Saturday, March 17, 2007

More adventures in random shuffle

Camelot is one of my favorite musicals. For a long time it probably was my favorite musical. I discovered in in 4th grade and played the album so often I think I wore down the ridges. I would turn it down really low and lie in front of the speakers. I knew all the words. I read The Once and Future King (book on which it's based) in 4th grade because of it. (And yes, I know that T.H. White author of TOAFK stole from the Arthurian legends already existing. I read those later) I also read On the Street Where I Live by the lyricist/librettist, Alan Jay Lerner because of it and worshipped him until the day he died when I was 16. I still think lyrically it's one of the best musicals ever written. The lyrics tell the story and sing spontaneously out of the story--which is what I like in a musical--none of this, we're singing a song because we all know it, crap--no, just I'm saying lines, then I'm singing lines, then I'm saying lines again. If you're going to suspend disbelief, suspend it all the way. (I hate the movie of Camelot, by the way. DON'T WATCH IT, IT'S AWFUL!)

Yesterday Album of the Day brought up Camelot and it was a standards kind of day (rainy and grey) so I let it play. I realized when the first song was "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" that I'd left it on shuffle. Now, shuffling the songs in a well-crafted musical (according to my rules above) means the story is out of order, but I was busy and I know the musical so well that I decided to let it go on. For some reason the random play seemed to bring up songs from the second act first and then went back for the earlier ones. Camelot is very tragic in the second act. The King is betrayed by his wife and best friend forcing him to sentence her to death (the friend flees). His bastard son stirs the court to revolt and the beautiful dream of "might FOR right," dies. "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" is one of the last light songs as the king and queen wonder how the simple folk manage to be happy and realize that the simple folk wonder the same thing of them. So I wandered backwards through this musical, right back to the Overture and the first song where the king is comically dreading meeting the woman chosen to be his bride, "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight." It just seemed a study in human life. How we start out believing that life will be good, that love will happen, that our dreams will succeed, and then life happens and sometimes good things happen and sometimes they don't and sometimes other people's happiness has to come before your own as when Guinevere and her lover find each other only to realize they can't be together or it will destroy Camelot:
"Here we are, my love, silent once more
And not far, my love, from where we were before."

Working backwards, as in Harold Pinter's brilliant play, Betrayal, seemed to highlight even more the tragic poignancy of happiness and life in general. If we could only go back and warn ourselves to not make the same mistakes--would we make other worse ones? Ironically (and this only occurred to me now), Merlin in TOAFK and therefore in the musical, lives backwards, so does try to warn Arthur about everything, but...the best laid plans aft gang agle (sp?). So many things I would do differently if I could, and yet...would my life be better? Would I be happier, different, content?

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