It all started when I was 8 years old. I was stuffed in the back of an AstroVan coming home from a movie with my parents and was arguing with my dad, who had switched the radio off of my favorite station and had put in a tape. I was whining because the music was unfamiliar.
"What IS this?" I demanded.
"You'll like it. It's called Phantom of the Opera," Dad said.
" I WON'T like it. I HATE opera. This woman sounds like a bird on crack."
"It's not that kind of opera, Kacy. Where did you learn about crack?"
Despite myself, I listened to the music. I believe I pouted all the way home until some part of the story sucked me in. I was completely unwilling. And I was hooked, somewhere deep down where few things are permitted to settle and stay.
Phantom and all of the shows like it quickly became for me the ultimate escape. Even though I might as well have been an ocean away from Broadway, stuck in the East Texas Piney Woods with kids who made fun of me for drawing pictures of Mungojerry and Rumpleteazer from Cats, I was truly in love with musical theater. I was a dumpy short fat kid with glasses and braces but when I listened to Starlight Express, I twirled around in my room and sang at the top of my lungs -- thank the Lord for everyone involved that I was (am) an only child -- pretending I was really there, in New York, a place I could only imagine. And I forgot about everybody who thought I was a spoiled hideous weirdo kid and I was somewhere else entirely.
Fast-forward to spring of 2007. I'm weary from a 2-day drive in a snowstorm from Mississippi to New York City, riding an escalator out of the subway, when we emerge onto Times Square, right under a gigantic, bright sign for Phantom of the Opera. I remember that I couldn't breathe, or move, even though stopping on the sidewalk in Times Square is almost impossible. Sign after sign after sign of the musicals I'd followed for years, and the only thing that separated me from them was a door. It was like someone had given me a present I hadn't earned. I was almost positive a taxicab would instantly kill me right then and there and prevent me from going into a theatre to see Wicked, which I'd been butchering in my car and the shower for over a year. We'd bought front-row tickets -- supercheap for their "obscured view" -- and I had one of Elphaba's monkeys in my lap for most of the performance. I'm fairly certain I let my mouth hang open for the entirety of the show, completely unable and unwilling to pull myself together to behave like a normal person just out to see a show.
At the end of this month, I may have the chance to redeem myself. While we're in Boston, we're taking a bus to NYC and, due to the grand generosity of a good mutual friend, Kim, we'll be bunking on her floor and stuffing in as many shows as we can in a 24 hour period. The first one, Spring Awakening, we'll see from a unique vantage point; we'll be on top of the Eugene O'Neill stage and I'm ecstatic. I have a friend in the show who plays Anna, and that makes it even more special. In an effort to get ready for the euphoria, I just watched the 2008 Tony Awards and when I saw "In the Heights," my heart stopped. Hip-hop Puerto Rican Rap does Broadway? If it were a show I could eat, I would have. And thanks to broadwaybox.com and my complete willingness to sit behind a pillar on the last row in the very back of the theater, I'm going to, and now all I can do is blog about it because it's 2 weeks away and I should be in bed and there's no way I can go to sleep now.
I can't really describe it but seeing New York is like going to see someone I've been infatuated with but separated from ever since I first experienced what an "obsession" was but being told that, now that the reunion is official, I'll have to figure out a way to bide my time until then. The anticipation is sure to make me, yet again, an absolute fool in the audience. If you happen to be there, and I'm squealing, or sobbing, or gasping, and unable to stop clapping, just know that I'm well aware very few adults act that way in public. I'm fully cognizant than grown women who enjoy themselves typically just nod, smile, and write journal entries about something they want to remember. But I'm not like those women. If you see me visit Broadway, just know you're in the presence of pure, unadulterated joy. And I just can't apologize for that.