I ate my first mushroom about sixteen years ago. For a vegetarian, not eating mushrooms is similar to meat-eater, not eating sausages. You can get by, but you feel that you’re missing out, and you know that life will be a little easier if you did.
I don’t remember consciously deciding to eat a mushroom. But at some point I did, and I’m glad I did. I’ve had a considerable amount of fungus-based pleasure since that moment.
And it’s the same with musicals.
Growing up, I hated most of them. I enjoyed being in a couple of musicals at school. But despite continued efforts from family, I never really got them, most of them I hated. But, in the same way as my mushroom acceptance, that changed without any conscious thought.
One day I realised I was humming a show tune. There was a little panic. What was it? Where had come from? How old was I? Was I sure it wasn’t a rare B-side from a once cool and trendy Britpop band? Was I going to have to wear knitted jumpers and sandals from now on?
I needed a safety net of warm milk and comfy slippers; I needed to sit down in a darkened room.
After some thought, I blamed being bored during a long flight a few years ago. The only film I wanted to watch was the new Muppet movie, and that was only due to my love of the Muppets growing up. I didn’t even know it was a musical. So I watched it on the flight on the way out, and I enjoyed it so much, I watched it again on the way back. I loved it. I added the soundtrack to my favourites playlist alongside Oasis, REM, Cure, and Joy Division.
I then willingly went to see shows on the West End; Wicked (twice), Les Mis, Book Of Mormon (4 times), and a few more were in the pipeline before lockdown started. I wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but I apparently was a fan. I’d started liking musicals.
But it didn’t just stop at the West End. I could also get my fix in movies. I adore La La Land, a file I rate up there with Star Wars and Die Hard. And a highlight during lockdown was finally seeing Hamilton, a production I’d tried to see many times but always ‘just missed’. (note, I’ve not seen the film versions of Cats or the Greatest Showman, nor do I ever plan to).
My lockdown experience will always remind me of being made redundant, and I’ll always have the bad taste of going through redundancy when I think back about that period. It is though only a taste. It’s not defined the full four months, and emotionally I think I’ve coped with being made redundant without too much pain.
Its no coincidence that over lockdown I’ve watched, La La Land, Hamilton and The Muppets movie, and had the soundtrack to Book of Mormon and Wicked on heavy rotation.
The one thing those shows have in common is that they all have a ‘feel-good’ quality, and much in the same way that I don’t know when I started eating mushrooms, or when I became a musical fanboy. I’m not sure why singing along to a green frog reminiscing about how things used to be, will seemingly get me through anything.