Monday, July 23, 2012

Dance to a Dream/ Quality

Has Hernandez, The Umbrella Man, become the only influence in Sal's life? What about Bernadette, and his role models for a solid relationship, Carlos and Yolanda? As this song shows, they are both still couples.

The song mostly belongs to Carlos and Yolanda, as they dream of a life together, away from the barrio. We have heard this type of song before in musicals, from Annie's "Easy Street" to Little Shop of Horrors' "Somewhere That's Green."

Here, the "desire" is material, too, at least in part, Yolanda sings: "I have always imagined a better life/ Far from the barrio's gutters/ We could manage a club as a husband and wife... A restaurant, white tablecloths/ And maybe some live Spanish music."

She has also envisioned their home. Together, they could "build a house, paint the shutters... There are lawns and flowers on a Westchester street/ Maples that sound like a river." She clings to this desire like a lifeline: "It's my dream, and I don't want to lose it."

Carlos' "desire" is, originally, less material, and more immediate: "Come on, Yolanda, I just wanna see..." But  of course he wants to provide a good life for her: "A place for our children that's restful and sweet/ I promise you some day, we'll live there."

Young Sal has less mature ways to impress Bernadette: "What you wanna bet/ I can fly like the guys in the comic books?/ You know how magic this cape is." (Ah, so he did acquire the cape... somehow! Later, he mentions a salary, but...). Bernadette is incredulous of the cape's powers, but sure of her feelings for Sal: "I'll bandage your wounds with my kisses."

Both women and Carlos join for the chorus: "You can dance to the dream of a summer's night/ As you drift to the edge of desire/ Guided by love's mysterious light/ Set the stars in heaven on fire." Since before Shakespeare, something about a midsummer night has set lovers to dream.

"Quality" is the sixth track on the soundtrack album. It's a simple 1950's-style pop tune, and it also marks the differences between what the women hope for and what the men (or boys) do.

The women sing: "Are you my beautiful young boy/ Or just another love/ Passing through my life... And maybe one day soon/ Will I be your wife?"

Carlos is not part of this number, but Sal sings lyrics typical of the age... and his own age: "Come on, Baby, let's go downtown/ You sure look good to me... Don't be shy/ Step in the light so I can see... Let's rock some more/ I want to spend my salary... The way you move/ It's got quality." He's so pleased with life, he even sings this about himself, that others see that he has quality.

Adult Salvador steps in at this point, sighing: "Who can stop the setting sun/ Who can raise the dead?/ I feel the shame of what was done/ See how the stain has spread." With one act, which we will soon see, all of Sal's and Bernadette's dreams and desires are rendered meaningless, as are those of his mother and stepfather.

But first, young Sal gets in one more verse of "Quality," just to show, exactly, what he will lose: his youth, his hope, his exuberance, his freedom... maybe not his life, but everything good in it.

Next Song: Manhunt/ Can I Forgive Him?


  1. I was able to view the play in the NY public library. I know from this that the murder is shown right before the "who can stop line". In certain versions there is a line towards the beginning where the gang hears about Frenchy being beaten up and they run off to the playground for the rumble.

  2. Nicholas-- Thanks so much! I am sure that if I had been able to see the play, my notes would have been much better informed. How can I see it-- is there a video? Or did they preview it live at the library?