I’m driving three miles from Long Island City to Greenpoint, and I’m terrified. In rural Pennsylvania, we were taught to drive defensively – politely. Crossing every intersection in New York City feels like do-or-die. No, do-and-die. I’m only at the wheel because my husband’s not free to retrieve the car from the repair shop before the mechanics lock up for the weekend.
I suck in another juddering breath and tell my beautiful, chattering 5-year-old, buckled safely (I hope safely!) in the back seat, that I can’t talk right now.
Silence for all of 15 seconds. Then she starts singing to me: “Into the Fire,” from The Scarlet Pimpernel. (Links at end.) Every word of it. And I remember that courage exists, and that I’ve got some of it … and I realize I can do this. By the time she finishes the song, we’re nearly home.
As I’ve said elsewhere (Innovators in Sculpture), a work of art can give you a split-second reminder of what matters to you. It’s like a signpost on the highway of life. As you’re zooming along, it won’t tell you where you want to go or why you decided to go there. But it can remind you of what’s important, and help keep you heading toward your chosen destination.
That’s why often it’s not the specifics of a song that grab me (the Scarlet Pimpernel fights the Parisian mob to save aristocrats from the guillotine), but the attitude of the person singing toward what he wants to achieve. For years, “Into the Fire” has been the song I play when I’m psyching myself up to charge into battle.
If you’re wondering why I love this musical so much, I’ve explained it in my review of The Scarlet Pimpernel on Broadway. It is being performed right now in Pompton Lakes, NJ, with final performances Friday March 18 through Sunday March 20, 2016. (Pompton Lakes is an easy bus ride from Port Authority). No, it’s not the same as a big-budget Broadway production with Douglas Sills and Terrence Mann; but I’m very glad to have seen it live again, and I recommend it.
- For The Scarlet Pimpernel’s “Into the Fire”, it’s difficult to recommend only one video. This one is the performance at the Tony Awards (nominated, didn’t win). This one was filmed by an audience member at the show – crappy quality, but something of the energy of the live performance comes through. This one has no video, but it’s the cast recording (great quality) with lyrics below. Here’s the original Broadway cast album – there’s also a concept CD and two later versions, if you get truly hooked.
- If you can’t make it to Pompton Lakes, create a Google alert for “Scarlet Pimpernel,” and hope it appears near you – it has been popping up more and more lately.