Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Heart-Breakingest Song in American Musical Theatre

"You Should Be Loved" from 1997's Side Show

Some background:

Daisy and Violet are conjoined twins who make a change from being a circus act to becoming famous stage performers in the 1930s. They start out as part of a freak show (where they meet their African-American friend Jake -- and where Jake falls in love with Violet) and later, under the guidance of Terry, a slick promoter, and Buddy, his number two, they hit it big on the Vaudeville stage or whatever. All the while Daisy longs for fame and Violet longs for a family of her own.

At a fancy New Year's Eve party, Buddy tries to cheer up Violet and ends up proposing marriage. In an onstage number, Buddy, Violet, and Daisy offer an upbeat invitation to their wedding. But backstage both Daisy and Buddy separately express doubts as to how the arrangement will work.

Jake loves Violet and when he overhears the doubtful Buddy, he confesses to Violet (with Daisy right there, naturally) that he has loved her (and, one presumes, not Daisy) for years. ("You Should Be Loved" in the video above or, if you're reading on The Facebook, here.)

At which point Violet, who has spent her whole life dealing with curious glares and snickering strangers, tells him that "the world won't let us" get married ... because they're different races.

So, Jake is willing to overlook a second entire adult human permanently attached to the love of his life and put up with a lifetime of whispers and stares, but Violet can't possibly imagine what others would say if she married a Black man. (I honestly don't know why the dialogue isn't, "Woman?! You have two heads!" but I guess that's not the characterization they're going for.)

Therefore [Major Spoiler Alert, but come on, you're not likely to find Side Show being produced near you any time soon], on the Big Day, for which they've sold a bunch of tickets and there are tons of people in the audience to see this wedding, Jake announces that he's leaving, and Buddy confesses he's not strong enough to marry Violet. Daisy tries to get Terry to marry her, but he can't do it, so Daisy kicks him to the curb and insists that Violet and Buddy go through with the ceremony...which will at least benefit everyone's career. As the wedding proceeds, they go ahead with the full understanding and acceptance of who they are and what they are doing...

So, like, NOBODY ends up happy. I mean, the twins have this song at the end about how they'll support each other forever and whatnot, but man! Heart-breaking, right?


Clifton said...

I did not know about that show, Scott. Had trouble understanding the words on the video. My nomination for the saddest song is "I loved you once in silence" from Camelot. All about regrets at not keeping their love that destroyed Camelot to themselves. Painful message: If you have the secret hots for one who belongs to somebody else, keep it a secret.

Clifton said...

Oops, I lost my mind and forgot to say I was referring to the illicit love of Guin and Lance of Camelot fame. Or infamy.