th-3.jpg

“I’m going to tell you a true story, okay?” Colette is looking at her phone but you know she is listening. You are driving her to rehearsal. She has a big part in Les Miserables. She plays the grown-up version of Cosette. (Colette playing Cosette. How’s that for kismet?) Though you saw the movie a while ago you don’t really remember the story. Victor Hugo is not your thing. Being a musical and being a lead, Colette must sing and she has been practicing a lot. You’ve heard her belting out lyrics from her room, in the shower, on the trampoline in the backyard, which she pretended was a stage. You can’t tell if she’s good or merely loud but her enthusiasm is amazing. Many members from your family are coming in to see her perform. There will be hundreds of other people as well. The tickets cost money and this is a real show. Up until yesterday Colette has been psyched. Then one of her “friends” disrespected her online, insulting her skills and some other shit you’re not sure. Usually a brick, Colette was wounded by it. Your wife told you this much. And you can see it now in your daughter’s sullen demeanor. So you have a story…

“Before you were born,” you begin. “Back when I was coming up at Leo Burnett in Chicago I was preparing for a huge presentation. It was my idea. I wrote all the copy. And I had the show to go with it. I’d been practicing for weeks. What I was going to say. How I was going to say it. I had the shit down.” Colette looks up when you curse. Good. “Anyway, the night before I’m rehearsing my presentation in front of the team. And when I’m done the head account person –the guy who deals with the client- he shits all over my work. All of a sudden he doesn’t like the creative. He’s not happy with it… or me. I’m dumbfounded. Like where’d this shit come from?” Traffic on the 101 is heavy but that’s fine. It allows you to look at your daughter. “The guy says to me, in front of everybody, if you present that work tomorrow it will be Armageddon.”

“The end of the world?” Colette asks. “What did you do?” One of Colette’s most beautiful features her eyes, big and blue, and they are wide open staring at you.

You laugh. “I told him I would make some changes. That I’d do a bunch of things he wanted and not do a bunch of things he didn’t.”

“That really sucks,” your daughter says.

“It would,” you say. “Had I listened to him. “The next day I delivered my presentation just as I’d planned it. My work. My way. And I fucking killed it. When I was done the clients actually applauded.”

“Really?” She’s serious, you can tell. You have her full attention. And something more.

“Story’s not over,” you say. “The meeting ends. My campaign’s a huge hit, right? Everybody’s shaking hands, patting each other on the back. So, I walk over to the account guy who’d dissed my work the night before. He thinks I’m going to shake his hand. I look him right in the eyes, and I say, ‘Welcome to Armageddon, asshole.’ And walk away.” You change lanes swiftly, almost missing the exit.

“Wow, that’s a great story, dad,” Colette says. “It’s all true?”

“Every bit, sweetheart.” At the red light, you look at Colette full on. She is the sassy one. The middle child. The daughter that gives your wife the most trouble. You choose your words. “If people are disrespecting you or your work, you don’t have to change.” The light turns green and you move the car forward. “All you have to be is… devastating. Redemption like that, there’s no sweeter feeling.”

In the parking lot, Colette thanks you again for driving her to practice. You’re not a hugging family but you can see it in her eyes. The fierceness is back. You watch her march toward the theater. The entire world’s a stage and you’ve given an important player some badass direction.

Author’s note: This is an excerpt from a book I’m writing, my fourth. If you like it let me know. Available for freelance as well: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com

And by the way, Colette was devastating.

20431616_10210063235596715_4133506664804908744_n.jpg

Colette et Cosette

Advertisements

images-2

I don’t like musicals. Even “good” ones. They have always struck me as silly or, worse, just plain dull. Don’t get me wrong. I respect the genre and those who appreciate it. Mostly. I just can’t take them seriously.

And so it is with this prejudice I took my wife to see Les Miserables, the Academy Award winning film based on the musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo. I’d never seen the actual musical (see above) let alone read the book. Yet long before the film I’d been aware of the show. Like Cats, Chicago and Wicked Les Miz is an unavoidable piece of popular culture. If I shut my eyes I can vividly see those iconic posters beckoning we pedestrians with as much fizz as Coca Cola. But for all their ubiquity the ads never persuaded me. That is until the movie came out and the kudos along with it.

Um, I still don’t like musicals. And I didn’t much care for this one either. Alas, I found myself getting bored and fidgety. I kept hoping beyond hope that the talented cast would take a break from singing and just have a goddamn conversation. But they never did. Everything was a lyric. And once I succumbed to reality I kept waiting for an amazing, recognizable tune. None was forthcoming. The actors sang about tables and chairs and looking down and not looking up and everything else. They warbled about the mundane and melodrama to the point where it all blended together like Thousand Island dressing, heavy and too sweet.

images-1
“Stop or I’ll sing!”

I’ve got to give Hugh Jackman his due. Wolverine has chops. Frankly, all the stars in this studded affair deserve props for getting outside their comfort zones and singing not badly for 150 fucking minutes. Even Russel Crowe. He only sometimes reminded me of a crooning William Shatner. It couldn’t have been easy.

By far my favorite part of the movie was the way it looked. From the opening scene, as epic as Titanic, the sets were stunning. If you’ll forgive a pretentious French term, the “mise-en-scene” was impeccable. All that period detail, as good as in Lincoln and maybe even better. Thank God. Otherwise I would have been tres miserable instead of merely somewhat.