Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
We finished the first draft of the script in 2004, and felt clear about what the end of the story would be: a redeemed elder brother and a wedding to bring the community together. Around that time, I (Christopher) had taken in a couple of great recent musicals (“Wicked” and “The Light in the Piazza”), and I noticed that both shows ended with a song that effectively tied the whole show together. I began to flip through other musicals I love (“West Side Story”, “Into the Woods”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Sunday in the Park with George”) and discovered that that’s how all of them ended too.
Here’s where musical theatre differs from radio pop, which can often pride itself on being cryptic and difficult to pin down. The wonderful “coolness” of a “but what does it actually mean?” pop lyric can feel confusing in the theatre. In a musical, the emotions tend to be over the top, so there’s permission granted to be as clear as you possibly can in a lyric.
Only we hadn’t written a song to say, “Here it is. The show’s over, folks, and this is what it’s about.”
This brought us immediately to the word we used to name our fictional town, Provision. That word, represented by the Hebrew letters on the red seal, is used a few times in the libretto, but only in passing. Here seemed like an apt image for a song to put the cherry on top of our show.
The lyric is straightforward and prosaic on purpose. It’s meant to be a clear and simple statement of what the elder son has learned. Brian created a simple and nearly spoken melody in the verse and a lovely lilting repetition of the word “provision” in the chorus. He sent a demo to me via e-mail, and I loved it straightaway!
But I’m also a sucker for complexity, and as I sat with it, and sang with it, I began to “hear” descriptive words which could drill in to the meaning of provision in between the repetitions. “See, believe, out there, life, refuge, home, mercy to come, music, laughter, belonging always, rest, purpose.”
As for the dramatic pause and the key change, let’s just say that some of us can’t help but experience life as a finale waiting modulated and complicated until the tears flow and the high notes are sung at the end.
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