What a year 2020 has been. I attempted to summarise all the global events which have happened within the first six months of this year but it’s too many to list. I won’t pretend that we’re all suffering in equal measure as that’s clearly not the case. When you hear about the challenges facing key workers in hospitals and other front line services, the numerous people who have lost their jobs and seen their industries grind to a halt overnight, the rising death toll from covid-19 worldwide, it’s very clear that we’re not all in the same boat. As a black woman too, of course I also cannot ignore the murder of George Floyd, whose death sadly joins the list of innocent black people who have been killed as a result of police brutality in the US.
Although covid-19 and the black lives matter protests have been dominating headlines, there have been many other tragedies which have passed under the radar. A colleague at work explained that one of her friends in their early twenties was very recently shot in London. As I looked into this more, I found that the death toll from homicides in 2020 in London alone stands at 51. I can’t pretend to know the degree of suffering that individuals and families across the world right now are going through but my heart is heavy.
I just wanted to dedicate this post to everyone who is going through difficult times right now, whether you or a family member is unwell or your future feels uncertain, or you’ve experienced heightened mental health issues due to the current lockdown restrictions, you are all in my thoughts. When I look in the news and social media, all I see is increasing division and stories which seek to sensationalise issues and spread hatred. Seeing as I can’t control any of that, what I thought I could do is counteract it by making this very very small corner of the internet a place which spreads love and positivity.
Below, I’ve listed some musical theatre songs about optimism and endurance, along with my favourite quotes from them. All these songs are saved to the Spotify playlist at the very end. Please do share suggestions of songs to add if you have any.
There are many fantastic organisations out there who are doing all they can to support those going through hardship. If you’re in a position to donate, I know that not everyone is, but if you are, I’d encourage you to consider looking into which charities you can lend support to. I’ve listed below the ones I’ve come across who are doing brilliant work during this time:
Sending out lots of love, Lizzie xxx
1. Make Them Hear You, Ragtime
The rousing final number from my all-time favourite musical, Ragtime.
Your sword could be a sermon
Or the power of the pen
Teach every child to raise his voice
And then my brothers, then
Will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men.
Make them hear you, when they hear you, I’ll be near you again
2. Light, Next to Normal
Another powerful finale song, this time from the musical Next To Normal. In this number, the family realises that despite the difficulties that they have faced, although things aren’t perfect, they have to keep persisting through each day and welcome in the light.
Day after day, wishing all our cares away.
Trying to fight the things we feel, but some hurts never heal.
Some ghost are never gone, but we go on, we still go on.
And you find some way to survive
And you find out you don’t have to be happy at all,
To be happy you’re alive.
3. Let the Sunshine In, Hair
This is such a kick-ass song. I can’t say all the lyrics make 100% sense, but the collective passionate singing from the tribe feels transcendent and so powerful. When I listen to it, I can’t help but feel the euphoria and endless good vibes that it transmits.
Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of greatness.
Who knows what stands in front of our lives
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
This version that I recently discovered with Norm Lewis makes me swoon.
4. Beautiful City, Godspell
Godspell is such a gem of a musical. It’s funny to me how Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell both centre around Jesus but they are both incredibly different in tone. Jesus Christ Superstar on the one hand is a rock opera, while Godspell in contrast is closer in tone to a playful children’s TV show. Beautiful City feels like Jesus’ swan song, a plea that brick by brick, we can all play our part in making the world better.
When your trust is all but shattered, when your faith is all but killed
You can give up bitter and battered, or you can slowly start to build, a beautiful city
Yes, we can, yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels, but finally a city of man
5. We Got It, The Wiz Live
I very recently learnt that this song didn’t actually appear in the stage nor the film version of The Wiz. Rather it was co-written by Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelley, for the live TV version. It’s such a joyous song where the principle team of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion come together and despite their initial fears, pluck up the courage to kill the evil witch, Evillene. If you ever need some spirit lifting soulful music, I’d recommend listening to the whole NBC Original Soundtrack.
I can conquer the mountains, swim the deepest sea
There ain’t nothing I can’t do as long as you’re with me
Together, together. Together we do
6. Why we Tell the Story, Once on This Island
The eagle-eyed of you would have noticed that I borrowed the title of this song for the name of my interview series. Again I feel like this finale number is just so joyful.
So I hope that you will tell this tale tomorrow
It will help your heart remember and relive
It will help you feel the anger and the sorrow and forgive
For out of what we live and we believe, our lives become the stories that we weave
7. Be the Hero, Big Fish
Andrew Lippa’s music from the little known stage adaptation of Big Fish is just so upbeat. In this number, Edward Bloom sings of the importance of creating your own stories rather than letting life pass you by.
Be the hero of your story if you can
Be the champion in the fight, not just the man
Don’t depend on other people to put paper next to pen
Be the hero of your story, boy, and then
You can rise to be the hero once again
8. You’ll Never Walk Alone, Carousel
This number from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is a classic. Most will know it as the Liverpool F.C.’s football anthem.
Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.
9. Out of the Darkness, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Any time you feel your skies are falling
Look above see a bright silver lining
Listen up at your own freedom calling
Calling you to a day where you’re shining
10. Another Day, Rent
This is probably one of my all-time favourite musical theatre songs. The lyrics I’ve highlighted below in particular knocked-me sideways when I realised the depth of meaning it carries.
When I first heard this number from Rent, I didn’t know much about the story. In my naive mind, I just assumed that Roger was being strangely cagey and didn’t understand why he didn’t want to just hang out with Mimi. It was only I read the comments section for the YouTube video that I learnt that (spoiler alert) Roger had AIDs and in this whole number Roger is trying to ignore Mimi’s sexual advances. This was during a time when AIDs was perceived as a death sentence and so Roger’s frostiness actually came from a place of wanting to protect Mimi and not put her in danger. It turns out they both have AIDs and neither person knew this about one another.
Here, Mimi sings about not closing your heart because of fear. We don’t know what the future will bring and the past has already come and gone. So there’s no point in worrying endlessly about the past nor the future because by doing this, we lose sight of the precious time that we have in the present and may lose sight of what’s happening right in front of our eyes. All we can do is enjoy the present, the here and now. This is something I often forget and when I need reminding, I frequently return to this song (this rendition with Renée Elise Goldsberry in particular because I live for her vocals).
The heart may freeze or it can burn / The pain will ease if I can learn
There is no future, There is no past / I live each moment as my last
There’s only us, There’s only this
Forget regret– or life is yours to miss.
No other road, No other way, No day but today
11. Louder Than Words, Tick, Tick…Boom!
Every single lyric in this song feels so powerful to me. It’s essentially a call to arms, that we should respond to the events that we see around us when something looks wrong, and respond with action not just words. It was written around 30 years ago by the late Jonathon Larson and still powerfully resonates today.
What does it take
To wake up a generation?
How can you make someone
Take off and fly?
If we don’t wake up
And shake up the nation
We’ll eat the dust of the world
Wondering why, why