"Colored Lights" - The Rink - The Deeper Connection
Kander and Ebb are best known for their brassy showtunes, set distinctly to ignite some Fosse-esque, bump and grind dance number, complete with a racy lyric or two. "Wilkommen," "Cabaret," "All that Jazz," "The Cell Block Tango," "When You're Good to Momma," "Nowadays," "Where You Are," and "Gimme Love" are perfect examples of what I am talking about. What we forget is that there is also a quieter, more organic side to the duo's music that established a deeper connection with character development and emotional understanding. I am speaking of the Kander and Ebb who wrote "The Happy Time," "Life Is," "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer," "Say Yes," "It Couldn't Please Me More" and "All the Children in a Row." I think we have a tendency to forget that Kander and Ebb were capable of something far richer than the bawdy and the brash.
Never have their talents for reaching the emotional depths been more apparent than in the 1984 musical The Rink. The story of an estranged mother and daughter battling it out until they reach a mutual appreciation and understanding was the perfect material for Kander and Ebb to show off a more nuanced side. The musical opens with one of their most reflective, insightful character songs "Colored Lights." Sung from the estranged daughter "Angel's" point of view, the song is soliloquy about her misspent youth and her search for contentment, which she never really found. She repeatedly corrects herself, unsure of the details of her memories, but very in tune with the emotions she felt at the time. It's clear that Angel is trying to find something intangible. She wants to know where her "colored lights" are, as if they are something that can be possessed, held onto, or stored away for a rainy day. From the beginning, we know that Angel is unclear on what she needs and this beautifully sets up the story to come. It won't be until she and her mother make amends and she finds "home" that she will reach her destination and personal understanding of who she is.