It’s summer in St. Louis, or at least the 95 degree temperatures make it feel that way, and summer here means lots of cool outdoor events. One of my favorites is seeing shows at The St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre, otherwise known as The MUNY. They put on shows all summer, a new show every week, and if you’re willing to sit in the nosebleed seats, it’s even free!
This year the lineup is Jerome Robbinns’ Broadway, The Wiz, Singin’ in the Rain, Jersey Boys, Annie, Gypsy, and Meet Me in St. Louis- not a bad lineup!
We saw our first show of the season yesterday, and it reminded me how much I love live shows. So here are all the things that my autistic heart loves about musical theatre
- It’s Sensory Friendly: At least when it comes to performances. I don’t know about you, but I need earplugs to make it through movie theatre previews most days. (in fact, the preview for the movie Dunkirk was so painfully loud, I swore off movies until it was out of theatres). Concerts are also loud, although they can be loud in a good way, and often have lighting effects that make me kind of nauseous. Live theatre is great because it’s not prohibitively loud, unnecessarily bright, and more and more often sensory-friendly shows are being offered! The only negative sensory thing I experience is having to sit still for a couple of hours- and I can’t really complain about that.
- Orchestral Music Gives Me Goosebumps: For most of my life, I was unaware that not everyone gets intense goosebumps and tingles when they listen to classical music. And I was astounded. I couldn’t imagine an existence where Vivaldi didn’t send chills up and down my spine, or where the score from Jurassic Park didn’t give me full body tingles. I always thought when people said that a piece “moved them to tears”, they were describing how. damn. good. music makes their body feel. For me, this sensation is the best type of body stim, and musicals are basically just 2 hours of stimmy bliss.
- The Themes are Universal: Relating to people can be tough. Sometimes when I’m in social situations, I find myself just smiling and nodding along- mostly because I’m either confused about other people’s experiences, or I just can’t relate. Real life is hard, but musicals are easy. They are about human things that everyone has felt before. Feeling oppressed? Les Mis. Feeling Misunderstood? Wicked. Family Troubles? Lion King. Mental Health Issues? Dear Evan Hanson. Cats? Cats! Sometimes it’s really just to just sit back and relax- without having to interpret the world.
- The Characters Literally Sing Their Feelings at You: That’s right, I said it. No figuring out facial expression or body language, no sorting out metaphors, and absolutely no dealing with the consequences of guessing wrong. I love knowing exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling because it lets me immerse myself into the story- something that doesn’t happen too often in real life. Can you imagine: you’re in a complicated situation, and you’re trying to figure out if you’ve said or done something wrong, and all of a sudden, the other person breaks into song? YOU DIDN’T VALIDATE MY FEELINGS EARLIER AND I FEEL LIKE YOU DON’T CAAAAAAAARE! It would certainly make life more interesting!
- All the Feels: Sometimes I have trouble identifying my emotions. Am I upset? Am I overwhelmed? Am I sad? And I know for me, not knowing how I’m feeling can lead to a build-up of emotions, and I will eventually explain. Figuratively, of course. So, at regular intervals, I find that I just need a good cry. I don’t even have to be crying about my life and my problems- musicals let me cry about other people’s problems. Key examples include: Do You Hear the People Sing (Les Mis), Wait for It (Hamilton), For Good (Wicked), and Goodbye Love (Rent). There are many more. Seussical, which is a funny show based on the works of Dr. Seuss has a song that makes me cry. Maybe I’m too emotional, but at least I’ve got an outlet, right?
So there you go! Now that you know how I’ll be spending my summer nights, I think it’s only fair that I know about your plans. Tell me what you’re looking forward to doing this summer, even if it’s just staying at home and enjoying your air conditioner!