If you happened to have been in Ocean Grove, New Jersey many years ago and walked north a bit, you would have found an abandoned boardwalk and a stretch of beach that ended in an empty and cavernous convention center. Along the way you would have seen a neglected, dilapidated carousel house, and if you looked in the distance toward a sign on a small building, you would behold the picture of a clown more terrifying than Pennywise.
This area had been – and years later, it re-became – Asbury Park. But back in the pre-re-gentrification days, when Dan and I were on a writer’s retreat in Ocean Grove, this uncharted land was Creepytown, New Jersey.
Or so we called it. Dan was the first to come across this intriguing wilderness on his way to church. When he came back to our inn to tell me about it, I knew I had to see it. I was ready for an adventure. So we left comfy Ocean Grove. Civilization slipped away and there we were in a desolate place. Very Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. All the while, a musical vamp was on infinite replay in my brain. The theme to Hallowe’en? Psycho? Jaws?
Nope: the vamp that Dan had just written that morning, for the “threshold” song that gets our main characters Rosalind and Celia from school to the mall.
It had no words yet. We didn’t even have a title, just the vamp. An infectious, pulsating vamp. If you click on the video, it starts around 0:33.
Dan had composed the urgency, the danger and the excitement of these two girls skipping school to go to the mall.
That vamp was in my head when we got to the abandoned carousel house. The horror movie affficiado in me had the “hey let’s look in this deserted building, what could possibly go wrong?” instinct. I certainly was having flashbacks to the 1980s Elizabeth Berridge shocker Fun House (side note; she also played Stanzi in 80s classic Amadeus).
And I know it was the horror movie afficiado in me who finally came up with the words – and inevitable hook of our song – “Gotta Get Out.”
“Gotta Get Out” was born fairly early in the process of the show, and to this day, I swear my epitaph will read “He’s rewriting ‘Gotta Get Out'”
While the song is a “book number” it carries with it the show’s theme: gotta get out of your rut, of your fears, your doubts, of breaking free. Going to a place where you can be your true self.
Because I’m gay, I had to come out many years ago. Wait, I just came out to you. Right now. Just then.
I was amazed to hear when Like You Like It was done at a high school, the actor playing Phil, our character who grapples with being gay, summoned his courage to come out.
But coming out is not just a gay issue.
Another very shy student who had the courage to even audition for the school musical, stunned his drama teacher and other students when he let loose as Touchtone, one of our more wild and crazy characters.
We all have something inside of us begging to come out.
We did as teenagers, we do as adults.
Every character in Like You Like It is hiding in some way – afraid to express love, harboring the pain of not being the person everyone expects you to be, being gay, fearing you can lose everything in the blink of an eye, embarrassed to show the world that they’re beautiful inside and out. But in the end, everyone lowers their walls and discovers they’re worth it.
P.S. That carousel house became a theatre, where we saw a few productions directed by our friend Carlos Armesto. His Tommy and Spring Awakening were amazing!