While “Don’t rain on my parade” is one of my life’s theme songs, I hadn’t seen Funny Girl.
Last night a musical changed my life could be a category in this blog, because when it hits home, it really sinks in. But it’s rare to be completely swept up, absorbed, engaged and altered by a piece of art. There are few better feelings. Even drinks with some of my favourite people at Hanks – my favourite place couldn’t distract me from the sheer brilliance of the spectacular show I’d just seen. I just wanted to come home and write about it!
I feel like musicals are the universes way of delivering life’s truths in a way I completely understand. Musical language. It’s like the voice of G_d speaks song and dance. It reflects back the heightened reality that I live in, in my head, daily. Chatting to my friends afterwards, I realised that my perspective on the love story in the show wasn’t as obvious as the one I’d just seen. Life is a mirror and musicals offer the best reflections! Perhaps you’ll share these thoughts after watching the show. Even if you don’t, if there is one thing you do this week: it’s watch the show!
From the flawless performances of the entire ensemble to Ashleigh Harvey who blew me away from the first moment she stepped onto stage till the last. The show was a gift I’ll be forever grateful for receiving. Magical. Joyful. Profound. Tragically beautiful.
Now to unpack one of the story’s gift’s that is the love story…
When we meet young Fanny Brice, she belts out
The Greatest Star
I am by far!
But no one knows it—WAIT!
And it remind us that it’s ok to love who we are able be joyful about it. That our drive, ambition, determination and chutzpah are qualities worth celebrating! They’re worth singing about!
And even if the world doesn’t see it it, it’s your own self motivation, dedication, resilience and practice that gets you to where you want to be: shining bright for the world to see.
In fact, if the world doesn’t see, it may inspire you more. No need to feign humility, shyness or coyness to make yourself more palatable. She puts it out there for world to see and share.
The unwavering support and love of her mother, reminded me of mine. There’s no Father in the picture (is Fanny an adult child too?), but between the support, belief and nurturing of Fanny’s mother and the encouragement of her two friends she has all confidence needs met. She’s supported. She’s insatiable and it’s utterly inspiring.
Her friend Eddie Ryan, teaches her to dance in endless rehearsals and there’s a moment when he almost asks her out. He loves her, but her eyes are future focused on the bright lights of the stage and nothing will stand in her way. He’s there to support her, not to be her equal match, no matter how nice, kind and caring he is. He’s not her person.
Then she meets the most ‘beautiful man’ Nick Arnstein who is hardly the ‘good guy next door’ type like Eddie. But he’s different, intriguing and mysterious and a woman like Fanny doesn’t do ordinary.
Fanny Brice: You could get lonesome being that free.
Nick Arnstein: You could get lonesome being that busy.
Fanny Brice: Now who’d think to look at us that we got the same problem!
I mean! That combination is perfection! From the outside, they’d seem so mismatched, but they are two peas in a pod. Both searching for more. Both filling themselves up without the love of a partner – until, they commit to each other.
After a almost on and off again and on/ off again – with all the red flags of his risky gambling, exotic, wild and free lifestyle, she makes a rash or brave (depending on how you look at it) to follow him to where he hadn’t asked her to go.
Don’t tell me not to fly
I’ve simply got to
If someone takes a spill
It’s me and not you
Who told you you’re allowed
To rain on my parade
Taking full responsibility and accountability for her choices and actions, she follows Nick.
I gotta fly once
I gotta try once
Only can die once, right, sir?
Ooh, life is juicy
Juicy, and you see
I gotta have my bite, sir
Somebody pass me the apple. She a woman who doesn’t just want more – she want’s it all! Everything. And that mean’s a deep dive into the unknown. Which she takes.
At this point it was intermission and I was convinced she’d arrive to find Nick married or with multiple girlfriends, a liar and a cheat. And Fanny’s heart would be broken. But it isn’t. Her wild risk paid off.
Rose Brice: When you look at him, you only see what you want to see.
Fanny Brice: I see him as he is. I love him as he is!
Rose Brice: Fanny. Love him a little less. Help him a little more.
But how do you help a man who won’t help himself? Who keeps making counter-productive life choices? Loving isn’t helping. He has to figure that out alone.
These lyrics (also) struck a cord:
Cause I’m better on stage than at intermission
She’s better shining at full force, than in ‘real life’ where it’s normal. She’s built for bigger and brighter realities. A spotlight life.
And as far as the man is concerned,
If I’ve been burned,
I haven’t learned
It’s worth it. If there’s been consequence of pain, it’s not worth stopping what she want’s for it. She just loves Nick. As he is. Despite his obvious flaws. And she commits her life to him through marriage.
I loved the Sadie, Sadie song too.
Finally got a guy to marry me!
I do my nails,
Read up on sales,
All day the records play.
Then he comes home, I tell him
Oy–what a day I had today!
I swear I’ll do my wifely job,
Just sit at home–become a slob!
I’m Sadie, Sadie, married lady, that’s me!
The ultimate wife-to-be fantasy that I had once upon a time. It’s such a send up and like every scene it lights you up with laugher. It shows the ridiculousness of the ‘ideal’. The real fantasy, which isn’t stage life, but real life.
And then it gets tricky…
In ev’ry way, ev’ry day, I need less of myself and need more him–more him,
‘Cause his is the only music that makes me dance,
‘Cause his is the only music that makes me dance.
She adores him. But emptying our herself to be consumed with more of him is not healthy. No one should make you less than so that you can access their love more. It’s a toxic relationship disguised as romance. He makes her feel something that not even performing can. He is her music. He makes her feel the most alive. We sense that if she had to choose, it would ultimately be him, over everything else she loves. Over who she is. Or is she?
After Nick returns from 2 years in jail, he tells her that they can’t destroy each other anymore and he leaves her.
This is what I heard as subtext
“I love you because of all that you are. But it reflects back all that I am not and could never be. I am not enough for you and although you don’t need me to be, I can’t stand it anymore. Watching as your light grows bigger and bigger, makes me retreat further into the shadows. I feel diminished by you. I can’t match you. I feel like you feel sorry for me and want to help me – like I’m helpless without you and it’s killing me. The more you love me and try to help by giving more, the worse it gets because I feel so undeserving and useless. How can you forgive me for my crime when I don’t forgive myself? You accept me as I am but I don’t think I’m nearly good enough for someone as magnificent as you. You are a force of nature, destined for greatness in a life that you’ve self created. What have I done aside from fail? Not just you but us through my actions. I don’t contribute. Instead I’ve drained millions from you. I’m worthless. You’re priceless. I can’t hurt you through staying because if I do, I know you’ll give up the very best parts of yourself in sacrifice to me, when the whole world is a more deserving audience of your love. Let them share you. Don’t pour yourself into me. I’ll drain it all. I love you and so, I am letting you go…”
(Not that he said any of that, but that’s the type of monologue I hear packed into in a few musical lyrics – so exciting.)
And while Fanny may never love anyone the way she loves Nick, her’s is not a life meant for a compromised position. She drys her tears, readjusts herself and gets ready to go back on stage. The show must go on. Nothing will stop her; no one will bring her down, not rejection, not even heartbreak.
She looses her man, but she never looses herself. She’ll be ok. It’s an alternative happy ending.
How happy would she have remained with Nick anyway – perhaps the fantasy of not knowing and the memories of the good times are more comforting than the actuality of him staying. Perhaps, his self sabotage and what little was left of him, could have destroyed her too.
Fannie Brice: I’m a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls!
She’s different and delicious and she reminds us that it’s spectacular to be that way. To stand right out as a unique individual. Being yourself and keeping yourself is a luxury you afford through brave, bold choices. She experiences everything to the full. A truly satiated existence. A full multifaceted journey through life, that’s fun and funny and everything else in the broadest emotional spectrum. No matter what happens, Funny Girl, reminds us to keep singing and dancing throughout.
She’s the kind of heroine all girls and women need to incorporate into their every day life. I’m thrilled I now have her as a character in mine.