Thursday, October 1, 2015

When They Love What You Love

Some people try lots of avocations and hobbies before they find their passion, but not me. I learned to sing before I could talk, and I was bitten by the theatre bug very early in life. Throughout my entire adult life, and even during the vast majority of my childhood, my passion has been singing and musical theatre. So it makes me ridiculously happy that both my children love to sing, and that they are comfortable being on stage.

Last night, my son had his first rehearsal for a small, non-speaking role in a production that my husband and I are performing in. This is a show that the Reagle Players of Greater Boston have performed roughly every other year since…well, I’m not sure when, but it’s probably been 30 years, if not more. The show is called “Remembering the 40s,” and it includes songs, dances, and skits from the 1940s – it’s a musical revue that starts off with a bunch of kids dancing to the jukebox at the local soda shop and hearing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “a date which will live in infamy” speech, then walks all the way through World War II from the perspective of both the American soldiers overseas and the women waiting back at the home front, then continues on through the postwar years of the marvelous radio shows of Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and groups like the fictitious “Cavalcade Singers.” The music includes such familiar hits as “In the Mood,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” "The White Cliffs of Dover," and a plethora of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway hits, including “Oklahoma,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Honeybun,” “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” and “Bali Hai.”

But one of the most moving moments of the show (for me, anyway – even before my son played the role) is the song “Be a Good Soldier.” The women are holding an auction to raise money for the troops, and in the middle of it, there is a freeze, and we see a father, in his soldier’s uniform, talking to his young son about taking good care of his mother while Daddy is away at war. The beautiful lyrics go like this:

Come, little man, put your toys away; you and I must have a talk today.
But first, let me have a great big kiss. Now, what I want to say is this:
Be a good soldier while your daddy’s away, take orders from your mom and learn to obey.
Come, little soldier, I am saying goodbye. Smile for me, buddy, there’s no reason to cry.
Now I’m on my way, you stay and hold down the fort.
I’ll tell the captain our worries are over, we have your support.
So pray for me, soldier, and promise each day you’ll be a good soldier while your daddy’s away.

Tell me any mother who could listen to those lyrics while watching her son and not sob uncontrollably. Certainly not me. I was a puddle.

I blogged recently about how history never came alive to me until I read stories about the ordinary people who lived through it rather than the famous names who created it, and this show is absolutely the story of the ordinary people. It’s the men who never planned to be soldiers but who were drafted and fought bravely; it’s the women who were terrified by what their menfolk were going through but who worked in the factories to keep everything going anyway; it’s the children who didn’t understand what was happening but who tried to be brave. It’s the ordinary people who did their best to keep living through all the challenges swirling around them. It’s everyone who tried to keep some kind of “normal” happening.

And when I see my son imagining what it would be like, what it would feel like, to know that your daddy was going far away for a long time, braving unknown dangers, fighting unknown battles, not knowing when (or if) you would ever see him again…when I see his eyes widen in understanding, and in sympathy, I know that he understands history – and theatre – the same way that I do.

We live it, we love it.

And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as sharing that kind of passion and excitement with your kids.


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