Commentary: Broadway Baby
HOST: And now for the next in our commentary series… Juan Torres-Falcon, tells us about why he decided to start the second act of his adult life.
TORRES-FALCON: I’ve always been a performer. My mother threw me into theatre camp in 1st grade. She used to take me to buy my little broadway albums at Spec’s. It was my favorite thing. And when I was 12 I saw a CD that looked different from all the rest–on the cover was just a silhouette of a woman with her name in big white letters.
MUSIC: BERNADETTE PETERS
It was a two-disc recording of her concert at Carnegie Hall featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim.
I begged her to buy it for me..of course she did. I was just the gayest little thing in the entire state of Florida.
The moment I got it home and ran to my mother’s bedroom dropped disc one in my boom box and that’s when I heard Bernadette Peters perform “Broadway Baby” from the musical Follies.
Disc one, Track one:
MUSIC: “I’m just a Broadway Baby, pounding 42nd street, to be in a show…”
The song tells the story of a tired chorus girl dreaming of the day she will finally get to star in a big Broadway show.
It was the first time I felt like I “got” what a Broadway ballad could really do. What an actor could do with a song and nothing else. And I was undone.
My mother had a giant walking closet, so big you could hang out in it.
It was my stage, where I could practice and express myself without judgement. There I stood in mother’s closet wearing her python nine-west slingback kitten heels, clip on diamond-ish stud earrings with a sheet draped asymmetrically over my right shoulder as a gown, cinched at the waist with a Paloma Picasso belt, living my best life belting along to Broadway Baby.
That song became my anthem, because the thing I wanted more than anything in the world was to be in a big, splashy, Broadway show.
At 18 I moved to New York and dedicated my life to the THEATRE. And after I graduated from NYU I Started auditioning and went on to perform in A Chorus Line, Rent, West Side Story. It was all out of my dream, but it was real.
But I’m not a musical theatre actor anymore. I remember the day,. I was touring with Kinky Boots and we were playing Kansas City. With an arm full of groceries from trader joes. checked into my hotel room and I looked around for the fridge and I realized there wasn’t one so I sat down and wrote my letter of resignation. I needed to be in a place with a fridge.
I loved performing. And I was really good at it. But I was tired….Tired of the uncertainty, the powerlessness. Tired of directors and casting agents. I was also afraid of ageing out. I wanted to leave the party before I was asked to leave by my knees.
I left it all behind. So I went back to school to become a journalist.
And that dream hasn’t been so dreamy. Journalism is not an easy gig. The deadlines, the responsibility! I miss acting somedays and miss saying “I’ll be in my dressing room, if you need me.”
I’m not a Broadway Baby anymore. I’m a big ol’ Broadway man. And that 12-year-old’s anthem now feels more like an inherited lullaby, familiar and sweet–no longer essential. But whenever I’m down, I play Track 1, Broadway Baby and sing along…it fills my heart with possibility. That’s what Bernadette was really singing about..It’s about the pursuit of our dreams…the chase. And it took achieving my dream to learn that. So I’m just gonna keep on singing that song and chasing the next dream the next one after that.
MUSIC: “Someday, maybe, if I stick it long enough. I may get to strut my stuff, working for a nice man, like a Ziegfeld, or a Weisman, in a great big Broadway Show.”