Now You Know?

What’s the wisest single minute in the history of musical theater?

As in, which one-minute stretch from any musical ever has the highest life-lesson-per-second ratio?

If you can’t predict which composer I’m about to choose, then you need to up your Write All Nite consumption.

My pick is Mary’s solo that starts at the 53-second mark in “Now You Know” from Merrily We Roll Along:

For evidence to back up this assertion, allow me to pull-quote every brilliantly-phrased and brilliantly-rhymed morsel of brilliance contained in this song snippet:

Life is crummy.
Well, now you know.
I mean, big surprise:
People love you and tell you lies.
Bricks can tumble from clear blue skies.

It’s called flowers wilt,
It’s called apples rot,
It’s called thieves get rich and saints get shot,
It’s called God don’t answer prayers a lot

Okay, now you know,
Now forget it.
Don’t fall apart at the seams.
It’s called letting go your illusions,
And don’t confuse them with dreams.

It’s called burn your bridges, start again.
You should burn them every now and then
Or you’ll never grow!
Because now you grow.
That’s the killer, is
Now you grow.

You’re right, nothing’s fair,
And it’s all a plot,
And tomorrow doesn’t look so hot —
Right, you better look at what you’ve got:
Over here, hello?
Okay, now you know,


And that doesn’t even factor in the song’s structure, its context in the show, the repetition of words like “now” and “know” (only one letter apart! The relationship between time, the present, and knowledge is a key theme!), and the difference between “right” and that final “right?” POSED AS A QUESTION!!!

I’m telling you, I have no idea what I would believe today — and, thus, who I’d be — if my mom hadn’t exposed my 13-year-old brain to these sentiments at such an impressionable age; the definition of life-changing.

Oh, and who’s responsible for this piece of writing? Just an unknown composer by the name of Stephen Sondheim; what ever happened to that guy?

Over 40 years later, his New York minute will help Lindsay Mendez win her second Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony Award next season.

Andrew Lloyd Webber could never.

That capper isn’t merely a pointless shot at Mr. Bad Cinderella; it’s a segue to this hypothetical:

Let’s say we poll Britain and America separately to determine the superior composer between Sondheim and ALW. Despite being a Revolutionary War rematch, why am I sure that the results would be reverse nationalistic? Britain votes for Sondheim, America goes with ALW.

Proud of my countryman, ashamed of my country’s people.

While we’re on the topic of Merrily, has any musical ever started with lyrics as simultaneously strange and genius as this opening:

Yesterday is done
See the pretty countryside
Merrily we roll along, roll along
Bursting with dreams

In the moment, you’ll have no idea what’s going on. But the entire story is right there…which makes sense, because in terms of the narrative’s chronology, this verse is actually the finale.

That Sondheim, pretty good at his job.

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