As I described last week, my family had a method of handling the contentious issue of listening material in the car as we drove long distances. We’d listen to Dad’s bagpipe music (for which I have developed a liking of my own) (but the didgeridoo tape that one time was beyond the pale), observe a period of silence as per Mom’s frequent request, play something I liked, then get treated to Weird Al when my brother’s turn came.
[Brief aside — because of my brother’s musical tastes and my own limited interest in pop music as a kid, I heard the Weird Al version of many, many songs before I ever heard the “real” tunes. Frankly, I still prefer many of the former to many of the latter. I happen to think “Yoda” is far more witty and amusing than “Lola.” (I defy you to write a funnier line about “Star Wars” than “Luke, I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”) And there was no greater source of amusement for my brother and me than my mother’s paroxysms of revulsion at the lyrics to “One More Minute.”]
But what would I make the family listen to?, you might be wondering. (No, no. Of course I’m not hurt that nobody asked last week. It would be silly to take such things to heart. Ha, ha. I certainly wasn’t hoping someone would ask so I could tease this week’s post. Ha! No! Silly!) My memory is rather vague, and so I am forced to rely on supposition. I recall that Enya’s “Watermark” was a tape I liked that I knew would be a popular choice. I was (and remain) a fan of The B-52s, but I’m also relatively certain that I didn’t make the family listen to them because I had a strong suspicion others in the car would complain loudly if forced to endure “Cosmic Thing.” Which leaves one other likely candidate.
I think I probably made the family listen to a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Or, rather, to two of them. I had selections from the original London cast recording of “Evita” and some version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on cassette, and so I have a reasonable suspicion that I forced them on my family with some frequency. (Confidential to readers who may or may not be members of my immediate family — I’m sorry.) (But there’s still no excuse for the didgeridoo.)
I was, you see, rather a fan of Lloyd Webber musicals as a boy. (See also: Russell’s gayness, early clues of.) I had many other selections on CD, which meant I could listen to them over and over and over at home. And I did. Despite some clunky lyrics here and there, his collaborations with Tim Rice were my favorites. But of course I had “Cats” and “Starlight Express” and “Phantom of the Opera,” too.
So when “Aspects of Love” came out, I got a copy immediately. For those unfamiliar with this less-popular Lloyd Webber show, it’s all about the various characters’ romantic entanglements. Like most of his musicals, it features repetitive musical themes. Unlike some of them, its plot isn’t patently idiotic. (Sorry, “Starlight Express.”)
The main character is an actress named Rose Vibert. As the show opens, Rose is berating her manager for convincing her to star in a touring play that is flopping hard. He argues that she should be blaming the playwright for the failure, not him. Later she meets a sophisticated older gentlemen who not only knows of the play she’s starring in, but remarks on her courage for taking the role.
The play in which she is starring is a real one. She is playing Hilde in Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder.”
As a young adolescent, I had never heard of Ibsen. Since it’s not all that important to the plot of “Aspects of Love” to know who he was, I didn’t pay that much attention to those bits. But it turns out that the play really was panned when it first opened, and it really would have been relatively brave of a young actress to star in a touring production. And she would quite reasonably be drawn to a prospective lover worldly enough to have heard of it and to admire her for being in it. Learning these things as an adult deepened by appreciation for the musical in hindsight, and I only bothered to look them up because I remembered the musical one day and was curious.
I have a collection of Ibsen plays on DVD, but I haven’t yet watched “The Master Builder.” Since the Ibsen plays I have seen performed (“Ghosts” and “Hedda Gabler”) both made me want to put my head in an oven, I haven’t been in quite the right mood to sit and watch that one. But I know I will one of these days, because as a teenager I loved a musical about a woman who starred in it.
So that this week’s meandering Question — what old interests have you had that led you to discover something new? What did you once enjoy that sparked your curiosity about something later? What did you learn that you’d never have bothered to think about if not for something else?