Recently, my daughter and I have connected through my massive musical collection. Daddy Long Legs, Annie, Into the Woods- she's been listening to each, and belting the songs in her room during her "independent time." She comes back with the real questions. Why is Ms. Hannigan so mean? Why does the witch help the Baker?
I've pulled up the OBC (original Broadway Cast) recording of Into the Woods, and we watched it together. This led to us watching the made for television recording of Cinderella. (The revival cast recording of Cinderella is stellar btw. Worth a listen to.) All the musicals I've mentioned relate in a specific way: They are all about escaping specific traps. Most of those traps are a form of isolation. Freedom is easy to write. Everyone can get around freedom.
But what happens when that story can't be told. There's no Fairy Godmother coming to wave a wand over our specific city and tell us we can all mingle until the stroke of midnight. There's no Daddy Warbucks to adopt us into community. There are witches, luring us into false wishes that can get some of us killed. That makes everything so scary. How do we talk about those realities, especially with kids?
Just a Simple Sponge
Last year I watched the television event that was Spongebob the Musical. I thought it would be a fun romp into silliness. Hilarious stupidity. Just something to fill the time. Instead, I got an epic salvation narrative.
I didn't think much of it at the time. In fact, at that point I was kinda over how televisionized Broadway had become. (You're reading the girl who owns no less than 20 OBC soundtracks that are often sung to when alone in the car.) There's nothing substantial about Spongebob Squarepants.
Then, last night, I'm listening to the soundtrack and it transformed for me. That musical was written for right now.
To sum it up without spoiling everything: There is a volcano. It is going to explode. The good guys are telling the people to stay home, while they fix the problem. The bad guy (Plankton) sees an opportunity to destroy everything, giving his business a chance to rise to the top, so he tells everyone to go.
It is not the freedom narrative, we've needed for 50 plus years- it's the hope narrative we need when in crisis. Simply put, bad things are going to happen, but we choose how we deal with those bad things. It's the "best day ever," not because everything is going perfectly, or even well, but because we're going to make it the best day ever. Your problem is my problem, and together we're going to fix it.
I know, I'm as stunned as you. How could a 90's cartoon character speak to our 2020 soul? I believe it's because sometimes silly stories help us process serious events. Like The Little Mermaid was my way to process feeling different and not part of the world. This might be perfect to understand a pandemic during our necessary isolation.
We're all too serious right now anyway.
(If you're interested in listening to the album, I'm going to link the Company's YouTube page. You can always find a playlist of the entire album, but I try to give ad revenue to the proper source, the actual creators. The Nickelodeon production can be found on multiple sources. It costs $10 to purchase the digital copy. I wish I knew a cheaper option, but it's been out long enough that it's no longer free to stream. For those who go to the movies on a regular basis, it's a good family event, and half the price of any of the Universal movies right now.)