"I wouldn’t previously have described myself as a major musical fan" Public Domain Pictures/Creative Commons

My go-to introductory line is that I have a ‘naturally-caffeinated personality’. I once thought the phrase sounded amusing and eccentric; now it’s just a conversational crutch that really isn’t that funny but still reliably yields an awkward snicker.

I am a bouncy person already, only made bouncier by the vats of coffee that the Cambridge term requires. From time to time this energy can fuel bursts of effective study, but a more likely scenario ends in obnoxious solo karaoke, indoor lacrosse practice, and the occasional scheduled breakdown. Let’s focus on the karaoke.

To my main point: this summer, I have diversified. Caffeine has been joined, although certainly not replaced, by a new coping mechanism for the lunacy of this university. An addiction to musical theatre. So dear reader, as I delay dissertation prep with a tangential Varsity article, allow me to make my irrelevant but impassioned case for Barbra and Lea (whether I mean Lea Salonga or Lea Michele is a detail I’ll leave for your judgement).

“Until recently, I couldn’t have told Sondheim from Sontag”

Scrolling through my Spotify reveals a clutter of old favourites: Taylor, Harry Styles, even some of the Michael Bublé that, with hefty back-up from Evermore, got me through the slog of 24-hour exams. But this playlist has also been infiltrated by newcomers. One such imposter, sitting smugly above “Dorothea”, is the go-to bop of commitment-phobes everywhere: “Being Alive” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Until recently, I couldn’t have told Sondheim from Sontag. If you’d mentioned Ms Streisand, I’d have thought of the Ben Stiller comedy Meet the Fockers before Fanny Brice. So how have the shades of my Swiftie-hood been thus polluted? It’s all Cambridge Theatre’s fault.

I wouldn’t previously have described myself as a major musical fan—although three trips to see High School Musical 3 in the cinema, and the frequency that I have refrained: “But the Glee version is better”, might indicate otherwise. Of course, I knew GreaseMamma Mia, and Les Misérables, but it wasn’t until watching Barbra slay “My Man” in the 1968 film Funny Girl that I finally understood what Rachel Berry was actually on about.

From singing in the rain to raining on parades, I have spent the last two terms frantically educating myself. Only last week, I was a Hairspray virgin. Diving into the deep waters of Broadway, the drowning risk is high and the lifeguards are dancing a kickline. Sorry dissertation, swimming lessons have to come first.

“Decoding this reference had the thrill of a Taylor Swift Easter egg”

Company left my head spinning in June. If you didn’t catch this madcap musical homage to New York married life at the ADC Theatre then I send heartfelt condolences. Only by watching it did I find myself appreciating the gesture to Sondheim in the final scene of tick, tick, … BOOM when Michael tells Jon to “make a wish” over his birthday cake. Decoding this reference had the thrill of a Taylor Swift Easter egg.

At its most sophisticated, musical theatre shows what straight acting can only tell. I refuse to believe that a non-musical dramatic monologue could convey the same anguish as Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream”. Again, in Miss Saigon, it is Schönberg’s “Why God Why” that makes Chris’ lament at leaving Kim, the underage bargirl that he met just hours ago, into a moving and soul-baring masterpiece. I really had no idea how complex the genre could be; that the Puccini opera La Bohème, about a group of struggling Parisian artistes, could become Rent, a rock musical that follows life in Lower Manhattan during the AIDS crisis. Wow.

“The devil works hard but Lea Michele works harder”

The rabbit hole into Broadway wonderland is endless, and it’s taking over my life. Who knew that I’d care so much about Lea Michele replacing Beanie Feldstein in the Funny Girl revival after her sixth season audition on Glee? The devil works hard but Lea Michele works harder, and this casting must be a Faustian pact come to fruition.

Even as I jumped to the rhythm of ABBA covers by the white-jumpsuit-clad ‘Swede Dreams’ at Sidney May Ball, I couldn’t shake the nagging thought that a couple of Sondheim numbers wouldn’t go amiss on the main stage. I’d dance to “Getting Married Today” in a club. Who wouldn’t want to speed-scream “do you want to see a crazy lady fall apart in front of you?’” under flashing strobe lights? Revs take note.


Mountain View

Dog/Actor: An explosive double bill

This has been a rambling confession, but my sins of Broadway ignorance are finally out in the open. Forgive me Barbra. Atonement will involve an intensive educational programme and, if all goes well, I’ll be a self-taught theatre geek by October.

Oh and CUMTS, you have a superfan. Please don’t enforce a restraining order. No really, I’ll cry more than I did at the end of Miss Saigon. Mainsbury’s doesn’t stock enough tissues.