Thursday, May 15, 2008

20 Great Broadway Songs of the Past 10 Years: “Dividing Day”

I don’t know if it is original to Adam Guettel, but there is something very satisfying about the phrase Dividing Day as used in The Light in the Piazza. It’s a simple use of words that captures the essence of the song in a poetic manner—the dividing of one into two.

And “Diving Day” is filled with many rich uses of language to express Margaret’s emotions, such as seeing “the winter in your eyes.” There’s also a brilliant use of rhyme at work, particularly in the pairing of bowed and “no more love allowed,” a shocking statement about a long-lasting marriage.

Guettel also gives us two stark ideas with contrasting images, both of which give weight to the concept of the song—“Were you lying next to me / Hiding what you couldn’t say” and “Was my cheek upon your chest / An ocean away.”

The dual strength of the song is in how the lyrics and melody fit the character of Margaret. The arrangement on the OBCR betrays Margaret’s lack of confidence in her marriage, the discord of her emotions plucking in the background. The lyrics and the melody convey a solemn admittance of emotion—not a grand power ballad of loss, but a simple, emotional expression of a fact mutually agreed upon but not formed into words until that moment, thoughts escaping in simple, painful lyrical phrases.

The idea of “Dividing Day” is as interesting as how it is expressed. The reality is that the American concept of marriage hasn’t altogether been successful, and when you see someone madly in love on their wedding day and getting in a bitter divorce ten years later, the concept of a diving day is quite fascinating. Not to return to my days of teaching or anything, but it would be interesting to juxtaposition the very American “Diving Day” with “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof, which is very non-American in nature, dealing with love in a different definition.

“Dividing Day” is just one song in a rich and lush musical score that is both complex and lovely. It’s hard not to listen to The Light in the Piazza and not have hope for the future of the Broadway musical. Now if only Guettel would write more like it on a regular basis!

the Broadway Mouth
May 15, 2008

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