Well, it’s official. I no longer recognize myself. And no, it’s not because of the 15 pounds or so that I have put on since moving back to the suburbs. I’ll tell you why. This past Sunday night, when I had the choice between watching the third and fourth episodes of The Last Dance on ESPN or the 90th birthday concert tribute that Raul Esparza and Broadway’s brightest living legends organized for Stephen Sondheim, I didn’t even feel conflicted between which one to choose.
Spoiler Alert: I Chose The Last Dance
Now, to those of you not familiar with our little site let me explain a little more. Here at The Turf, where we cover literally everything, we have a particular market on our own little corner of the world. We are those dozens of people that Rachel refers to in the above tweet. An eclectic group that has equal love for both sports and theater. We are the world’s premiere musical theater/sports crossover website. Probably because we are most likely the only one. So hang tight for this interesting ride on the train of my thought process if you are so inclined. It promises to be a one of a kind ride.
Now, if you had told my 15 year old musical theater nerd and former aspiring actress self that I chose sports over a tribute concert to the greatest ever songwriter and lyricist that has ever existed in musical theater, I would have told you that I’d lost my mind. But friends, these are in fact the most bizarre of times we are all in and have all lived through.
But It Isn’t My Fault
Perhaps the choice for me personally was easier seeing as episodes 3 and 4 of TLD were focusing on Dennis Rodman and the rivalry with the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons teams. Topics that are very near and dear to my petty ass Isiah Thomas loving heart. Speaking of petty…I think I’ll let others, namely Jemele Hill, help speak for me and the city of Detroit on this matter…
And that my friends is what we call a whole ass mood.
So, naturally the few musical theater nerds left reading this are asking, what does this actually have to do with Stephen Sondheim? Not much, really. Unless it comes down to trying to pick and defend your favorite Sondheim musical much in the same way I do for the Pistons. Hear me out on this one…
The Celtics, Bulls, and Lakers of the late 80’s and 90’s are similar to the powerhouses and most popular (if you can ever describe a Sondheim musical being popular) of the musical theater canon. I’m talking about the Into The Woods, Sweeney Todd’s, Company’s, Sunday In The Park With George’s, and Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum’s of Sondheim lore. Constantly produced, reinvented, and re-imagined, but always relatable no matter how they are conceived. Michael Jordan is aloof like Bobby, Bird is devilishly charming like Sweeney, Magic is the Baker that always makes you feel warm inside.
No one will fight you on their merit. No one will tell you they aren’t good. If not great. But as one of my college acting professors once told me when I was looking for a scene for competition, “the writing of the scene does the work for you. It doesn’t highlight what you in particular can bring to the scene. I think you should look for something that can bring out what your unique qualities are”.
Anything You Do, Let It Come From You, Then It Will Be New, Give Us More To See
***The Bad Boys Have Entered The Chat***
In this realm the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons become the Merrily We Roll Along’s, Passion’s, and Assassins of the NBA world. Smaller in scale, but with a fiercely devoted, almost rabid, fan base that will defend them to the day they die. *See Jemele Hill tweets above.* They were unexpected. They didn’t play by the old rules. They changed the structure. They asked you to fight harder and dig deeper. There was no chorus to depend on. Every player on that team was so integral to their structure that the whole production could crumble with one wrong step.
But it never did. Each role player, or character actor, knew every line and every step of the production. So that if and when one person faltered, the others knew how to step up to the plate. They all came out stronger than they started. The Bad Boys certainly played the role of the Balladeer for the Bulls.
Bit by Bit, Putting it Together
I will eventually watch the concert. It’s not going anywhere because nothing ever disappears off the internet. Maybe part of the reason I didn’t or couldn’t is that I have enough going on in my personal life outside of just this pandemic. It could be that letting that part of myself open up would turn into a broken faucet of tears and emotions that couldn’t possibly be fixed. If there’s something Stephen Sondheim is incredible at it is tapping into alllllllll of the emotions. I mean, I almost accidently yelled at the genius himself for cutting in front of me in line at the bar in The Circle In The Square while we were both about to see Audra McDonald in Lady Day. He just wanted his vodka. I just wanted a beer.
That’s what is so remarkable about sports and theater. They allow us to access our emotions in ways that we may never have otherwise. Joy, pain, heartbreak, love, jealousy, respect, excitement, anger, frustration. These are just a few of the twists and turns that we can experience sitting in the seat of a stadium, a theater, arena, or ballpark in the course of a 2 plus hour performance, whether it be athletic or theatrical. One of these days I’ll move back to those theatrical roots. I’m just not ready yet.
BTW, can you even imagine anyone beefing about handshakes anymore after what we’ve gone through for the last two months?
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