Tituss Burgess, actor
“First Midnight,” from “Into the Woods”
“You may know what you need/ But to get what you want/ Better see that you keep what you have.” To me, that speaks to ambition. It speaks to having to make very tough decisions. It speaks to the heart of what sacrifice means, what compromise means, what negotiation means. It’s very smart advice.
Trey Anastasio, lead singer (Phish)
“Mr. Goldstone, I Love You,” from “Gypsy”
My mother was a huge fan of Broadway’s golden age. She had all the original cast recordings, and she gave them to me when I was about 10 years old. “Gypsy” was the one that I played until it wore out the grooves. My childhood favorite was probably “Mr. Goldstone”: “Have a lychee, Mr. Goldstone/ Tell me any little thing that I can do/ Ginger peachy, Mr. Goldstone/ Have a kumquat, have two!” The show had a huge effect on my career, as crazy as that sounds. It was just a giant, giant part of my musical upbringing and landscape.
Susan Choi, author
“Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music”
The memory is like a film clip: the camera points down at a small patch of dirt that is no longer farmland but isn’t yet lawn. It’s scrumbled full of gravel and other unsightly litter from the nearby building lots. And there’s a soundtrack: Judy Collins’s version of “Send in the Clowns.”
I know the place: the undeveloped lot directly bordering my childhood home, making an unsightly seam with our new-seeded lawn. And I know the time: 1975, right after my parents and I moved into our first, and as it turned out last, suburban home. But why the song?
Before that house was the ignominy of rented apartments, and after came the downslope of illness and divorce. But for the moment, we possessed the stage-set of a prosperous life. I couldn’t have known, at age six, that our show had a limited run — and yet, long before adulthood, my empty-lot explorations, in memory, became fused to Sondheim’s rueful music and words. It’s as if, despite those gaily-clad trapeze artists I imagined for “you in mid air,” I sensed the empty pageantry of our suburb, and how poorly-cast my parents were in their marital roles.