For Christian people the festival of Easter is about remembering how Jesus died on the cross and celebrating when he came back to life again three days later.
For others it is just a Spring festival, a season that is all about celebrating new life and starting afresh. The leaves start to grow on the trees, bulbs and flowers shoot up from the ground, birds make their nests, lambs and chicks are born and wildlife in the countryside seems to come back to life.
In the home people spring clean their houses, wardrobes and some even their relationships! And for some Easter is just about eating chocolate and getting together with family and friends!
As many of you know I love Musical Theatre and my Five Friday Favourites are Musical Theatre songs that are linked to the season, but in many different ways.
Number one- Spring Spring Spring- Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
This musical film came out in 1954 and is based on the story “The Sobbin Women”. It stars Howard Keel as Adam the eldest of seven brothers, who goes to town in search of a wife. Jane Powell is Milly,the girl he meets in a local tavern and who he proposes to. She accepts, despite only just meeting him hours before. (not a wise move!) Little does she realise as she travels to his home up in the mountains dreaming of looking just after him, that she is faced with also looking after another SIX brothers! (SEVEN MEN, what a nightmare, I struggle with just three!) She has the difficult task of teaching them manners, social skills (I’m still working on that with my two young adult sons!) and how to dance, so that they will each hopefully find a bride. (thank goodness dance is only a necessary skill for finding a woman, in films!) The brothers meet six women at a local barn raising and whilst the girls like them, they already have suitors. The brothers go back home and are miserable. Adam gives them a talking to and encourages them to take action. They kidnap the girls (not an action I’d advocate in 2016!) and cause an avalanche which keeps them all up in the mountains until the snow melts and Spring arrives. In that time the women fall in love with the brothers and when Spring arrives they enjoy the change of season together, as their new relationships blossom.
“Oh, the barnyard is busy in a regular tizzy, And the obvious reason is because of the season
Ma Nature’s lyrical, with her yearly miracle Spring, Spring, Spring.”
The musical show was first on Broadway in 1982, premiered the West End in 1985 and has had various revivals and tours since. I was lucky to see it at Woking Theatre in 2014 and it was a fabulous feel good musical with wonderful energetic dancing and some great songs. . . Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Going Courtin and Wonderful, Wonderful day, which is what I am always wishing for!
Number 2- Easter Parade- Easter Parade
Easter Parade is a 1948 musical film starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, with music by Irving Berlin. The film is about dancer Don, who is ditched by his female dancing partner Nadine, who is going solo. He becomes very despondent and boasts that he doesn’t need her anyway and can make a star out of the first chorus girl he meets. (thank goodness he didn’t meet a no hoper ageing chorus girl dancer like me!) That chorus girl is Hannah, played by Judy Garland. The process of making her a star of course never runs smooth, but ends with Don falling in love with Hannah. The film starts with Don buying Easter presents for Nadine and finishes at the Easter Parade with a similar scene to the opening, where Don proposes to Hannah. An Easter feel good film to watch.
“In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it You’ll be the grandest fella in the Easter Parade
I’ll be all in clover and when they look us over We’ll be the proudest couple in the Easter Parade”
These days we don’t wear Easter Bonnets but this tradition stems from when people wore new clothes at Easter, including hats. The tradition was to put flowers in your hat to celebrate the season of Spring and show who had the best bonnet! I think the flashiest bonnet I have worn was in Hello Dolly, many moons ago!
Number 3- Small Umbrella in The Rain- Little Women
This is not a musical I have seen or know well, but sometimes it is good to listen to a musical song that is new or lesser known and in the Spring you often need a small umbrella to go in your bag for the rain showers!
The musical is a relative recent one with music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. It first opened on Broadway in January 2005 and closed after just 137 performances, so obviously wasn’t very successful. It toured in American and had a short run in Sydney but has never made it to the UK, which is a good reason for me not knowing it well.
I read Louisa May Alcott’s book ‘Little Women’ as a child about the lives of the four March sisters. I can always remember reading it and being very sad that Beth, the kind hearted sister died from Scarlet fever. I’m afraid I always love a feel good story, rather than one that makes you cry. because I am easily an emotional wreck! The sisters live with their mother in Massachusetts, while their father is away serving in the army. Jo, the eldest sister is a writer who is constantly having her work rejected by publishers and who is given advice by Professor Bhaer, a boarder where she is living. He is very straight talking and tells her she could do better. . . words that have been uttered to me many times! The show takes you back over time and ends as Amy, one of the sisters is getting married. Professor Bhaer turns up at the wedding and tells Jo of his true feelings for her. He tells her they might be different in character, but she makes him feel alive.
Professor Bhaer -“We are as different as the Morning and the night”
Jo- “No, we’re as different as the Winter and the Spring”
He proposes to her and she accepts. He then announces that he sent her book manuscript to the publisher who has agreed to publish it. Hurrah, happy endings and new beginnings all round in the end.
Number 4- Beautiful City- Godspell (Hunter Parrish)
My last two musicals are based on the life of Jesus and the Easter story.
Godspell is a musical by Stephen Schwartz and a book by John-Michael Tebelak. It opened in Broadway in 1971 and has had many touring revivals since. It is mostly based on the Gospel of Matthew, but also the Gospel of Luke. It is a series of parables from the Bible mixed with a variety of modern music from rock, folk and gospel. The parables include The Parable of the Sower of the Seed, The Parable of the Prodigal Son and The Parable of the Good Samaritan along with many others. The show ends with Jesus dying on the cross.
We did this as a show at our Musical society back in 2009 and so many of us found it very moving to be involved with, as well as a lot of fun. This was something as a society we hadn’t expected. There were many real tears in the final scene and the audiences were moved too.
The song Beautiful City was written in 1972 as part of the film and was re written in 1993 after riots in Los Angeles. In the musical it is added at different times depending on the production. In some productions it depicts the Resurrection at the end, in others it is sung by Jesus to his followers. Either way I think it is beautiful and Hunter Parrish isn’t too bad either!
“We can build a beautiful city yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city not a city of angels but we can build a city of man”
Number 5-Gethsenane-Jesus Christ Superstar (Glenn Carter)
Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera, as everything is sung, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical is loosely based on the Gospels account of the last week in Jesus’ life, which is what the festival of Easter is all about. The musical is mostly seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. The show has been nominated for numerous awards, but won the Theatre World Award both in 1972 and 2012.
The song Gethsemane is the song that Jesus sings in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper. Jesus goes to pray whilst his disciples sleep, the night before his crucifixion. He tells God he is tired and has doubts, but has done all he can. He questions what he has achieved, but getting no answer, he finishes his prayer by asking God to take him before he changes his mind.
God thy will is hard ,But you hold every card .I will drink your cup of poison
Nail me to your cross and break me. Bleed me, beat me Kill me, take me now Before I change my mind.
My children were in Jesus Christ Superstar with Glenn Carter and it holds many happy memories. I loved watching the show, time and time again and found it very emotive.
Happy Easter to you all,
Honestly Fiona xx