The Best of Times

TIME is doing a countdown of Charles Dickens’ greatest novels.

Clocking in at number 6 is the epic A Tale of Two Cities, which I read in my 10th grade IB English class.

I don’t quite remember how I did it, but precocious little 14-year old that I was, I somehow convinced my teacher to let me write a song instead of an analysis paper for the assignment.

The result was my first official foray into musical theater songwriting. I wrote a ballad that Lucy Mannette sang upon discovering that her father wasn’t dead.

One of my classmates agreed to sing it, also in lieu of writing a paper. On the day the assignment was due, the teacher marched us to the school’s music room where my classmate and I performed the song. Her submission was a cassette recording of the performance, and mine was the song’s sheet music, drawn eagerly by hand.

Needless to say, I got an A.

What I remember most vividly about the experience was having a very clear image of what I wanted the novel to look and sound like as a musical. And this was before I even saw Les Miserables.

But developing and having that vision in my head was thrilling. Even though I’m a left-brainer by trade, I find fulfillment in being immersed in the creative process. It’s something that has always excited me: transforming words on a page from prose to poetry, imbuing them with a backstory and emotional baggage, and then piecing them together with a melody as you would a puzzle.

There’s just something about the process of creation that’s so satisfying. Which is probably why improv attracted me in the first place.

Writing a full-on musical is a pipe dream. I still have fancy notions that I’ll actually finish one of the musicals I’ve got brewing in my head.

I’m hoping to refine the songs I’ve written or write new ones for these unfinished projects this year. So stay tuned. Some demo songs might very well end up here.

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