The Library is a new (hopefully) weekly feature for Sketchy Details. In it, I will write about a particular song that I believe should be in your music library. It could be old or new, musical theater or CHR, classical or post-modern. It's a recommendation of strong music you might have missed along the way. This inaugural session of The Library is dedicated to the amazing work of David Yazbek in composing the score to the short lived Broadway musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. There was a horrible reception to this show when it played its first few preview performances cold in NYC. The show opened on Pepa (Sherie Rene Scott) lying in her bed. Somehow, the bed caught fire and all of the women in the show wandered into her bedroom to sing "My Crazy Heart." The staging was so confusing, the song was scrapped from the production. It was re-written as a ballad sung by a different group of characters halfway through Act I. It's heartfelt, but not nearly as stylish as the original version.
Thankfully, the original version of "My Crazy Heart" is available as part of the Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Original Broadway Cast Recording. The song opens with a classical guitar playing a few chords underneath a string ensemble (two violins and a cello for sure, though there might be a viola as well).
The guitar then kicks into a Spanish 6/8 groove (1 2+ 3+ 4 5+ 6+), setting the tempo for the first singer to enter. As each additional singer enters the song, more instrumentation is added. The second singer sees the addition of a clapped counterpoint to the initial guitar groove. The third singer hails the return of the strings and additional percussion, brass, and woodwinds enter by the second verse. It's a deceptively simple arrangement that immediately creates the feel of Spain. Fitting, since the show is set in Madrid.
"My Crazy Heart" is all about the sense of losing control. Each woman is drawn to something they cannot control. The song opens,"I can never explain why I follow this lunatic moon when it calls to my crazy heart. I hear it right now." This woman, Lucia (Patti LuPone), does not know what drives her to behave the way she does. Everything is controlled by "the tune of [her] crazy heart."
And Lucia is not alone. Candela (Laura Benanti) knows that she exaggerates without any chance of stopping herself. "Am I guilty of being dramatic? I never had a choice." Though perhaps her worries and overreaction is nothing compared to Lucia's issues. "It's the screams of the bats in the attic, the static of lies." Something darker drives Lucia but we don't know what.
What all of these women know is that they want more. "Give me more give me more" is repeated. They don't know what they want, who they want, when they want it, or why they want it. They just know they don't have it.
Pepa comes in for the second verse, describing her own dilemma: "And I'm trapped in this room I've created with a lock on the door. And I've got to get out cause I hate it, but I can't because I love it even more." Pepa wants more in life than the barrier she has built around herself, but she's afraid to even pursue it. The locked door of her own creation is a particularly striking image that works as a metaphor for the entire dilemma of the show. All of these characters are so concerned with their own problems that they don't even know how to help each other. If they could only open up and explain what they need, half the problems in their lives would disappear instantly. "My Crazy Heart" is just such a pure distillation of that theme.
The whole song is striking. It's fresh. It's well-crafted, well-performed, and rather unique. I think you would be remiss to not add it to your own library. It's available to download at iTunes and Amazon.