Not-So-Empty Promise After All

Last weekend I attended “The Music Man” for the umpteenth time in my career as an SCV voice teacher, in support of my 20 students as they presented their craft and exuded their passion onstage with ESCAPE Theatre. Attending the countless students’ individual shows has never been easy, especially when I was raising four kids, but now that they’re grown I can get out of the studio and encourage my private sector. Over the years, I’ve seen “Annie” the most, but “Sound of Music” and “The Music Man” are close seconds.

Truth be told, I’ve always hated “Music Man,” as I have “Grease,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” for their patriarchal content – depicting the subordination of women and highlighting the assumption that females need to bend over backwards to get a man. I always wondered why such a strong woman as Marian could sacrifice her tenets to a swindling, fast-talking fake. Personally, I want musicals and plays to portray strong women who are rewarded for standing up – not caving in. But the same thing that always happens to me happened again on Saturday at the COC Performing Arts Center. I began to tear up at the tender scene on the footbridge when the leads kissed. I choked back my tears when the members of the band ran across the stage (all 200 of them) and made a joyful noise with their new instruments and wearing their new costumes.

I’m a sucker.

In analyzing my own “caving” to the magic of live theater, I realized, finally, the bigger picture the musical is trying to convey.

We all need the arts. We all need to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Harold Hill smooth-talks everyone into mail-ordering these uniforms and instruments with no intention of fulfilling his promises. But when CREATIVITY strikes, then his empty promises fall by the wayside because the town has discovered the overarching need to “FIT” in, as well as the need to self-express through the arts – specifically, music and dance.

The word ART derives from the Latin term “to fit,” and according to my favorite author on Creativity, David Bohm, all creative efforts stem from this desire to fit into the greater whole of society.

So, this particular musical celebrates the phenomenon of Creativity and reminds audiences that we can connect with our community if we stop resisting and explore our own relationship to Creativity.

I’m grateful to my students and the entire ESCAPE cast for this reminder, a little embarrassed that my feminist filters prevented me from seeing the larger theme until now. Turns out the power of Creativity can melt away resistance as well as fulfill empty promises.