Tag Archives: Dreams

Sondheim is super


The more musicals by Stephen Sondheim that I watch, the more my belief (that theatre shows us real life, more than real life itself), is reinforced.

Merrily We Roll Along has been playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London since November 2012 and I’ve just seen it.  It tells the story of a composer (Frank) who turns to commercial producing, putting his own unique creativity at stake, along with his friendship and in the end his own grasp of life.  The musical opens at his house in California in 1975 and then by the end of the musical, it is 1957 and he is on a rooftop with two friends on 110th Street, NYC.

Frank and Charlie on the roof

Frank and Charlie on the roof

It ends, therefore, at the beginning, when he, and his friends Mary and Charlie, are idealistic and full of hope. They have dreams that music and writing can change the world.  By 1975, they are older – some of the dreams are shattered and some of the dreams have been reached but in ways that have distanced them and turned them from who they were – affecting their relationship with each other and with other people.

The three leads are played beautifully by Mark Umbers (Frank), Jenna Russell (Mary) and Damian Humbley (Charlie). Humbley remarks that essentially the musical is about compromise.  We all compromise a little as we go down the road of life but it is like dominoes – one little one falls into another little one and it’s something that can become habit.  It is not bad to compromise but it can also take its toll as the further you go down the road, the harder it is not to keep doing it and you realise what you stood for has been left behind.

Frank, Charlie and Mary

Frank, Charlie and Mary

I found the musical heartbreakingly honest since not only does Frank leave some of his dreams behind, he also leaves some of the special people in his life behind; people he genuinely loved and who loved him.  And, what he ends up with, is not what he set out to achieve.  Songs such as ‘Old Friends’, ‘Growing Up’, ‘Not a Day Goes By’ and ‘Our Time’ nail prefectly those moments in life that we all share, cherish, lose and sometimes regain.

If I had to recommend a show to see, to anyone, I would say this one.  It reminds you of being alive (the name of another song by Sondheim from ‘Company’ – another great musical) and that, even with our best efforts, we will not always make the right choices – but is is always worth trying to make them, and trying to hold good friendships.



‘Dance First. Think Later.’


The quote is from a favourite writer of mine – of ‘Waiting For Godot’ and many other plays (see below).

dog quote

This is all very well – and a good idea most of the time, I think, but we are rarely able to.  Numerous examples show where people have danced – in other words done what they’ve wanted…and there are consequences for themselves and others.

Perhaps not so long ago I would have said yes to this philosophy with no hesitation as I do think it’s important to grab the moment and enjoy it for what it is – without thought.  I think I’d still say this but I’d add ‘as long as you don’t hurt yourself or other living beings (animal or human).’


What’s the link with Hollywood I hear you ask?  Well, Hollywood is the place where I suppose people do, and can, dance, and achieve great things – if they have the money and contacts.  I recently spent some time at Universal Studios LA and I was blown away by the dreams that have become real.

It is a place of dancing and thinking simultaneously and film makers would not have achieved anything if they had thought and then danced.

Dancing therefore is a metaphor for living life to the full and Universal is a place that takes you to where imagination takes over from reality.  In a world of 3D – which Universal uses to the full in its news rides and shows, we watch a fixed image which we think comes out at us and part of our world.  As we know, this is not the case – but we believe it to be the case.


In the Terminator show, above, the Terminator is not really touching us but we believe it to be so.  Even when we are told ‘it is not real’ – we still jump when it happens!

Universal shows us – in a fun way – the benefits of dancing and not thinking.  The dimensions of the mind would not be stretched to their full capacity if we did only the latter.  And, dancing is often the more objective approach to life; thinking too much can be unhealthy as judgements can creep in.


Walking into Universal is walking into an impossible yet possible world.  It is not so far from the way real life works.