On Friday, Sept. 23, alumni Kevin Monaghan (‘10) witnessed the first performance of his show “Broken,” which he describes as “a musical theater song cycle that focuses on the topic of divorce and how it affects members of the family.”
The road to the debut of “Broken” was not an easy jog. It took most of Monaghan’s years at Eastern to write the songs, and along the way he learned many things that helped him create “Broken.”
“One of my biggest takeaways [from Eastern] was how Mark Hallen taught us that everyone is the ‘walking wounded’ and carries hurts and pains nobody else may even be aware of. This concept significantly changed how I viewed people and shaped my understanding of the need for the Jesus in our world,” Monaghan says.
Monaghan has had personal experience with the subject matter of the play, as his parents went through a divorce when he was younger. He says, “I began to compose these songs as a way to express some of these feelings I had and let out what was pent up inside of me. It became clear to me from an early part of this process the Lord was inspiring me in order to redeem this part of my story and bless others who may be hurting as well….A lot of my healing journey began at Eastern, so it seems fitting to be performing my musical here.”
I am blessed I was able to experience the debut premiere of “Broken.” I am still humming the songs in my head, although I barely know the words. The songs are so memorable because they excelled in three main aspects: the compositions, the lyrics and the actor’s performances.
The musical compositions for each song were incredible. Before the actors reached the stage, before the first word was spoken, there was the entrance of the orchestra, heard, but never seen. The opening of the song “Trapped” started with impending war drums, perfectly reflecting the concept of children being trapped in their parents’ war. I was immediately thrown into a battleground by the simple steady march from one snare drum.
The lyrics were eye-opening and enveloping. I wish I could wrap myself up and get comfortable in the lyrics, and “Picking up the Pieces” was one song perfect for nestling in. It’s about the man who’s been left behind by those he cares about. It was filled with imagery and poetry. At first it appears the song is about a husband who has lost his wife, but the last lyrics give the jaw-dropping reveal through the words “I miss you, and I love you…Dad.” In this way, a whole new perspective was given, without needing to change any of the previous verses.
The show itself would have been nothing if there were no one on stage performing it, and Monaghan was “excited to have four incredible actors performing in this debut: Natalie Hann (‘08), Kai Yanga, Peter Haas and Gregory Kasander.” Their performances ranged from drop-dead hilarious to rising-from-the-ashes empowering. One of their comedic songs is “Advice,” which centers around a college student desperately trying to finish a five-page paper while his sister and his mother keep calling him for dating advice. The controlled franticness of the college student played well off of his sister’s flightiness and his mother’s stereotypical New Jersey persona. On the more dramatic side of the performances was the song “I Remember.” In its essence it is a young woman’s soliloquy about her father and all of the great times they had while he was in her life. The performer captured and exposed the inner turmoil of this grown woman’s life, and she did it with earnestness and sincerity.
“Broken” is a wholly uplifting blend of music, poetry and performance. Unlike several other shows I have seen about depressing subject matter, “Broken” never asked for my pity. My, how I would enjoy seeing it again.