Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, a moving musical from a local attorney.
Most people wouldn't think of lawyers as the most tender of souls. Indeed, to succeed at their profession, they often have to be somewhat cold and calculating. So it comes as something of a surprise -- a shock actually -- to find a local attorney trying his hand at musical theater. And not only that, coming up with a tremendously touching effort at that.
The attorney, David Berman, a partner in the local tax law firm of Berman and Berman, has never had any experience in writing, composing, performing, or even playing a musical instrument. However, because the premise is drawn from real life experiences, Berman was inspired to exercise his ambitions in ways he never imagined. When his wife Marcee was battling terminal cancer a few years ago, even as their grandson was diagnosed with a form of the same disease, Berman was moved to tell the story of their life together, from their initial courtship up through his wife's ultimate passing.
The musical, Love Is Forever -- for which Berman also composed the score -- is a tearjerker for sure, a fact that Berman unapologetically acknowledges. In fact, he actually envisions audience members being handed an embroidered handkerchief as they're shown to their seats. And yet, the songs are surprisingly accomplished and moving in a way that makes them immediately accessible. The four songs that he shares on his demo tape -- "Home at Last," "Light a Candle," "My Dream," and "Take Care of My Man" -- are undeniably sentimental, but also, they underscore a story that seems impossibly sad. They're moving and memorable in ways that theater often inspires.
Personally, I'm impressed with what I've heard. And that's from a guy who believes that with the exception of Les Miz, there hasn't been a great musical since the heyday of Rogers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Lowe in the late '50s and early '60s. At least musicals that have more than one strong song. You got your Annie with "Tomorrow," your Phantom of the Opera with "Music of the Night," your Cats with "Memory." Or, as I like to refer to them, one hit wonders.
"The music is a product of intense love season love seasoned with unlimited inspiration," Berman explains, and that becomes obvious as the story progresses from the couple's chance meeting at a hotel in the Catskills, through to their marriage, birth of their children and grandchildren, and Marcee's inevitable illness. As Marcee lies in her hospitable bed, she receives visits from her immediate family, all of whom she tries to inspire and encourage despite the severity of her own situation.
David and Marcee's son manages to overcome his own illness, but Marcee eventually passes away, leaving the family grief-stricken but bonded closer than ever. Even David finds some hope at the end. But optimistic that this show might actually get produced, we wouldn't want to be the spoilers and give away the ending.
"Viewers may shed a tear," Berman suggests. "I know that if this show does get performed, there won't be a performance that I attend in which I will be able to refrain from getting misty-eyed."
Sadly, tragedy befell the Berman's family again recently. His 38-year old son Howard contracted an undiagnosed infection and passed away, wholly unexpectedly, a few hours after being admitted to the hospital.
Amazingly, Berman remains resolute in his hope that his musical will make it to the stage. "My goal will be to sit in the audience with my grandchildren and watch this show with them," he insists. "Last Thursday, I lost my darling son Howard. Perhaps he will send me nocturnal interludes which will propel a sequel."