Found Tonight: Broadway’s Poignant Response to Tragedy To Support March For Our Lives
One of the most beautiful and magical aspects of theatre is that it has the ability to help its audiences connect with the realities of life and the emotions that come with them. Its stories and characters help us see the world through a new lens, multiple perspectives, and allows us to see the broader scope of an entire story, rather than our own, singular view we experience life with each day.
When we see a Broadway show, if it accomplishes its goal, we feel emotions we have perhaps suppressed or have not otherwise had the opportunity or circumstances to experience. Theatre presents us with fictional situations that resonate and ring true with what is going on in the world, whether we are experiencing them directly or indirectly. The impact of theatre transcends the two and a half hour span of time we sit in our seats. Through these performances, we understand, wonder, think, and act.
Amidst the utter madness of this world, what more can we ask for than an opportunity to see humanity in this way?
Enter two of the most influential figures in theatre: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. Their shows, Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, have won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2016 and 2017, respectively. They each have held creative roles in these shows, Miranda through writing and both through acting, and have seen them through from day one. They are in high demand for numerous other projects, have thousands of followers on social media, and are the recipients of numerous awards. They have power.
When talking about people like this, and celebrity figures in general, this notion of power becomes questionable. We ask ourselves if people with this much outreach are using their power 1) to their greatest ability 2) for positive reasons. Both Miranda and Platt have been, individually, very vocal about political and societal issues facing our world, particularly on Twitter. However, the statement they made recently far surpassed the impact of a couple hundred character statement. These two Broadway legends-in-the-making decided to come together, and make a statement on the issue of gun violence in America. And they did it with style.
This creation, entitled “Found Tonight” is a mashup of the beautiful “The Story of Tonight” from Hamilton written by Miranda and the climactic, emotionally charged act one finale of Dear Evan Hansen, “You Will Be Found” written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The song was produced by Alex Lacamoire, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, and performed by Miranda and Platt.
Individually, these songs can bring a tear to my eye, but together it truly left me, and undoubtedly many others, speechless. What struck me the most, other than the melodic voices of two of my favorite Broadway stars, was how the lyrics so accurately described our current situation as a nation. Two songs, one from a musical about the founding of our country, the other about a socially anxious teen, somehow blended to make sense of the unexplainable realities we are facing.
The studio version of the song was released on March 19, 2018 and with a portion of the proceeds donated to March For Our Lives, it catapulted to the 61,000 downloads sold in the week ending March 22, according to Nielsen Music and 2.1 million U.S. streams.
The March For Our Lives rally, took place on Saturday, March 24, 2018. Though the rally was centralized in Washington, D.C., smaller sibling rallies took place in numerous cities around the country. U.S.A. Today reported that over 800,000 peaceful protesters attended the demonstration in D.C. that consisted of powerful speeches by the nation’s youth, many of whom have been affected by gun violence. Miranda and Platt performed “Found Tonight” live at the rally.
Though “Found Tonight” was only a few minutes long, the mashup incorporated the lyrics from both songs that pointedly addressed the issue of gun control, ignited by the tragic Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Each artist started off by singing the opposite artist’s lyrics. For a Broadway fan, who finds Platt’s voice to be synonymous with the lyrics of Dear Evan Hansen, hearing Lin-Manuel Miranda sing “Have you ever felt like nobody was there, have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere…” resonated even more with me than had Platt sung it. By singing the other’s lyrics, a sense of unity, respect and togetherness was immediately felt. A sense that mirrors our feelings as a nation when tragedy strikes. As the song went on, there were so many lyrics that resonated with relevance.
Have you ever felt like nobody was there.
Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.
But I will gladly join the fight.
When our children tell their story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.
Staying true to some other brilliant Hamilton lyrics by Miranda, this is not a moment, it’s a movement. I feel such admiration, respect, and gratitude to those like Miranda and Platt who are using their gifts and talents to create positivity and change in a world often clouded by the opposite. They used music, lyrics, and a stunning arrangement to form a piece of art that truly says it all.
As we think about events like this, we have to hold closely to the notion that, as the song says:
It’s only a matter of time.