Meaning of "Being Alive" from Company

COOOOLkid
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Meaning of "Being Alive" from Company#0
Posted: 9/9/06 at 1:04am
Okay, I'm really confused by looking at the lyrics of Being Alive. How is it used in the show, and are there any special meaning to this song?

Sorry for my ignorance.
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It's basically suggest that Robert wants a meaningful relationship. I'm not that big an expert on "Company", so anyone correct me if I'm wrong.
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CapnHook
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I know the context of the show...but what I like to do when I'm singing a song and not performing in the actual show is take the lyrics and put personal meaning to them. "Being Alive" is actually my audition song right now because it is something that I want to say.
"The Spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet."
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FoscasBohemianDream
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Company is a very complex show, but at heart it is about Robert's inability to understand what relationships are about and the different situations (and people) who lead him to realize that comittment and "company" are very complicated, yes, but ultimately there is so much to win. The first part of "Being Alive" (as performed in the show, the solo versions tend to cut the first part which has always bothered me) tells about Robert's initial, sometimes superficial, views on relationships and committment. "Someone to sit in your chair, and ruin your sleep," "someone to need you too much," etc. Those views aren't exactly lies, those are some of the negative elements of a serious relationship; however, as he sings, his friends tell him to look closer and deeper (in my opinion, as Robert performs the first part of the song he is remembering all the previous scenes we saw throughout the show), and then there is a shift in the song and it becomes Robert's cry of help, Robert's declaration that he understands there are negative aspects to being in a committed serious relationship, but that another person can make you feel alive, remind you who you are, complement your life. "Someone" becomes "Somebody" and "someone to sit in your chair, and ruin your sleep" turns into "somebody sit in my chair, and ruin my sleep." It's Robert's expression of the needs he realized he had, and his conclusion after all the different moments he experienced throughout the show.
Updated On: 9/9/06 at 02:05 AM
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sweetestsiren
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Lovely explanation, Fosca.
COOOOLkid
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Thank you so much! That was well-explained!
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broadjay
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Also just a side note, when I did company last year the director got me to toy with the idea of "someone", someone as in guy or girl?! not to say Rober/Bobby is gay, but he never says he wants a woman and his relationship with most his men and woman friends are confusing and have an element of sexual tension.
also I can't rember the website where Sondheim talks about in the orginal production it was alot more suggestive of his sexually, if I find it I shall post it asap.
but in an audition/solo suituation I guess you can sing it as you interprut it. That's just one vierw point and how I explored the song, without fail it mad had me in tears or confusion and need for love once I finished (also the higer version is so much more thrilling and songs more like a haunting whailing on those gorgeous high notes, i t lets you emote so much more.
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orangeskittles
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I thought Sondheim was always adament that Bobby was never intended to be interpreted as gay.
Like a firework unexploded
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The song is basically Bobby longing for someone to share life with.
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
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TomMonster
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You're right Orangeskittles, Sondheim and Furth have threatened legal action against any production that make Bobby gay.
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#10
Posted: 9/9/06 at 10:24pm
Fosca left out one important detail: The point in the song where it switches from "Someone to hold you too deep" to "SOMEBODY hold me too deep" comes when his friends are telling Robert to make a wish and blow out the candles on his birthday cake. "Make a wish, Robert. WANT something. Want SOMETHING."

So, the rest of the song is Robert's birthday wish.
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#11
Posted: 9/10/06 at 12:09am
I think whoover said, Bobby was never intended to be gay, is right I stand corrected (blush) but it's still in the script if you read it throughly. as for the lega action i don't know that much is true?.. but it never says he's gay, just maybe a passing thought or confusion and it was just an interprutation/opinion i guess (-: as for being alive just sing it truthfully
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#12
Posted: 9/10/06 at 1:43am
I *seriously* doubt the "legal action" story because in the London revival script from a few years ago, Bobby is hit on by one of his male friends. They laugh it off, but Bobby *never* says an unequivocal "no". IMHO, Furth put that in to demonstrate another layer of Bobby's confusion about relationships in general, and I'll be curious to see if that scene is still in the new production.
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#13
Posted: 9/10/06 at 2:37am
A modified version of that scene is in the new production (in which Bobby essentially takes it as a joke and brushes it off). It's made clearer that Bobby's probably not into that sort of thing. I'm not exactly sure of the reasoning behind adding that scene in for the London production, but in Doyle's version the dialogue is less ambiguous than in London.
Updated On: 9/10/06 at 02:37 AM
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#14
Posted: 9/10/06 at 2:47am
CAPNHOOK: Took the words right out of my mouth! It's my audition song right now too! Got me two jobs in the past week!

As for meaning: Robert has gone through the entirety of the the musical's story searching for meaning, love, purpose... and slowly realizing that bacherlorhood (while it has its perks) is only a mask for loneliness. He has harried his friends for being wed, only finding the nagging and annoyance of marriage life and not focusing on the beauty of being love.

But, cynicism can only carry one through life so far. He is surrounded by beautiful and loving married friends... so when his birthday cake is held before him and he is asked to make a wish... he realizes his one wish is to have another person in his life, to love, to make him feel alive.

"Somebody hold me too close. Somebody hurt me too deep. Somebody sit in my chair and ruin my sleep and make me aware of being alive. Being alive."
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#15
Posted: 9/11/06 at 10:00am
Taking Bobby's metamorphosis a bit slower, the final turning point is the statement/realization "But alone is alone not alive..."

This leads into a faster tempo (Don't strings come in and the phrases become legato?) so Bobby can make his final commitment to finding a relationship. "Somebody crowd me with love, somebody force me to care."

There is still an admission that he is flying blind "I'll always be there, as frightened as you". But even feeling vulnerable, he's ready.
"If my life weren't funny, it would just be true. And that would be unacceptable." --Carrie Fisher
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#16
Posted: 9/11/06 at 10:50am
I believe Sondheim had originally written a far more cynical ending song to the show but was convinced to change it by Hal Prince to "Being Alive" Am i right on that one?
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#17
Posted: 9/11/06 at 11:52am
Yes, it was called "Happily Ever After." It used a lot of the same lyrics, actually. "Someone to hurt you too deep/Someone to know you too well/Someone to rob you of all things you don't want to tell/That's happily ever after/Ever ever ever after/In hell."

I think that counts as cynical, right? :)

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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#18
Posted: 9/11/06 at 2:31pm
"Being Alive" was actually the third attempt at an ending. I'm not sure of the order, but it was "Happily Ever After" and "Marry Me a Little" before it became "Being Alive". It was indeed Prince's request for a "happy" ending, but neither Sondheim nor Furth were ever really pleased with it.
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#19
Posted: 9/11/06 at 2:38pm
Happily Ever After was the original ending, followed by "Marry Me a Little" (which is now in the revised London/Broadway version). There's another song in the evolution of that show as well called "Multitudes of Amys" but I can't offhand remember exactly how it fit.
I have no idea if "Marry..." is in the Doyle version but it's incredibly ruinous, I think, to put it in there since the sentiment is VERY similar to "Being Alive" and, where it's placed, it really gives Bobby a bit too much awareness of what he wants.
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#20
Posted: 9/11/06 at 3:09pm
Marry Me A Little is the first act closer in this production, right after the scene with Amy and Paul.
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#21
Posted: 9/11/06 at 7:37pm
Actually "Marry Me A Little" is similar to "Being Alive" on the surface, but if you listen closely to the lyrics you realize that at that point Bobby has no idea about what he wants or about what committment is about, that is why the song could never work as a finale, and why it fits ok (not exactly perfectly but just ok) as the Act I finale. I believe "Multitudes of Amy" was at one point suppose to end Act I as well. "Happily Ever After" is actually an amazing song, but if it had been the show's finale then Robert wouldn't have learned anything, there would've been no catharsis, and the previous two hours would've been worthless if the main character learned absolutely nothing from them, in my opinion it should replace "Marry Me A Little" as the Act I finale because it creates a connection with "Being Alive" (the lyrics are highly similar)
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#22
Posted: 9/11/06 at 9:09pm
I never understood the view that Bobby could be seen as possibly being gay at all. The song "Someone is Waiting" is a very "straight" song -- I know I've felt that way about women in my life before - looking for parts of other women all wrapped up into one woman who I can love. After you've dated for a while, there's always that piece missing - the craziness you love about one woman or the sweetness of another. It feels like a very "straight" sentiment to me...
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#23
Posted: 9/11/06 at 9:19pm
I don't think it's gay versus straight so much as it's a possibility of past experimentation, to add another layer of complexity. The other thing, to me, is that Bobby is dealing with all of these outside influences, and when his friend tries to find out if he's into that sort of thing, it's another monkey wrench in his personal mess. It's one more thing for him to think about, and depending on the interpretation, perhaps be tempted by. Yes, he sings about women and probably is fundamentally straight. And no, I don't think "the gay scene" is meant to explicity state that he is or is not gay, nor do I think it tips the scales, because it's not that weighty of a scene. I think it's rather simply an almost-extranneous scnenario to add another layer to Bobby's emotional strain, confusion and isolation.

Jason, I understand what you're saying about empahtizing with Bobby's desire to sort of... create the perfect significant other, until you say that that desire feels like a "straight" sentiment. Could a gay man not have a sentiment like that about other men? I understand concluding that Bobby is straight because he sings that song about women, but I don't understand concluding that that's an exclusively straight idea.

Placing Marry Me a Little at the end of act one feels like a good halfway point, to me. He's talking about this half-assed sort of marriage, and when I heard the lyrics, my reaction was to think that there's nothing healthy about the kind of relationship he's beginning to concede to -- he wants to keep things "safe," even if that means hiding things from one another. But, from someone who prefers to remain unattached, it's progress. Being Alive, then, is like the next step. He's not acting yet, but he's opening his eyes to new realizations, and he's growing up enough to have a functional relationship.
A work of art is an invitation to love.
Updated On: 9/11/06 at 09:19 PM
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re: Meaning of 'Being Alive' from Company#24
Posted: 9/11/06 at 9:34pm
I think that "Marry Me a Little" works well as the act one closer. Its sentiments aren't all that similar to "Being Alive" (since at that point Bobby's ideas of committment are still completely guarded and superficial), and I think that something needs to follow the scene with Paul and Amy other than the "Bobby Baby" chorus. I'm not familiar with "Happily Ever After," but it sounds interesting.