The fine folks over at Deep Dish remind me that the Broadway musical Ballroom opened in December of 1978 and ran for 116 performances. I’ve never had the opportunity to see this show. I own the original cast recording and I’ve seen the teleplay on which the show is based, Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, many times, but I’ve never seen the musical. Truthfully, I think the history of the show, it was Michael Bennett’s project between A Chorus Line and Dream Girls, may be more interesting than the show itself but that is unfair to say since I have not seen it. One song in the show, however, has always been a favorite of mine. “50 Percent” is a song about a widow who finds love, later in life, with a married man.
In some ways it is an odd song to think of this week. At a time when so much attention is focused on marriage equality a song about settling for less may seem politically incorrect. Ironically, the song is about adultery, not marriage equality. At its core, however, it is a song about the true meaning of love and an empowering anthem from a woman who finds it in a non-traditional relationship and defies others to judge her for it. I’ve always found the lyrics near the end of the song moving;
“So we don’t have memories
I have enough memories
I’ve seen enough mornings
I’ve cried enough evenings
I’ve had enough birthdays
To know what I want.”
Dorothy Loudon sang the song in the original production where the song included more character exposition about the changes that brought her to this point in her life. But I found a recording on Youtube of Michael Feinstein singing an edited version of it. He made some changes to the lyrics I find odd but, in the end, they don’t diminish Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s lyrics. In the Deep Dish survey, the song is paired opposite “The Bus From Amarillo” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; another show that opened that season. That is a fine song as well but, to my mind, it is not even close.