Getting the message

If you follow me on Twitter (@elsiepod) you might have noticed I’m a wee bit excited about the Bandstand cast recording, which came out today. I’ve been listening to it and I’m on my third time around.bandstand-cover-new4

Obviously, I’ve been thinking about Bandstand quite a bit lately, since my last episode was an interview with Got Your 6 about their work with Bandstand. On that episode, Matt said that music helps the vets in the play heal from the traumatic events of the war. And that’s true, but in listening, I’m hearing a more complex message than what Matt and I talked about.

Listening to “Breathe,” I realized that it’s not exactly the music that heals. It’s making music. The distinction is small, I suppose, but my emphasis is on the work of making art. Because it’s not the music, per se, that helps them heal. Lots of people do use music to heal, of course. They listen. They dance. They use it as an escape or listen to lyrics that help them unlock emotions they can’t otherwise reach. And then there’s music therapy, which is another wonderful thing.

But Bandstand is about musicians. Musicians who set a goal and work toward it. Who have to learn to work together in order to succeed. Who spend their days practicing instruments, writing songs, and improving their technique and skills.

That’s meaningful work.

Similarly, in Groundhog Day [mild spoilers in this paragraph and the next one], Phil begins to find his way out of his loop by learning to play the piano. There’s not much he can do in his ever-repeating day that will have a lasting effect. He can’t build anything (it will be gone in the morning.) He can’t work on relationships with other people (they won’t remember the next day.) He can’t leave Punxatawney, and he can’t even build his body. What he can do is change his mental capacity.

Learning to pay the piano is the first real challenge Phil sets himself, and the first meaningful work he finds. In practicing and studying piano, Phil begins to grow as a human being, and it is that growth which eventually leads to his salvation.

Meaningful work.

Making art is meaningful work. Working toward a goal, developing relationships with co-workers, creating something that wasn’t there before. These things have been shown to help with all kinds of mental illness. They also help with recovering from trauma and adjusting to a new environment.

In Bandstand, the members of the Donny Nova Band learn to focus only on their work while they’re playing. “Breathe through the instrument, breathe through the end of the phrase/ And as everyone plays, it gets easier” Donny sings. He means to live in the moment. Concentrate on the work that needs to be done. Connect with the people in the room on the level needed to do what you’re doing. Exist. Eventually, you develop new habits of living–healthier habits that involve making something good with a group of people you can rely on.

And in doing this, your brain retrains itself. It learns that you can rely on the people around you. That you’re safe. That you’ll get regular rewards from succeeding, from meeting goals, from connecting with other people in a healthy way. And you get better.

I’m not knocking therapy or discounting the importance of medication. And I definitely think we should do more for our modern war vets who need help.

However, I am noticing a message rippling through Broadway right now about the importance of making art not only to get your message out (though that’s important too) but also because art heals (Bandstand, Groundhog Day.) Art brings people together (Cats, Dear Evan Hansen.) Working to help others improves your own life (Groundhog Day, Come From Away.) Work helps you develop and preserve your identity (Waitress, Sweat, Banstand.) And anything that gets in the way of creative expression is dangerous (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1984.)

It’s a theme. I’m getting the message, Broadway. And I agree with it.

Make more art.


Coming up on the podcast:

7/3: New York Musical Festival

7/17: Mardie Baldo: Gleek Goddess

7/31: Julie James (looking good) or Dean O’Connell (he’ll be on eventually either way)

Todrick Hall and Tiffany

Episode 19: Thespian Nerd

Sometimes I see someone on Twitter (or wherever) and I just think they look like fun to talk to. Tiffany was one of those people. And we had a great time talking about everything from Chris Colfer’s writing to Glee to Broadwaycon and Todrick Hall and Lena Hall and wild speculation about the next Elsie Fest.

You can listen to the episode here: https://elsiecast.podbean.com/e/19-thespian-nerd/

This is a terrible quality video, but the quote Tiffany refers to is in it. It’s from Inside the Actors Studio:

Here are the Chris Colfer links I promised:

Official site for Chris Colfer’s Land of Storieshttp://thelandofstories.com

Amazon’s list of all of Chris Colfer’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Colfer/e/B007O2PO80

Here’s the pic of Tiffany with Todrick Hall:

Todrick Hall and Tiffany

Tiffany met Todrick Hall at the stage door of Kinky Boots.

The Facebook Live where Darren mentions Elsie Fest is here: https://www.facebook.com/darrencriss/videos/10154489266594147/

The Elsie Fest comment is at about 34:53 if I’m reading the time thing correctly.

Episode 18: Broadway Babylon

I talk to the adorable William Statham about Broadway Babylon, an online group dedicated to Broadway news and discussions. Listen to the episode here.

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The adorable William Statham

We also discuss our mutual love of Darren Criss, Bandstand, and Dear Evan Hansen. William loves Dear Evan Hansen more than I do, but then William loves Dear Evan Hansen more than most people love breathing. Witness his shrine:

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William’s DEH shrine. Listen to the podcast to find out how he got the arm cast!

You can find Broadway Babylon on Facebook.

Twitter: @bwaybabylon

Instagram: @broadwaybabylon

 

Episode 17: Curt Mega Warbler Extravaganza Part 2

Catch up on Part 1 here.

Then listen to Part 2 here, in which Curt Mega and I discuss the filming of “Love, Love, Love,”

Working on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 

and his big Elsie Fest questions: He’d like me to interview Aaron Tveit and you’ll never guess what he wants me to ask Darren Criss!

Plus, my review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Plus, my Warbler giveaway continues this week. Drawing Friday, 5/19 at about noon EDT. Enter to win a signed Playbill from In Transit by tweeting to @Elsiepod using the hashtag #ElsieTransit.

Autographs are:

Telly Leung, Amy Justman, Brad Standley, Dave Abeles, Moya Angela, Gerrianne Perez, Chesney Snow, Nicholas Ward, Mariand Torres

Coming up on the podcast:

May 22: Broadway Babylon

May 29: Thespian Nerd

June 5: Tony Award-winning Orchestrator Larry Hochman