"There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us,
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
West Side Story
Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), Leonard Bernstein (music)
I grew up watching lots of musicals, made before my time. Bye Bye Birdie was a total favorite (I've sang versions of "I Love You Conrad" to my children when they were babies) and The Sound of Music, not to mention Thoroughly Modern Millie and My Fair Lady.
Long before I read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in high school, I watched West Side Story with Natalie Wood as Maria. The music was so beautiful. My favorite song from the movie was the poignant "Somewhere." I knew Tony was going to get killed but still felt heartbroken when he did, and when the Sharks and the Jets walked off together, peacefully, following Maria's lead, it all seemed so utterly pointless that he died. Why couldn't they just be happy? What did all the hate accomplish?
These days, we are redefining what kind of place our country is. Is it a place for us- with peace and quiet and open air? Who is "us" after all?
Another favorite musical was Jim Henson's Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas, created two years before I was born, in 1977. Even though it is January, my children wanted to see this movie again so just yesterday, we watched it.
In the words of Emmett Otter's Mother, "Our world says, 'Welcome, stranger.' Everybody's a friend. Favorite stories don't end, in our world...Some say our world is getting too small. I say with kindness, there's room for us all."
These days, there is much "sound and fury....signifying nothing" (Shakespeare, Macbeth). My books, my poems, my musicals return to me and I hold onto a world where strangers are welcome and everybody's a friend.