One of the first musicals I ever saw was We will rock you, a future-set story where music is prohibited and human beings are under the control of a dictator that seeks to transform them into drudges prone to passive obedience. Kind of.
Unwilling to undergo this form of dictatorial power, rebel gangs fight with authorities to bring music back. The musical is shaped on the music from Queen as well as the characters that take their names and personalities from the songs.
I saw We will rock you with my parents in January 2003 at the Dominion Theatre – guess where? – in London (same place, a younger Jim). Clear in my mind I remember the excitement, the surprise, the music played live, the comedy acts, the actors’ great voices, and a deep melancholy for the songs – considering that Queen were my first idols when I was only 4. The show ended with Bohemian Rhapsody, that is not only one of the best and most heartfelt songs ever but a real national anthem.
After the song’s last solo, you can barely imagine how it felt when Brian May in flesh and bones showed up on stage. A totally unexpected surprise that made the audience literally jump off of their chairs and loudly cheer to the top-notch rockstar.
We were standing in the last row as no more seats were available when we bought our last minute tickets, and the epiphany left us speechless: few meters away was the member of one of the most outstanding bands in the history, a band that my dad and I have always so badly loved.
The show, the songs, his presence on stage, all tremendously inspired me: I no longer wanted to be among an unknown audience. I wanted to stand out and be a star myself.
I was very young.
See, I’ve always had a thing for musicals – for the way they make life seem so much more alive, for the pure representation of love, for the characters’ unbeatable courage, for the wise lines, for the glorious endings.
I’ve always wanted to be the main actor and play an active role in a real-life musical. And in my mind I actually have. I’ve often dreamt of being in a perfect romantic late springtime setting – like a bench on a path surrounded by dim lampposts in a lonely but fancy park – sitting with that one girl you like. And make her night special by suddenly standing up, dancing and singing on that super cool music coming from nowhere. Nice, uh?!
I’ve also miserably tried with music in the endeavour to become a rockstar, and for a while, I really felt like one. I would have sacrificed my life, my sleep, my studies, my affections, my everything, to pursue the dream and be an active presence on stage. And it was definitely worth it, I don’t regret a minute of that time. But this is another story for another day.
So not long ago, I was in Edinburgh for a weekend escape with my cousin. That would be my birthday present from her side. Edinburgh was so cold that we thought we would soon start icing but the weather didn’t stop us from taking part in all the activities the city has to offer. Hence on the Friday we joined a pub-crawling event: 80 people, 7 pubs, cheap drinks. Heaven! I still have confused memories except for the stunning Spanish girl that I discovered to be so freaking beautiful only the day after on Facebook while going through a horrible hangover that totally knocked me out.
At the 5th pub, we would entertain ourselves mostly with two funny French girls, both students I reckon. While clinking glasses, the girls told us they would leave in 2 days for a journey through the Scottish Islands, and leading us into temptation, we were asked to join.
The night was over and we managed to get to the hotel safe and sound – obviously we had first stopped to eat a huge burrito at about 3ish in the morning. Did you doubt it?
The night after (our last night in Edinburgh), before going to the appointment with the Ghost Bus Tour, we had a beer at this rustic open-area bar on Princes Street. Live acoustic chill-out music was playing on the background while the wind was visibly dragging us away. Luckily, hot lamps were slowly warming our chats.
I don’t think I need to be that specific but we’re cousins, right?! We have more or less the same blood flowing in our veins. We’ve grown up together, we’ve been facing London together, we’ve learned each other’s thoughts, secrets, fears, behaviour, flavours, types. Some may simply call it ‘family’; I will simply call it ‘love’. Point is, we don’t necessarily need words to communicate. A mutual look and she brought it up. What? The girls’ invite of course.
Now hang on a sec. Stop all your current thoughts and ask yourself: what would I quit everything for? Does it need to be something extremely vital or I’m brave enough to challenge my life? Tough one!
That’s what we asked each other – and in the meantime, that melancholic music was boosting an ideal musical-style moment when you opt for the challenge and leave everything behind.
“It’s done! Decision taken.” – a mellow mutual smile.
In the real world though, what happens when we walk away from this very place and the music disappears in the distance placing a full stop to this musical we’re looking to play?
I really wish we never considered this possibility. In that moment, job duties, career, commitments and responsibilities came up to interfere.
We didn’t go.
We spent our last great day in Edinburgh and went back to our regular life in London.
What had happened to the young people who were once supposed to be stars, who were once meant to stand out and take up on stage?
We had grown up.
Once again we were no actors in the musical. We were only attending its grandeur.