The show must go on. But why must the show go on?
I like the idea that no matter what, the show goes on. This is undoubtedly the reason there are understudies, back-ups, replacements, designated hitters, pinch runners, proxies, seconds, doubles, stand-ins, or substitutes. Some events should never be canceled.
This phrase has been rambling around in my brain, knocking about into permutations of itself, and other ways to spell dogged determination, including the following:
- Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest (1999). It’s a key phrase to understanding this character and his relationship to that of the commander of the NSEA Protector, Jason Nesbit (Tim Allen)–both Rickman and Allen are actors playing actors playing actors or astronauts or something confusing and funny. I think.
- Joe Gideon (a character who is really Bob Fosse) portrayed by Roy Schneider in the film, All That Jazz (1979), says, over and over again, “show time” (which reminds me of “the show must go on”).
- In the song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” a line goes like this: “Let’s go on with the show.” This was written by Irving Berlin–one of my favorites–for the stage musical, Annie Get Your Gun (1946).
- But there was also a film titled, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” which starred Ethel Merman–who sang the song in a film version of Annie Get Your Gun (1950)–also starring: Donald O’Connor, Marilyn Monroe, and Dan Dailey.
- Queen’s song: “The Show Must Go On” (1991)–yes, I mean Queen.
- And there is a climatic song in Moulin Rouge (2001), “The Show Must Go On.”
- Oh. Did you forget Pink Floyd’s “The Show Must Go On“? I did, but just for a second.
- Does Lupe Fiasco get to keep company with all these folks for “The Show Goes On“? I think he should.
And of course, I’ve heard the phrase or variations of it a thousand times in my life as song titles, in lyrics, uttered by my theater friends, said by myself innumerable times in my teaching and writing life, in books, on stage, and in film. The above is a just what I could think of in a hurry. Really.
Why does a phrase have such staying power? So much resonance. And across so many genres and time. Why?
Is it because the essence of this idea is right or true?
Perhaps the more salient question is: what does it take to ensure the show goes on and on and on? What sort of people show up no matter what to do their jobs for whoever might care or need them to? Not just show people.
All kinds of people.
Think about the commitment a community of folks in a class make to each other–that learning will happen twice a week or three times a week for months. Everyone does what they are supposed to do. No one lets another person down by not doing the reading or writing or prepping. Everyone teaches, everyone learns.
That’s really the show I want to see keep going on and on and on.
I’m an idealist. And you’d think after all these years, I would have cut that out or lost it or had it violently torn from my desperately extensively outrageously perky grasping clutches. But no. I still believe the show can and must go on, and that everyone can make their show happen. Whatever show. Every show. Every time.
Warning: eternal optimist ahead. You may want to duck now, especially if you’re perpetually gloomy. You might get hurt by the flying shards of sweetness and light breaking out from this post.
Damn. There goes another barrage. I think a person in West Texas who believed the apocalypse was coming just got taken out. (I said it wouldn’t happen this year–the bicentenary year of Charles Dickens and Robert Browning.)
And besides, an apocalypse negates the very idea that the show must go on. Not going to happen. Won’t have it. Not on my watch. My show is going on.
(Image Source: Movie Goods)