In this series of blog posts, get to know the music of our upcoming production of Miss You Like Hell, a musical written by playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes (co-creator of In the Heights) and singer-songwriter Erin McKeown. Each post will cover three to four songs with insight from Chris Youstra, OTC’s Associate Artistic Director of Music Theatre. This post covers “Yellowstone,” “My Bell’s Been Rung,” “Over My Shoulder,” and “Bibliography.” You can listen to the recording of the original cast album on most streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Streaming. This is part two of a four part series; check out Part One here.
Olivia’s blog “Calling All Castaways” has readers all over the country. One of those readers is Pearl, a Yellowstone Junior Park Ranger in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In a moment of frustration, Olivia asks her blog audience for “one good reason” she shouldn’t hitch a ride back to Philadelipha and abandon the road trip with her mother. Pearl gives her a reason: Yellowstone.
Chris Youstra: “‘Yellowstone’ has a hip-hop tinge to it, particularly in the drum loops and those hip-hop synth sounds. Hip-hop is a decidedly American musical form. It traces its way back to the Jazz and Blues idioms, which themselves trace back to Ragtime, which trace back to Spirituals. The song is decidedly American and it’s about a national park; is there anything more American than Yellowstone? Yellowstone represents America’s natural beauty and people feel like the National Parks are the treasures of America. They belong to the people. Combining that with a truly American artform—hip-hop—makes a profound statement.”
Yellowstone is Pearl’s invitation to Olivia. In the song, she describes the feeling of going to the park and convinces Olivia to come visit.
“My Bell's Been Rung”
Outside of a motel, Beatriz and Olivia meet Mo and Higgins, a gay biker couple who are traveling the country celebrating marriage equality by getting married in all 50 states. Beatriz and Olivia forge an instant connection with them. In a spontaneous moment, Higgins asks “Want to marry us here? The two of you?” “My Bell’s Been Rung” is a love song sung by Mo and Higgins that surrounds their 24th wedding ceremony, officiated by Beatriz and Olivia.
CY: “‘My Bell’s Been Rung’ sticks out. Mo and Higgins come from a completely different world than Beatriz and Olivia, but yet they connect so well. [Beatriz and Oliva] perform their latest marriage ceremony, and then later in the play, they help get Beatriz out of a difficult situation.
If Cole Porter was alive today, I think he would have written this song. It’s got this early jazz feeling, this Freddy Green style driving through it in such a sweet way. It’s interesting, there aren’t actually a lot of musical theatre songs written for two guys in love, even though musical theatre tries to express love in all its different manifestations. These guys are so sweet and the song captures that sweetness.”
“Over My Shoulder”
Somewhere in Wisconsin, Beatriz is pulled over for a broken tail light. As an undocumented immigrant, even a routine traffic stop could result in life-changing consequences. “Over My Shoulder” is Beatriz’s song about living with the constant threat of deportation.
CY: “In terms of music, it’s another 6/8 rhythm that has its roots in a gospel feel. Especially the use of the organ. The experience of constant unease for her entire life is a compelling reality. There’s nothing hopeful about looking over your shoulder. Hopeful is looking forward. Looking over your shoulder is not just living in the past, but also checking to see who’s chasing you. It’s just a beautiful song of her trying to be strong in a moment where the reality of her situation becomes clear.”
At the conclusion of this song, Beatriz is arrested and Olivia is left alone on the side of the road.
Alone on the highway shoulder, in a completely unknown part of the country, unable to drive the car she’s in, Olivia has a panic attack. To try and calm herself down, she lists her favorite book titles and authors in reverse alphabetical order.
CY: When your mind is screwing with you, you have to find a way to get out of it. Because Olivia is so literate, she’s using titles and authors of books she's read. She’s extraordinarily well-read and presumably, she goes to the library and absorbs books. She uses this mantra when she’s feeling overwhelmed. The little plunking quarter note that comes through is the insistent and piercing nature of her brain and she gets through it by swimming through these titles. The ensemble joins, adding voices to her head. It’s a beautifully constructed piece dealing with her issues and how she tries to control them.”
Olivia gets stuck on G when she lists Goodnight Moon and remembers that “mom read that to me.” In this moment, she realizes how much she really does need her mom and she finally reaches out for help. She calls Mo and Higgins, who pick her up and help her get to the police station.