10 Show Tunes That Help Me Battle Depression
“Even after the darkest night, the sun will still rise.”
That’s what Victor Hugo, the author of “Les Misérables,” says. It truly doesn’t feel that way when I am depressed. There is this unspeakable numbness that comes with depressive episodes which eventually turn into seasons.
One of the many things that have always brought me great pride and joy is my love and talent for performing in musicals. Performing allowed me to overcome many aspects of my anxiety, and it also gave me the platform to do whatever I want on stage and not be judged for it, since I am portraying someone else. Show tunes, like any other form or genre of music, provide an escape for us theatre kids who one day dream of starring on the “Great White Way.” The Tony Awards are our Super Bowl. Like the great Neil Patrick Harris once said: “There’s a kid in the middle of nowhere who’s sitting there living for Tony performances. Singing and flipping along with the Pippins, and Wickeds, and Kinkys, Matildas, and Mormons’s. So we might reassure that kid, and do something to spur that kid, ‘cause I promise you, all of us up here tonight, we were that kid.”
To share some inspiration with my fellow mental health warriors/theatre kids, here is a list of ten show tunes that have helped me on the days when I feel depressed, to spur some inspiration:
1. “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen.
(This song is definitely one of my current faves.)
“Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?
Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand
And oh, someone will come running
And I know, they’ll take you home
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found.”
2. “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress: The Musical.
(I learned this song for my college scholarship audition. This song not only speaks to me as a mental health warrior, but as a young woman as well. This is a role I would love to have the honor of portraying someday.)
“She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.”
3. “Everything’s Alright” from Jesus Christ Superstar.
(This was the most recent show that I performed in and the woman who played Mary Magdalene had one of the greatest voices I will ever have the pleasure to hear in my entire life.)
“Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh.
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And we want you to sleep well tonight.
Let the world turn without you tonight.
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight.”
4. “Close Every Door to Me” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
(This is one of my favorite shows of all time, I’ve done it twice.)
“For I know I shall find
My own peace of mind
For I have been promised
A land of my own
Close every door to me,
Hide all the world from me
Bar all the windows
And shut out the light”
5. “Still Hurting” from The Last Five Years.
(This is a very confusing musical. It’s told from the perspective of a husband and wife, but the husband tells the story in the actual order of events, while the wife tells the story backward. I think it represents a metaphor for how people tell stories; no one tells them in the same order.)
“Jamie is over and Jamie is gone
Jamie’s decided it’s time to move on
Jamie has new dreams he’s building upon
And I’m still hurting.”
6. “With You” from Ghost: The Musical.
(Ghost is one of the most underrated musicals of all time. It’s based on the movie with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. This show holds a very special place in my heart. I saw it about a month after my cousin died and it brought me so much comfort, especially this song.)
“Those unfinished conversations
We used to have still speak to me
And I write you letters every day
That I’ll never send and you’ll never see
All this wishful thinking
Gets me nowhere I can’t stay
Though my heart is broken
It keeps breaking every day”
7. “My Shot” from Hamilton: An American Musical.
(Ah, Hamilton. This song is the main hype song of the show; it is Hamilton and his friends getting ready to start the Revolution and fight in the war. Although it takes place hundreds of years ago, the lyrics still ring true in other areas of life today.)
“I’m ‘a get a scholarship to King’s College
I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish
The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish
I gotta holler just to be heard
With every word, I drop knowledge
I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal
Tryin’ to reach my goal my power of speech, unimpeachable
Only nineteen but my mind is older
These New York City streets get colder, I shoulder
Every burden, every disadvantage
I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish
I walk these streets famished
The plan is to fan this spark into a flame
But damn, it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name
I am the A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R we are meant to be.”
8. “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables.
(OK, to be honest, Les Misérables is one of the two musicals that I truly cannot appreciate. However, this song comes from a point in a character’s life where she has given up her whole self just to keep her daughter safe.)
“But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame.”
9. “Will I?” from Rent.
(Rent is a cult-classic that tells the story of a group of artists living in New York, dealing with poverty and HIV/AIDS.)
“Will I lose my dignity?
Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow
From this nightmare?“
10. “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.
(Alright, Wicked is the second musical that I just cannot get into. However, Idina Menzel sang it. So that’s why I love it, apart from its inspirational message about moving on and forward with life.)
“So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
‘Everyone deserves the chance to fly!’
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
I’m flying high
And soon I’ll match them in renown!
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!“
Well, I hope that sharing these show tunes with you not only brought some new music into your life, but also were able to inspire you with the messages that each of these songs carries.
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Getty Images photo via Pitju