Theater kids, I always say, are the same as any other kids anywhere. We just happen to dance to a different beat. Make that a happy, uplifting beat. Take if rom me, Broadway music can give children the kind of boost that can provide them the impetus to rise above practically anything.
So many times, when I meet another adult and find out they were a fellow musical-theater-lovin’ kid, it’s funny, but on first meeting I usually feel like I’ve known them forever. There’s a distinct and glowing difference to these wonderful people, an “anything’s possible” attitude of positivity. That’s especially true of those who love musicals like MAME, the story of a woman who embraces life to the fullest and the show I was in at twelve, in a theater workshop that changed my whole life. I remember how much the theater meant to me when I was young, especially during the years I was attending a particularly nasty and miserably-run school. I think a lot of kids, when surrounded by the ugly, reach for the good to counter-balance it, and we find it in the theater. There wasn’t any place to be that was anywhere near as fabulous to me, especially then, as any seat in any theater, be it on Broadway or the nearest high school gym.
I have been watching The Tony Awards since I was twelve years old, and I’ve always loved them, the annual televised salute to the best of Broadway. I especially love seeing the numbers from the newly nominated musicals, which help me decide which ones I want to rush right out and see, and which cast albums, I want to get, too.
This year, though, last night, the opening number was, undisputedly, beyond a doubt, the very best one of them all. It was a salute to theater kids! It was all about us, and how our love of the theater put so many of us onto our career paths. Host James Corden illustrated what it was like for him to be brought to the theater by his parents, complete with a “Little James” character of his younger self. Before I was the author of Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother, once upon a time, I was a little girl sitting in a plush seat at the Winter Garden Theater, enchanted by watching Angela Lansbury in GYPSY come up the aisle, calling out, “Sing out, Louise!” I’ve even got plans for a fiction book, a mystery, for middle school-age kids, set during the era of traveling vaudeville acts, and you can be sure, the love I have for that long-ago time period that all began the day I was in that audience of GYPSY.
James Corden and anyone else involved in writing this phenomenal number should get a special award for it, not to mention a gold star in heaven, too. Oh, and did I happen to mention, the nominees are in it? Take a look! Here it is, boys! Here it is, WORLD! Here’s the best Opening Number of the Tony Awards of them all. This is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Enjoy!