My nose is wide open and I have totally lost my heart. And it’s all Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fault.
Y’all already know he’s got permanent boy crush status, and while he doesn’t quite have “drink your bath water” devotion I would sell a vital organ to get to a show of his. So if he co-signs on something or someone I’ve definitely gonna give it a look. Well, just like that theory that if you see a hot girl she’ll usually have a couple of hot friends, Lin doesn’t disappoint in this area, either.
Utkarsh Ambudkar and Arthur Lewis
If you haven’t been to Joe’s Pub in New York yet or haven’t gained access to Pivot TV, iTunes or Amazon “Instant” Video lately (don’t get me started), then you probably haven’t been introduced to the comical, lyrical, totally amazing, busting with talent improv-fest that is Freestyle Love Supreme. Already a band of merry misfits engaging in off-the-dome freestyle rap, Pivot has given us a full season of the guys’ antics, including some glimpses into their everyday lives. I dig all of the guys (who are only some of the full group–there are other members who are currently doing other projects…but occasionally manage to make a guest appearance or two), but two of these fellas have me schoolgirl giddy…and I’m at an age when that’s well past respectable.
I met Utkarsh for the first time when I went to see Pitch Perfect. While his Donald character was not full front and center in the story, he did not go unnoticed by me. I mean, you see how cute he is, right? So fast forward to my trip to the first Hamilton concert and he’s singing in the cast as Aaron Burr…proof that he wasn’t just in that movie as eye candy. This time I actually MET him, catching him after the show and bringing him (as well as the rest of the cast) a small taste of New Orleans and having a better respect for his vocal talents. So with my third introduction, I was presented with this lyrical badass known as UTK the INC with FLS. I was NOT ready for what was to come. Capital NOT, capital READY. Dude can FLOW. Dude can flow in freestyle AND make sense. And get incredibly deep.
I’m gonna stop right here for a moment because the moment I want to show you that stole a good chunk of my heart features the other guy who took the rest. In a show that tends to focus on the wordsmiths, the musical accompaniment could easily go unnoticed and underappreciated. Enter my future ex-baby daddy, Arthur Lewis. Yes, y’all….it is ENTIRELY that deep. I am literally poised to be president of dude’s fan club. Arthur “The Geniuses” Lewis is an indie soul artist and longtime friend of Lin’s since their childhood. Arthur is often on the keys but is also pulled out to vocalize during some of the freestyle rounds. And while I’m sure he’d like to just bask in that background, ain’t no way all of THAT cute is going back. That curly-haired, buttoned-down hotness has the most beautiful voice known to humankind, and is as important an element of the show as the spur of the moment riffs the MCs dole out.
Combine these two hotties with my permanent boo Lin and you have my absolute favorite moment of the season–episode 2’s “True” section, where the three wax nostalgic on the topic “Sunrise.” (Watch this. NOW. TRUST me.)
OH. MY. GAWD. This needs to be a track. No, for real…y’all just don’t understand what this three minutes does for me. Consider how much I sing Lin’s praises, even his fabulousness on this comes in a distant third behind Arthur and UTK. Do you realize HOW incredible something has to be for me to say THAT? If UTK decided to drop a mixtape, I’d buy as many copies as possible and give them to random people so they can know this genius. As for my curly-headed Genius….well, let’s just say my life is defined in two sections: before I knew about Arthur, and Arthur entwined in my daily existence. He rates with folks like Oleta Adams, Brian McKnight and my Sing-Off hotties who could sing me the phone book and I’d be in bliss.
This next one is more indirectly associated, but I’m laying this one at Lin’s feet as well:
I’m still grieving from Smash. I have the DVDs to wear the digital print off of, but I miss my weekly date with that show. And while there were a few other performers that captured the greater part of my attention, I did happen to notice Christian Borle as Tom Levitt. I was particularly impressed with his lyrical turn as Darryl F. Zanuck in Don’t Say Yes Until I’ve Finished Talking, giving me a glimpse into the musical prowess that was underscored by his terrific acting. I mean he HAS to be a great actor–I can’t see anybody seriously encountering Lin-Manuel Miranda in public and faking niceties. (Check their :60 exchange in Smash to know what I’m talking about.)
So when I “discover” beloved performers in other shows–particular things I’ve seen and loved and never quite noticed they were in–it’s always an interesting experience. One of my other everlasting regrets is not having access to cable and a recording device at the same time that MTV so graciously aired Legally Blonde: The Musical in its entirety. Thankfully, there are enough benevolent people on YouTube who have it uploaded in some capacity, so I get to revisit it whenever I want. On a recent third re-watching I took a REALLY good look at Emmett Forrest….and I was in visual shock of what my ears should have told me ages ago.
Whoa! Is that Christian Borle up on my screen? (Anybody who’s seen the show just sang that sentence out with me. The rest of you think I’m strange. I’m good with that.) How did I NOT know? No seriously–I’ve watched this broadcast WAY more times, in part and in full, that the three I mentioned above, and I never made the connection. So on my next binge watch I decided to pull my focus away from the positivity and girl-power spirit of Elle Woods and instead watch Emmett in action. I never noticed the expanded role before (and yes, I had a major crush on Luke Wilson’s movie incarnation, sparse as it was), and getting to know Emmett better was a lovely experience. YouTube views of “Chip On My Shoulder” and “Take It Like A Man” went up exponentially because of the checked smartassery and reluctant vulnerability in Christian’s portrayal. But the performance of the titular song and emotional turning point of the story was my undoing. The whole sexual discrimination and erroneous assumptive judgment is the main rallying cry for this number and the rest of the story, but I broke at the Elle/Emmett duet back at the dorm room. I watched Christian morph confusion, desperation and fledging love into a few musical phrases, and as I sat with my eyes transfixed on the screen, my heart jumped down out of my body, walked up to the screen, and jumped into the lapel pocket of that immaculately tailored suit. THAT’S why Elle goes for him in the end.
That’s the best part,
The outside is new,
But now it reflects what’s already in you.
Couldn’t change that if I wanted to….and I do not.”
lyric from “Take It Like A Man”, Legally Blonde: The Musical
Boy did I see THAT reflection in full. At the risk of using that controversial phrase “classically beautiful,” it’s fair to say that if your mental ideal for that character is wrapped up in Luke Wilson, Christian Borle does not fit into that category. He has a big-eyed visage that dearly reminds me of Ray Bolger, the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Here’s the thing, though: I loved me some Ray Bolger. Even as I loathe nearly everything Wizard of Oz, I adore Ray Bolger, mainly for the persona he exudes from his non-traditionally accepted beauty. The same applies for Christian, who after watching repeatedly in the “Legally Blonde” clip I scoured the Internet for his resume. I knew about Peter and the Starcatcher but only half paid attention at the time, but was floored to discover his stint in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Well, that part didn’t floor me quite as much as finding out he pulled Sutton Foster–a girl crush of mine of epic proportions. Shallow reason for a crush, I know. Thank God it’s not the only reason.