Mom and the King

muscialsI grew up to the sound of music (and, yes, The Sound of Music) on the TV/Stereo Console in the living room, right under the picture window that looked out on Bradley Street. That is, I grew up to music when Dad wasn’t home.  Dad liked it quiet and I can remember Mom lovingly lifting the needle for one of her favorite LPs at the sound of Dad pulling into the driveway.   I get it.   I would have music playing all the time (it actually is, in my head) … my wife Muri sees it as background at best, off even better.  Like so many things that define me, I got my love of music from Mom.   What did she listen to?  Yes, there was some obligatory Montovani, 101 Strings and yulFerrante and Teicher but mostly she played big bands (especially Glenn Miller), classical music (she favored symphonies) and Broadway musicals.   I still remember the lyrics from South Pacific (Some enchanted evening …), Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweeping down the plains ...) and My Fair Lady (I’ve grown accustomed to her face …).   Then there’s The King and I.  My Mom’s favorite.   She saw it in New York and immediately had a crush on Yul Brynner.   It was the only time I remember my Mom owning up to a crush.   I think my Dad was OK with it because he had more than a little bit of the King in him.  Then I went away to college and became educated (technically) and sophisticated (supposedly), too cool to listen to Broadway musicals.  Once I was married, my wife and I became fans of live theater, but I resisted seeing those uncool musicals.   It would be years before I admitted my love of musicals and began to add them to our theater repertoire.   Sophistication be damned, right?   At 73, I’m nostalgic.

segerstromToday, my wife and I are going to see that National Touring production of The King and I, part of a three musical series we bought ourselves for Valentines day at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.   The King and I is perhaps Roger’s and Hammerstein’s most moving creation, filled with instantly recognizable songs, iconic choreography, and a story touching on social issues that still echo today.  I remember my Mom explaining to me that though Anna and the King were in love, it was forbidden culturally in Siam,  And that having them end up together would not have been acceptable in a play by our culture in 1951.  In fact, Wikipedia says that Since a frank expression of romantic feelings between the King and Anna would be inappropriate in view of both parties’ upbringing and prevailing social mores,[18] Hammerstein wrote love scenes for a secondary couple, Tuptim, a junior wife of the King, and Lun Tha, a scholar.  Rodgers biographer Meryle Secrest summed up the musical: The King and I is really a celebration of love in all its guises, from the love of Anna for her dead husband; the love of the King’s official wife, Lady Thiang, for a man she knows is flawed and also unfaithful; the desperation of forbidden love; and a love that is barely recognized and can never be acted upon.  There are songs of joy (Shall We Dance).  There are songs of longing for the star-crossed lovers, Tuptim and Lun Tha (We kiss in the Shadows).  And there is grief, at the end when the King dies (Something Wonderful).  And, of course, there’s this:

This has been a long week.  We lost a very dear friend and her passing brought back echos of my Mom’s passing years ago.  Today,  I  will revel in the music, knowing it will be playing in my head all week.  I will appreciate what is supposed to be an amazing set and production.  I’ll smile as Anna and the King dance around the stage and as the king’s children parade onto the stage to The March of the Siamese Children.   And I’ll cry at the death of the King.  That’s OK.  That’s life and it’s just what I need today.  Music with the Love of My Life by my side.

Have a great weekend.

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