PBS has been running the 25th Anniversary concert staging of Les Misérables lately. And you damn bet I’ve been watching it and weeping like a 12-year-old at a Bieber show. Because, finally, I am okay with it. Three years of reliving my teenage angst – and being entrusted with the angst of others – while working for Mortified Boston have softened me. That, and working on the (ugh) “memoir” I’m tentatively calling Drama Queen, which I expect may be finished by the time I’m 50.
I am a Drama Queen. At last the truth can be told.
I adore (most) musicals. I love group hugs, stupid in-jokes about Bernadette Peters, and giving shoulder rubs to castmates. I will erupt in wild applause for kicklines and time-steps. I yell at the Tony Awards the way most of my friends yell at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Shakesperian insults are never not funny. I sob at the end of The King & I.
It has taken me years to come around to admitting this.
I think it began in college, although it didn’t really take root until after I graduated and moved back to Boston. I got the impression, as I immersed myself in theatre classes, reading The Poetics over and over again until my eyes crossed, that being such an unrepentant muffin was not cool. In my increasingly boozy twenties, I became an outright snob, sniffing derisively at “mainstream” musicals as I wrapped myself in chains and spun in a circle for ten minutes straight, three nights a week in the basement of a bar in Cambridge. What I was doing there? THAT was theatre.
The crazy thing? I’ve worked at a theatre company for 18 years, even during the years I was spinning around in chains and reciting poetry in my underwear. I never completely eschewed my beginnings, I was just being – well – kind of a dick about them. And I also began to get weary of hearing other “underground” performers biting the hands that had nourished them, even if they wanted to pretend that they NEVER acted like muffins and ALWAYS had a deep disdain for musicals even at the age of 15. Whatever.
And so I come back to Les Mizzz. It was the toast of Broadway while I was still in high school. When you are a 16-year-old drama queen, this show gives you everything you need to stoke the flames of your tortured soul, as it were. A rotating stage! Men in vests! Unrequited love and screechy martyrdom! Oh, yes. Who among us didn’t ache for poor Eponine, so desperately in lurve with Marius and yet has to watch as he pitches woo to that goddamned Cosette?
Who cannot relate to being always the pal, and never the love interest? I can, and if you can’t, it’s because you’re a Cosette and you’ve always gotten what you wanted by just standing there with your rosebud simper going on about your cloud castles and such. We Eponines know a thing or two about HEARTBREAK, and unlike YOU, we’ll take a bullet for the guy, on the way BACK from delivering YOUR love letter. I hate you Cosettes sometimes. I really do.
Listen, you couldn’t pay me to be 16 again. But you don’t have to. All I have to do is watch Les Misérables.