Origins of the musical
“We do what is expected of us,” Peter tells me as he digs into the dinner I have boiled in two small pots. “Well, not you, Dezy! Society gave up on you years ago. But normal people do what is expected of them.” “Yes,” I reply, “Are they happy?” “I thought I was,” he reflects. “There were many good things in my life. Robert and Genevieve …” There is deep sadness in my brother’s eyes at the mention of his beloved teenage daughter’s name. I resist the temptation to offer solutions. “And now?” I ask. “Now I’m free. It’s not easy but at least I’m beginning to know who I am. Before, I was playing a role, hiding in a suit ‘n tie with letters after my name.” “You must be a good actor.” I tell him, “All down through the years I thought you really were that accountant guy!” “I was such a good actor, Dezy,” he laughs, “ that, when I looked in the mirror, even I thought it was me.” ‘That’s right’ I think to myself. ‘We don’t fool ourselves. We just believe our own illusions - as required.’ Aloud I say, “Peter, I’m going to write a musical play! I’ll base it around your story.” He sits forward. “I like it already!” "I’m going to call it” I leap up for dramatic effect - Not the Life I Ordered!” The place I lived at the time, where we’re dining on boiled cabbage, potatoes and fish is a converted forge in the middle of Ireland. Up to then I’d had many permanent abodes. The forge was approximately my fifty-ninth. But little did I realize as Peter and I animatedly discussed ideas for Not the Life I Ordered that this musical would lead me a merry dance around the world. Soon fifty-nine places of residence would seem, by comparison boringly settled. I admit I brought it all on myself. Before Peter finally heads home that night I have already promised both of us, “I will follow this play wherever it takes me for the rest of my life.” Eight years later, as I sit scribbling these notes in Washington DC, I have been true to that promise. And Not the Life has not disappointed me. On it’s opening night it found me a wife. One who could take care of it and me. Clare and I have followed it to London, Amsterdam, through forty two states in the USA, touching into Canada and over the next five years it will take us around the world. But right now it is leading me back to Ireland. Peter and I will perform Not the Life I Ordered together again on the old sod. It is not yet the biggest musiplay in the world but when Peter and I play Simon and Jack something magic happens. We are Simon and Jack. You definitely know my brother as he used to be. He’s all around you. You may also know him as he is now. His fine tuxedo and rich tenor voice have delighted tens of thousands in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and many other towns in Ireland these past few years. In September 2011, as I soak up the atmosphere at one of Peter’s Dublin city centre performances, a woman with a strong local accent says to me, “I keep trying to go shopping but I keep ending up back here.” That’s the Peter pulling power. Peter spots me in the crowd. He introduces me saying, “Dezy wrote this next song Do up your Necktie and Dance.” Then instead of just singing the song he adds, “ Growing up behind Dezy I always thought, ‘compared to that fellah I’m normal’.” This gets a big laugh. This dressed up operatic stylist holding up the traffic on Henry Street is “normal”! They love him but how crazy, they wonder, must his brother be.