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Music the universal language - just turn on TV


Last updated 3/4/2020 at 4:23pm | View PDF

We all have those songs that transport us back to a particular moment in time.

Play Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" and I'm on the dance floor at the Hippodrome in London on one of the final days of a college short-term trip in January 1988. A few lines of "Some Enchanted Evening" and I'm back at James Hart Junior High School, watching the eighth-graders perform "South Pacific" and my closest friend's heartbreak (long story). And when Barack danced with Michelle to Etta James' "At Last" at his first inauguration ball, I was at my wedding reception, enjoying the first dance with my husband.

I think that must be some of the appeal of "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist," a new hour-long program on NBC.

My own life has had a soundtrack over the past couple of months, with a different tune from The Community Revue running through my head every day.

Some days it's "Be Our Guest" from "Beauty and the Beast." Other days it's the '60s vibe of Carol King's "Some Kind of Wonderful" (transformed into "Hinsdolopy"). Sometimes it's a song I'm not even in, like "Green (Greased) Lightning" or "Mr. Chanceman (Sandman)."

Zoey's playlist works the opposite way. She hears, as she explains it to her father, "people's innermost thoughts as big musical numbers." That conversation leads to one of the most touching moments of the pilot. Typically nonresponsive due to a neurological disorder, her dad responds to her plea for help by serenading her with "True Colors."

I loved the show from the first notes of "Angel of the Morning," which opens the first scene, to the closing confession of her best friend in "I Think I Love You."

Musicals have been making a comeback for some time now - in live TV versions, in series on the small screen, in Hollywood blockbusters and on the live stage. In 2016, Broadway saw the premiere of more new original musicals than it had since 1978-79.

Why is it that music appeals to us this way?

Zoey's neighbor, Mo, has the answer.

"Songs are all just an expression of our deepest wants and desires - joy, pain, heartbreak, yearning, forgiveness, revenge. Good music can make you feel things you can't express in words," she tells Zoey.

Lesley Wake Webster, the creator of "Perfect Harmony," an NBC show that premiered this fall starring "West Wing" favorite Bradley Whitford, offers another explanation.

"People who are from very different backgrounds and different worlds can all have a shared experience of liking a song," she told New York Times writer Alexis Soloski.

Actress Jane Levy - Zoey herself - says during musical numbers she feels the molecules in the air change.

"It's just a little more joyful, a little bit more connected," she told Soloski.

Come Sunday, when I'm no longer singing and dancing myself, I'm going to count on some of that joy to lift my spirits.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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