How "Bandstand" Comforts Those Who Feel Like They're a Burden

 (Jeremy Daniel)

(Jeremy Daniel)

Liz Chirico

Last month, I saw the movie release of the musical Bandstand. Thank God for cinema releases (seriously industry people keep them coming!) because this show resonated with me in a way few have and in ways I wasn’t expecting.

At first glance this looks like another post-World War II story; boys returning home from war, picking up where they left off, finding love, etc. That’s not this show at all. It’s a real, gritty, perfectly imperfect look at what happens when men and women have seen and dealt with horrific circumstances, and how each individual deals with those demons. This is the first time I’ve seen a show that so accurately portrays the horrors of war and what it must truly have been like for the majority of soldiers returning. This is the first time a show with such a seemingly unrelated topic resonated so much with my life.

At the time I saw the show, my husband was in the hospital. He had been there for a week already and it was a week of uncertainty; tests, and a general feeling that our world wasn’t quite on. Seeing how each of the main characters dealt with his issues struck a nerve- we’re each only one horrific accident away from spiraling into a shell of our former self.

While my husband was hospitalized I became very rigid in my allowance of who could visit and when, along with what information flowed to whom, with regards to his condition. It was my way of exercising control in an otherwise out-of-control situation. Much like trombonist, Wayne Wright (played by Geoff Packard), obsessive control over seemingly small things is a tried and true coping mechanism. One that I employed with great success over those 10 days.

The song that introduces the character of Julia (played by Laura Osnes) entitled, “Who I Was” moved me to tears. (SPOILER ALERT) Julia is a war widow and this song describes her longing to have her old life and husband back, to be who she was. In addition to my husband’s hospitalization, I am also pregnant.

Our pregnancy didn’t come about in the traditional way, we were forced down the IVF route. Most may assume since we’re expecting a baby, everything is perfect and while in many ways it is, in many ways I long to go back to who I was before. Before the stress of infertility and the changes, it brought about to me, my relationships, everything. I’m supposed to be happy, excited and I am but I’m caught in a strange limbo of sorts. Thrilled it worked out and we have our miracle (in our arms come November!) but devastated for the hundreds of other families still waiting. Thrilled to set up a nursery but fearful with every test something may be wrong and this wonderful dream will end. Some days I long for nothing more than to be (as the song goes) “momentarily free and happily who I was before”

That’s the refrain playing through much of the show is one of wanting things to be, “just like it was before.” The returning soldiers hope to fall back into old roles, jobs, lives. Much like the alerted timeline in Back to the Future 2, there’s no status quo, there’s only the new normal. New for the soldiers but normal for most everyone else. It’s what anyone who’s gone through some type of trauma be it an illness, war, infertility knows there’s a new normal. It may break you, rebuild you, and it’s not necessarily better or stronger but definitely different. You see things differently, you react differently. And you know you’re different but you don’t know how to return to what you were because you will never be that person again. And you hate that.

In Act 2, Julia’s mother (played by Beth Leavel) explains to her that “Everything Happens” not for a reason but just that everything happens. During the entirety of the infertility struggle, my husband’s hospital visits, the phrase everyone loves repeated, “everything happens for a reason”. But in the show, Julie’s mom explains that sometimes things just happen. To you, around you, for you, whatever it’s just life. But by accepting things will always happen means you accept you have free will to act and react to whatever is thrown at you.

For anyone struggling, feeling like a burden, feeling like life never hands them a break, watch this. Listen to this soundtrack. Know it’s okay to struggle and you’re not alone. There will always be someone to welcome you home with love.