This past Friday night, I took my daughter to see Broadway Across America’s Phantom of the Opera in Baltimore at the Hippodrome. We were both excited for the show—she even more so than I because it was her first time seeing it. Truthfully, I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve seen it. My daughter may not be thrilled that I’m going to divulge this type of information here on the blog, but I think it’s important to share it, especially when it’s all quite natural. And, furthermore, because she and I are so very similar.
At the very end of the Phantom, something very meaningful and somewhat tragic happens. I won’t give anything away in case, perhaps, you have not seen it. But it is incredibly moving and sad and melancholy. The music by Andrew Lloyd Webber is hypnotizing and haunting, and the whole mood of the play as it winds down is quite somber. At the end of the show, my daughter began to cry. Fifteen minutes later when we were in the car and exiting the parking garage, she was still crying.
The show had moved her to tears.
While I felt badly that she was crying, I could totally relate; it was touching to see her affected by it so much. There are times when theatre performances or movies or books or art of any sort can do this to us. It’s quite powerful when it happens, and it means you feel something. You feel what is called empathy for the characters, and you can fully imagine what it must be like to be that character or to feel the way the character feels.
I, too, have cried at Phantom. I’ve cried over a lot of movies, but none so much as the two I am about to mention, and my own mother can attest to it. My mom and I went to see Out of Africa when I was a teenager, a stunning film starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. We had to drive nearly 30 minutes to see it in a movie theatre. I remember leaving the theatre and crying the whole way home.
Another film that had me weeping like a baby when I was a teenager was The Thorn Birds starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. Again, my mother and I hunkered down to watch the mini-series. I think I hyperventilated when that was over. The sadness of that story lingers–and like Phantom–is haunting. Thankfully, that meltdown occurred in the privacy of my own home in my own bedroom.
I know my daughter and I are not alone in these emotional breakdowns and connections to characters and plot and story. We’ve all felt something powerful at some point, and sometimes we just can’t turn the waterworks off.
And sometimes, it’s not just tears that emerge. It could be that we feel happy, elated, thrilled, frightened, angered, or some other emotion from a film or book. In fact, on Saturday afternoon I felt something genuinely wonderful as I sat and watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theatre for the first time. It was as if someone had flipped a switch and I was my younger self, thirteen and standing in line for the fifth time to see the original Star Wars with my red t-shirt and a big crush on Luke Skywalker.
In those 2 hours and 16 minutes, I was a kid again. And yes, even then a tear I did shed.