Rebecca Magnuson calls her “She Sings” a “soaring musical.” It is also searing with details from her life and recent divorce as well as that of other women.
On Nov. 16, Magnuson premiered her musical — written, directed and produced by the singer-songwriter — at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE, in conjunction with the release of the 14-song soundtrack.
Well known in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and Nashville, Magnuson sang with depth and height and fire and ice about the loss of love, the ripping hurt of deceit and the exhausting fight for her rights and herself.
Including dancers and other singers, the 12 scenes of “She Sings” begin with Brahms’s Rhapsody No. 2 in G Minor, veer into “Lie Here,” “Manipulator,” “World Without Love” and “Dirty Little Secret” and push through “The Storm” to “Take Me There” and “My Voice,” landing with the uplifting “She Sings,” a favorite of many of her admirers.
During the first half of the show, Magnuson rocked a black-laced outfit; for the second half, she wore a simple white dress. She was joined in some scenes by vocalists Adam Cunningham and Kim Parent and dancers Dawn Elaine White and Louis Johnson.
“The musical is about healing — not just for me but for many women, and men, who’ve had to live through crises, suffering and abuse of one sort of another, people who endured and rose up again after years,” Magnuson told Georgetowner writer Gary Tischler last month. “It’s about learning to love yourself and see yourself through your own eyes, not just the eyes of somebody else. There is all kinds of abuse in the world. People go through divorce, through painful relationships, family issues, friendships. There’s gender and professional issues. There’s physical, but also emotional abuse. To me, this musical and these songs are about healing, healing the wounds from all those things.”
On Friday night at the Atlas, Magnuson was surrounded by friends, receiving roses from Will Thomas, former news anchor, and applause — and some tearful nods — from the audience. Her musical journey is a catharsis for those who know, as well as a cautionary tale, beautifully and purposefully sung throughout. She also masterfully plays her guitar and piano, having learning those skills at an early age, too.
“What I do know and love is being able to touch people’s lives through my music,” Magnuson said. “Music is a great healing tool, and songs that are about people’s lives — hard, difficult or triumphant— are powerful tools. They’re valuable in a way that goes beyond how good you are, or performance and things like that.”
Magnuson’s musical arrives during the era of the #MeToo movement with its hope of helping others see their way past abuse. She will perform “She Sings” later this month in Nashville.