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Everything’s Coming Up Roses- 14/48

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Sadly we didn’t manage to descend on Leicester OR Wolverhampton this year for 14/48, that magic, manic festival where we make 14 new plays in 48 hours.

However not to be defeated, team 14/48 kept the magic going with a WEEKLY mini 14/48 ’14/48 working from home’ where we got to experience the fun of creating new work, overnight…from our own home.

For those not familiar, the writers were drawn at random from a hat, given a theme to write about overnight. Then directors and actors were drawn and given about 8 hours to create a play…this is my suitably stagey contribution this year.

 

 

And for anyone who would like to read along ….

 

Mama Rose and Me.

 

Singing, ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from Gypsy, with commitment. It doesn’t matter how well.

 

I had a dream, a dream about you, baby.
It’s gonna come true, baby.
They think that we’re through, but baby,

 

You’ll be swell! You’ll be great!
Gonna have the whole world on the plate!
Starting here, starting now,
honey, everything’s coming up roses!

 

It was a religious experience the first time I heard that song. Ms Patti LuPone belting that song out. It was from the back of the balcony, but she could have been right there in my face. Admittedly that’s a slightly terrifying prospect. If I believed in God I would have been converted. Of course, I was converted long before that. Because if there is a heaven it’s filled with musical theatre, I’m convinced of it. God would not allow any different. Pretty sure God loves some Jazz Hands, right?

 

Impersonates Mama Rose

Sing out Louise!

 

When I was a teenager, I would wake up early to find out the winners of the Tony Awards. It was like my Christmas. Or I guess like some…big sporting event. Um, the FA Cup? Look, I might not have known who was top of the charts, but I could list off Sondheim’s musical repertoire by the time I was 12.

 

Actually, did you know, Gypsy rarely gets included in summaries of Stephen Sondheim’s work because he only wrote the lyrics. The other shows he did that for were Anyone Can Whistle and of course West Side Story. 7 of his musicals have been made into films. He has 8 Tony Awards.  Um. I know a lot about Stephen Sondheim. And musical theatre. It’s not the coolest is it? I’ve always struggled with facts. But this I can do. Other things always seem to fall out of my head. I knew every word of Les Mis but I couldn’t conjugate a French verb for a loaf of bread.

 

‘What use is musical theatre nonsense? What’s that going to get you in life?’

 

Sings again sadly

Now’s your inning. Stand the world on it’s ear!
Set it spinning! That’ll be just the beginning!
Curtain up! Light the lights!

 

No Mama Rose in my life. Not that I’m suggesting she’s a model for parenting. She makes ‘Dance Moms’ look reserved after all. Eventually though, I was allowed to see a show. All the way to the bright lights of London. Like a really low budget backstage film. If backstage films included the 7am slow train from Birmingham New Street and a mad dash across Kings Cross clutching a Burger King for the last train home.

 

Repeats singing

Curtain up! Light the lights!

 

You’re allowed to cry in the theatre too. In the dark. Where nobody can see you. You can sit there, all alone, but not alone. And cry. Have you ever done that? Just been carried away in the darkness by music, by a story…That’s what I remember about those years. That moment of…release, when you get carried away by people telling you their stories. Giving you their heart. And you can give them yours in return. Just by sitting there. It sounds silly when you say it out loud. It wouldn’t sound silly in a song.

 

Back then my only real friends lived on stage. On CDs. On YouTube. But somewhere between the Birmingham New Street-Burger King dash, I found my people.

 

Brighter now

Curtain up! Light the lights!
We got nothing to hit but the heights!

 

I met my best friends in those darkened rooms. We find each other. Somehow, in the darkness. In the way we only know how to talk in theatre. You wouldn’t think it, but we can feel the same as a stadium of football fans, cheering on what we love, united in that moment…watching a perfect moment on stage, in a packed theatre…it’s like scoring the winning goal, or some sports metaphor. It’s a cliché to talk about shared experience…but it feels like breathing with one breath, beating with one heart. Or just bragging rights that you were at the closing night of Company and clearly the coolest of nerds.

 

I’m back to doing it in my bedroom now. Singing I mean. We all are, I guess. Some days, well, some days, it’s all that keeps me sane. Belting out showtunes. I can be Barbara. Or Imelda. Or I could be Lin Manuel Miranda or Hugh Jackman…or I can be me. More me in a showtune than anywhere else.  For now, it’s a bedroom concert. The stage is in my head.

Pretending I’m in a room, waiting for the curtain to come up. I worry we’ll never find our way back. I worry …I worry it’s all gone.

 

But then I think of that time. The next time. When you hear the start of an overture. I think of the room filling with music. I think of turning to my friends I found in the darkness, sitting there with me. Holding hands tightly to fight back the tears. And the music fills the theatre, and the applause rises, and rises and rises…

 

Sings, triumphant

Everything’s coming up sunshine and Santa Claus!
Everything’s gonna be bright lights and lollipops!
Everything’s coming up roses for me and for you!

 

 

By Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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