Introduction--I Mean, Wait--Overture
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
At this evening’s performance, the starring role will be played by . . . well, you, it turns out. So are you ready?
No worries, I’m here to help. This book contains everything I know about life, learned during my time as a theater kid–turned–chorus boy–turned Broadway playwright. Along my way to the Great White Way, I picked up tips and tricks backstage, onstage, and in between gigs—and realized just how many ways life is like a musical.
Basically, think of this book as Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff with jazz hands.
These aren’t instructions for dancing in the middle of the streets (though, by all means, go for it). It’s more about “borrowing” (okay, stealing) the pizzazz and determination that define theater people, and harnessing that energy for your own forces of good.
Right around my third career transition, I recognized how many hard-won showbiz lessons applied to all walks of my life—not just how to be a successful performer, but how to be a successful person and partner, too. And I want you to know these insights, too.
Come on in, the spotlight’s warm.
From “Cast Yourself in the Role You Must Play” (chapter 1), in which I advise you how to stop waiting for someone to “discover” you, to “Find Your Tribe” (chapter 49), in which I recommend cultivating a network of like-minded souls, I hope the advice I borrowed from Broadway can help you get inspired—not to mention get hired, whether it’s in a boardroom or on the boards.
Now, you don’t have to know every lyric to Les Miz to find these secrets and shortcuts useful—at least I hope you don’t. Many of the references contained within Life Is Like a Musical will resonate with theater people, sure—but also with anyone who didn’t think they liked musicals, until they accidentally overheard some kid blasting the Hamilton album. Truth is, even if you’re not a diehard drama geek, there are fundamental insights about getting ahead in life, love, and leadership that only a true Broadway baby can share. Trust me.
Oh, why me? Great question, appreciate you asking.
Because nobody has a thicker skin or a more deeply ingrained work ethic than a lifelong theater person. We eat rejection for breakfast and still manage to smile (see chapter 40, “Put on a Happy Face”). I’ve worn just about every hat in the theater, at times literally—yes, that was me sporting a bejeweled catfish on my head for The Little Mermaid. Hey, it paid the bills.
Beneath the grit and before the glitter, I grew up swallowing how-to books whole, dying to discover answers to my own deepest questions: Will I ever be truly happy? Will I ever be cast in Rent?
But while I hope this book both guides and counsels you, I’m no doctor (though I have, on occasion, been a sort of show doctor). Life Is Like a Musical is more a collection of wry observations than a prescription for living—but everything here was indeed jotted down from the frontlines, the sidelines, and occasionally the footlights.
Lastly, Life Is Like a Musical is for people who find themselves desiring something—a stronger relationship or a better job or a more refined way of framing the story of their life. (We theater people call this your “I want” song; more on that in chapter 13.) I don’t care what this something is for you. But I know it’s something. Or you wouldn’t still be reading. And that’s where I come in.
So good luck. Or, rather, break a leg. Now please silence your cell phones. The performance of your life is about to begin.