Those are lyrics from one of my favorite musical theatre songs, "Anyone Can Whistle." I always wanted to use that song for auditions, but every voice teacher and vocal coach I suggested it to acted as if I had handed them the sheet music to "If I Were a Rich Man." (Nothing wrong with "Rich Man," it's just not the most appropriate song to sing for all those ingénue roles I was up for.) So, the only people who ever got to hear me sing it were the other tenants in my apartment buildings, accompanied by the sound of running shower water.
I understand why they didn't encourage me to sing it. It's a simple piece; it doesn't show much of your vocal range, and doesn't have "money notes" to belt out if you have to do a sixteen or eight-bar cut. But it spoke to me, and it felt like something that Stephen Sondheim had taken from my inner consciousness. And like so many of Sondheim's songs, I deeply connected to it. I guess it is the ability that Sondheim has to tap into the complexities and incongruities that I feel in my life. (Sondheim, Woody Allen and Shakespeare...what would I do without them?)
I have been thinking a lot about "letting go," this weekend. I've been immersed in the script--cleaning up this scene and clarifying that lyric--and as I pored over the final scene (for about the millionth time this month), I realized that I had written a musical about letting go.
One of the first questions that people ask me when I give them my "Elevator Pitch" about Helen on 86th St. is: Does it have a happy ending? And after looking at it all weekend, I would have to say that the answer to that is yes...sort of. It's not the happy ending that Annie and Hairspray have. But, yes, Helen on 86th St. has a 21st Century happy ending. These are different times, and these times call for different types of "happy" endings.
So what exactly do I mean by that? While each character may not get exactly what they want, regardless of how ardently and tenaciously they pursue their want throughout the trajectory of the story--they all get what they need. For some it's growth, for some wisdom, peace and strength, and for our young heroine, what she ultimately gains by the end of the musical is one of the hardest but most useful skills we humans have to learn: the ability to let go.
Trust me, if anyone knows how difficult it is to let go, it's me. There is nothing I hate more than uncertainty. Part of the reason I am so hyper-organized is because I like to have all my loose ends tied up as quickly as possible. And what has been most challenging for me as I develop this musical and get my feet wet as a producer, is being forced to both stay in control and relinquish control. Because, in reality, for every item on my "To Do" list that I can control, there are two items that I have absolutely no control over.
So, like Vita, I'm learning to let go. Not give up--but, everyday I'm really trying to stop myself from living in a state of perpetual anxiety worrying about Kickstarter funds, casting, space availability, raising capital, and so on. Because for a lot of this, it's either going to work out, or it isn't. And while I will continue to do everything that's within my control to get the favorable outcomes I desire, I have to be okay if things don't go as planned.
And I also have to stop every once in a while and take stock of all that has been accomplished in less than a year. Below is a clip from the production of Anyone Can Whistle that Robby and I went to last spring at City Center. As we were sitting in the theatre for City Center's recent production of Bells Are Ringing a few weeks ago, we both realized that the last time we sat in those seats, we had only written two songs for Helen.
Where are we now? Well, we have a full script (that's already on its third edition), a full score of twenty musical numbers, two readings/teasers under our belt, a brilliant group of performers helping us develop our show, an Equity reading coming up in January with a fantastic cast, a full Equity showcase going up in the spring, a very popular website, a fan base, and almost $11,000 in funds that we have raised toward our spring performance.
Not so shabby.
So, when you watch this clip, think of Robby and I, sitting way in the back of the theatre at the Anyone Can Whistle Dress Rehearsal, with two songs Helen songs under our belt and a dream. And then do what you can to make your dream come true.
Then just let the rest go.