In the second act of Half Time, Donna McKechnie delivers what’s basically a modern-day version of her Tony Award-winning solo performance of “The Music and the Mirror”, right on down to the mirrors serving as her backdrop.
In this new musical, she’s basically playing an older version of A Chorus Line‘s Cassie, the part she originated all those moons ago. Anyone familiar with this seminal work’s autobiographical nature knows that she’s thus basically playing herself once again, shallowly — this is a feel-good musical after all…plus, Matthew Sklar and Nell Benjamin, Half Time‘s perfectly-talented composers, aren’t Michael Bennett; few are — exploring the different trials and tribulations facing aging thespians who still yearn for the same flattering spotlight late(r) in life.
As I was sitting in the Paper Mill Playhouse, a somewhat unrelated question popped into my head (a lack of substance with which to engage often inspires the mind to wander):
Does any show-tune — nay, ANY song, regardless of its genre — better encapsulate the lonely optimism intrinsic to the freelance spirit than “The Music and the Mirror”? Like the best writing, it transcends the specificity of its subject, rooted in the plight of performers, to attain universal resonance.
I understand the title’s “music” to stand for anything you love, and the mirror represents how the world frames your passion. As a writer, my “music” is my writing, and my mirror is my computer screen, that cold, harsh surface reflecting how the world perceives my vision of myself, my insecurities, my hopes, and my everything else projected back at me from that digital visage.
The rush of joy and the potential for crushing sorrow are all contained in the relationship between the music, the mirror, and me.