One night at the Old Town Bar, a western-themed restaurant run by Irish immigrants, my world was shattered. On a night out with a childhood friend, Dylan, I recommended that the next time we got together we should go to Marie’s Crisis and sing some showtunes.
“I don’t really care about musical theater,” she told me.
“WE WENT TO THEATER SCHOOL,” I yelled.
What was she talking about? Had theater not been a central part of our relationship? It is true that not everyone from our school had loved theater; both my brothers attended, and neither of them care. But to not identify as a theater kid at all – blasphemy!
It all started in kindergarten. Like all very normal childhood friendships, we met in theater school. A private K-8 institution in San Francisco, where we had eight-hour days full of choir, dance, and, oddly, gymnastics.
Dylan left before middle school, but it was my home for nine years. After she left, we were still friends, but that friendship tapered off in high school. We went to different schools, made different friends, got different degrees (she a B.S. in Psychology, me a B.A. in English with a minor in theater).
But by a stroke of fate, we both moved to New York, the city of Broadway, in September 2019. We rekindled our friendship through occasional trips to bars. We reminisced about our shared childhood: about weekends in rehearsal; about the time we did “Gypsy” (why did an elementary school do “Gypsy”?); or about old friends, some of whom we still talk to.
A Fact of Life
To be clear, Dylan enjoys theater; if she has tickets she will go, but she won’t go out of her way for it. I was blessed with parents who continued to take me to shows throughout my life: “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Mamma Mia,” “Jersey Boys,” “Hamilton,” “Avenue Q” (which was a questionable choice given I was 10). While Dylan’s parents also took her to see musicals, for them it was an event, whereas for me it was a fact of life.
This is all to say that my friendship with Dylan is dead. Twenty years of my life evaporated in front of me.
“I can’t remember the lyrics to the songs. We were kids when we memorized them,” Dylan said.
“But haven’t you listened to the songs since?”
“No. Why? Do you just happen to know the lyrics to showtunes?”
Of course I do; I went to theater school for nearly a decade. My workout playlist is a combination of “Legally Blond,” “Hairspray,” and old Disney throwbacks. I asked Dylan if she knew any of the songs from “Les Misérables”? No. “Phantom of the Opera”? No. “Wicked”?
“No, we never did any of those musicals anyway, so how I would I know the songs?”
“Because they are some of the most famous, successful, long-running musicals!”
List of Assignments
We went on like this for a while. Me, often reiterating “You went to theater school!” over and over again. I gave her a list of assignments: watch the 25th anniversary addition of “Phantom,” (not the movie, the movie is garbage); watch “Chicago,” one of the only decent musical movie adaptations; watch “Les Mis,” also the 25th anniversary edition (not the movie, no self-respecting theater person actually thinks Tom Hooper did a good job with that). She said she would, but we both know she probably won’t. If Broadway had been open at that mid-pandemic moment, I would have forced her to go to a show with me, and stared at her through it to forcibly ensure she enjoyed it. But alas, that had to wait. Until now.
When Broadway announced its reopening I instantly started looking at tickets. I bought two tickets for Dylan and me to see “Wicked” the week it opened. I’d already seen it three times, so I knew she’d love it.
September 16 rolled around and I made Dylan wine and dine me before the show. The line outside the theater was crammed as masked audiences were checked for their vaccination cards. We were in the nosebleeds, but after a Broadway-less year and a half who cares?
As Glinda floated down from her bubble audiences cheered. After every line for the first five minutes of the show the audience applauded. Song by song I forced Dylan to finally watch “Wicked.” I cried at “For Good” as any human of genuine emotion would. Then it was over. Dylan loved it.
Our lives may have gone different ways. I’m the only one with a minor in theater, she’s the only one who understands how science works. But after twenty years Dylan is still my friend and we can still go to a show like we did when we were kids.