Last week I talked about It Shoulda Been You, the short-lived musical comedy, and its effects on my coming to terms with my sexuality. This week, I would like to talk about the same show and how it helped-and still helps-me through my issues with my body and self-confidence.
If you recall (or if you just need a refresher), It Shoulda Been You is the story about Jenny Steinberg as she navigates the chaos of her younger sister’s wedding day. Between her maid of honor duties, her mother’s passive aggressiveness towards the groom’s mother, and an ex-boyfriend she thinks is trying to win her sister back, she has a lot to handle. I resonated so well with the character of Jenny because she was an honest portrayal of what a plus size woman feels like. She never treated her size like it was something to be judged or ashamed of, which was refreshing because too many times, that is how plus sized women are portrayed, not just on stage but in all forms of media.
Jenny has a song in the show called “Beautiful” about everyone calling her kind and sweet, but just once she wanted someone to simply call her beautiful. I can clearly remember being the only person in the audience the day that I went that gave Lisa Howard a standing ovation for that song because I was so astoundingly moved by the lyrics she was singing. I have felt, probably more times than I’d ever admit, like I wasn’t pretty enough, and that feeling sucks. Seeing the character of Jenny feel weighed down by her everyday struggles with the world around her in this number is heartbreaking. One of the best parts about this number is the fact she isn’t being self-deprecating, and this song could have so easily gone there. Instead, she is questioning those who don’t see that she is beautiful. At the end of the number, there’s this lyric: “They say, if you believe in something/That makes it true/I am-“. She is interrupted, but it is quite apparent that she was going to say beautiful, while looking at herself in the mirror. That very line made me go from crying to bawling. My interpretation of that final lyric was although she was singing about everyone else not calling her beautiful, she needed to hear it most from herself. I identified with the journey this song took so deeply.
Jenny as this whole song about wanting to feel beautiful and it is relatable and heartbreaking, yet hopeful. Then she and her mother get into a fight. That’s when we get arguably the best song in the whole show, “Jenny’s Blues” and let me tell you something. That woman went from 0 to 100 really quick. Seeing Jenny finally take control of her life and stop trying to please everyone around her was so empowering and badass. Confidence and sex appeal ooze out of her like she’s been a dormant volcano for too long and at last gets to erupt in all her belting glory. If there was ever a song to make you remember that you are a strong, powerful woman, it’s this one.
And then there’s Marty. This is your It Shoulda Been You SPOILER ALERT. If you don’t want the show spoiled for you, stop reading! For those of you who read last week’s article, you know there were many secrets being kept within the confines of this 105 minute piece of theatre. One of the bombshells we didn’t discuss was Marty, Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend. The secret he was harboring was that he had been in love with Jenny his whole life. Jenny very clearly was harboring some feeling of her own, given the way that she kissed him at the end of “Jenny’s Blues.” When he confronts her about their kiss, she doesn’t want to talk about it until he serenades her with a song called “Whatever” Side note: If Josh Grisetti singing that song doesn’t make you swoon, I don’t know what will. In the end, after a series of mishaps, the two end up getting married (but it’s totally cool that they didn’t date, they’ve known each other their whole lives…right?). Seeing a show where a character with my body type was a leading lady who gets the guy was so important. It gave me hope. And that’s all I can really ask for in a musical.
(Photo credit: Broadway.com)