music business starting from her childhood working with the legendary producer Don Kirshner and writing songs for other artists in the fifties like “Will you still love me tomorrow” for the Shirelles, “You’ve lost that lovin feeling” for the The Righteous Brothers, “On Broadway” for the Drifters and inventing new dances with her song “”The Locomotion” for Little Eva and even writing songs for the made for TV group The Monkeys in the 60s.? Who knew?
And who knew about the struggles in her personal life with her collaborative song writing husband Gerry Goffin and their parallel lives with songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil who wrote “Walking in the rain” and “We gotta get out of this place” for Eric Burton and The Animals that are also performed in the show.
And who knew that Douglas McGrath’s book about Carol King was going to translate into such an emotionally charged and penetrating and psychologically engaging musical melodrama for the stage. This play/musical is a love story meets greek tragedy meets “Rocky” victory story that grips and intrigues and delights all at the same time and all the way through. So much so that I couldn’t wait for the intermission to be over just so I could see what happens next and hear more of the music that linked everyone in the theatre together. And who knew that this show was going to reconnect me (an evidentially a lot of other people in the audience) to very personal moments in my own life.
A man never forgets his first love (as I have never forgotten mine) nor the first time he found he could cry over heartache and there’s nothing like a touching and associated torch song to unlock your heart and bring back those memories of sad times gone by. For me it was when my first real girlfriend, Roberta Lee from Bayside High School moved down to Florida and I found myself in my room after school one day at the end of the semester and after having said goodbye to her and hearing her say goodbye to me, having spread all the black and white photographs I had taken of her out on the floor and while staring at them listened to Carol King’s song “So Far Away” and found myself starting to cry. Much to my own amazement, for the first time, I found myself starting to cry over heartbreak, and then crying and then really crying. Face contorting, tears flowing like a water fall, throat clogging like I just swallowed a grapefruit, eyes blurring, all out heart throbbing crying.
Regardless, the show opens with Jessie Mueller who plays Carol King just sitting in simple silhouette at a grand piano with no other set behind her but a deep blue wash against a nondescript curtain backdrop singing “So Far Away’. As soon as I heard the first three notes the recollection of the song and the reconnection to that time in my life triggered and the remembrances took over and I realized right then and there, during those very first three notes of the song that I was a goner and that this show was going to get me.
Jeez Louise, between the song “I can dream about you” I recently posted with it’s memories of my big love affair with Susan, my reposting of my goodbye letter to my beautifully gentle little dog Angel with those tear jerking lyrics to the Mama’s and Papas song “Dream a little dream of me” and all this emotional engaging and writing about the volumes that are spoken through the eyes of a woman, if I get any more in touch with my feminine side I’m afraid I might launch a couple of boobs and sprout a vagina J
After the initial heart gripping opening song was through and I’m so into it I might as well have been sitting on the stage, the set transforms into multiple three tiered “BROADWAY MUSICAL” worthy sets with dancing and singing and dialogue as good as it gets..
But here’s the best part. “The Phenomena” .
We know that stage actors tell of how their performance is affected by the audience’s reaction which can change from night to night. There’s a simpatico connection, an energy exchange and interplay between them and the audience and the greatest thing about live theatre is the co-creation of the event where the observed is affected by the observer and the interaction of the two become the one and the experience is enhanced and larger than the sum of its two parts.
But there’s even more happening these days. The world is changing, our species is evolving, our interconnectedness is becoming more apparent and as pronounced as it is profound. We have new human potential enhancing tools and technology that connects us all into One even faster and more intimately than ever before and on a global scale and it’s also happening to us within ourselves and between each other.
We are all ONE.
While at the play I had the pleasure of sitting next to a couple, Elizabeth and Brian.
Elizabeth was into the music even before the first three notes I heard got me into it.
It stands to reason and is no shocker that when someone near you is enjoying something you are more likely to enjoy it more yourself. So, when Elizabeth was into the songs and moving with the beat and pleasantly murmuring the songs I got into it even more and had no problem becoming part of the unified flow of the night.
There was a moment though, where I could perceive an almost inaudible rumble, like a wave or deep vibration rolling towards me from across the audience that hit Brian on the isle on my right first, and then Elizabeth sitting next to me, and then when it got to me I felt goose bumps crawl over me from my right side to my left and I could feel it as it continued to travel and when it reached the person two seats away from me on my left . Like a goose bump rumble carried along a cosmic ripple. I felt a wave of goose bumps as it rolled across the audience.
As soon as we went to intermission, standing in the isle to stretch our legs I introduced myself to my seat neighbors an we talked for just a minute before I asked Elizabeth, “tell me something, did you feel that wave of goose bumps roll across the audience.?” She laughed and answered, “Did you get goose bumps too?” and they both proceeded to tell me and share with each other their individual experience of goose bump mania.
I also asked the couple on the other side of the isle “Pardon me sir, my friends and I were just talking about the show and I bet that we weren’t the only people to get goose bumps during some of the songs. I know this sounds silly but—“ Before I even finished the sentence the wife enthusiastically chimed in and said “I got goose bumps a couple of times and when they sang “up on the roof”. The husband “me too”.
So, I don’t know what we want to make of this. All I know is that there’s a phenomena that seems to be going around again. It had stopped for a while for me when we all switched to cell phones. But almost everyone I know has had the experience in their past with hard lines when they reached for the phone to call someone, picked up the receiver and put it to their ear to find the person they were about to call on the phone. The phone never having rung, yet the two had just been connected.
We all walked right past that event and brushed it off as a funny coincidence, and just went on our merry way not giving it a second thought but the mathematical odds of that phone being picked up the milliseconds before it rings AND the exact person you were about to call being on the phone are obviously completely out of reason and more than improbable.
I haven’t had that in a long time but recently I’ve started experiencing it again on my cell phone where I’m either about to text someone and just when I’m about to push send, the phone call comes in with the caller ID displaying the persons name I was texting, or the persons name I was about to call popping up with a text.
So, maybe there’s a lag time with our psychic connection to our new technologies and that’s why the phone call connection is just starting to happen with cell phone technology, or maybe it’s just me but never the less, “The Phenomena” is happening again and whatever it was I felt in that theatre during the show, I felt it big time.
And Roberta Lee, we haven’t spoken in a very long time but something tells me I just ran through your mind, and you don’t know why.