I enjoy musicals, dramas, comedies and mysteries. Many of my favorite shows tie into themes of my new book, It's Your Choice, Why Not Make the Most of Your Life and Become the Best Person You Can Be?
Here's my brief collection of plays and musicals that I have recently seen that are relevant to the book. I am sure there are many more and you might have some of your favorites that you would like to share.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The play follows the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the 1930s Alabama, as he defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape. It is a story of race, bigotry and misperceptions.
Although I have read the book many times, when I saw this play performed in NYC, I could feel the audience's energy wash over me, making it a much more moving experience.
Tom's Takeaway: It is sad to say that this story still resonates today. What does it say about our society when an African-American father has to coach his school-age son in the morning about how to behave if he is stopped by the police to avoid being shot?
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
All My Sons is a story about 60-year-old Joe Keller's production of defective airplane engine parts in WWII and the consequences for him and his family. It is a story about how a spur-of-the-moment unethical decision can have far-reaching effects on you, your family, and many others beyond your local world.
I was part of the Lexington Players community theatre group when they performed this play. I was the lighting designer and operator. We performed this show over several weekends. I couldn't wait to get to the theatre each night to see the show. I was moved every time. When I was teaching business ethics to undergraduates, I used excerpts from this show to help students think about the consequences of their decisions.
Tom's Takeaway: Most of us think that we are ethical. But the real test is how we make decisions in the heat of the moment. What might appear to be a minor ethical slip-up may have much more significant consequences than you could have ever predicted.
Les Misérables (based on a book by Victor Hugo) Lyrics: Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel; music by: Claude-Michel Schönberg; book: Alain Boublil; Claude-Michel Schönberg
Les Misérables is set in early 19th-century France. It is 25 years after the French Revolution, but France is still a peasant society with a significant gap in living conditions between the peasants and the ruling class. The main character in the story is Jean Valjean, a French peasant. After serving nineteen years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child, Jean Valjean decides to break his parole and start a new life. He desires redemption for his crime. As such, the new Jean Valjean performs acts of kindness and love. He becomes a benevolent industrialist and creates a factory that employs the local people. Jean Valjean becomes a respected member of the community, so much so that they elect him mayor of the town.
However, Jean Valjean cannot shake his past. A police inspector named Javert still sees Jean Valjean as a worthless criminal who has broken his parole. Throughout the story, sticking to his strict moral code, Javert chases Jean Valjean trying to bring him to justice.
Tom's Takeaway: The central theme in Les Misérables is the class struggle of the peasant class. Victor Hugo says it best, "So long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use." While we are more than 250 years from the time period of Jean Valjean, the class struggle continues today, not only in the United States but throughout the world, with no end in sight. It's our choice how we show compassion for the poor.
Come from Away -Book, music and lyrics by David Hein and Irene Sankoff
On September 11, 2001, when the air space in the United States was closed, 38 planes with thousands of people from all over the world were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland and remain there until the airspace re-opened. A small town with limited resources shows the passengers their hospitality and kindness.
I have seen this play on Broadway and the very high-quality streamed version of the play. I have listed to the music countless times, and it is one of my favorites.
Tom's Takeaway: This is one of the best examples showing how kindness can be contagious and generate positive energy. Through this force of kindness, everyone in the town of Gander rallied to support who they called "the plane people." Someday, I am going to visit Gander and open my wallet and buy everyone at the bar a drink and say, "America thanks you."
Dear Evan Hansen- Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a book by Steven Levenson
Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of a high school senior with social anxiety disorder who yearns to make a connection with his peers. When a student at the school dies, he fabricates a relationship with the deceased student to become closer to the boy's family and increase his popularity. As he allows his lie to go unchecked, his popularity continues to rise. Later, he learns not only does his lie have consequences, but the longer he waits to tell the truth, the greater his consequences become.
Of my favorite shows, I have only seen this once, but I do listen to the music quite often. Who wouldn't enjoy listening to Ben Platt? When I saw this on Broadway, it was quite unusual to see so many teens in the audience. But when I saw and understood the message of the play, I said to myself, "This musical is really for them."
Tom's Takeaway: When you listen to stories in the news, how many times do you see that the lie and coverup of wrongdoing is often worse than the wrongdoing itself? When a situation like this occurs, damage can be limited or controlled by "coming clean" as soon as possible. A lesson for us all.