Like many of you reading this, I have found that I am probably more familiar with Mr. Intrabartolo's work than I ever realized. As a composer and conductor, he helped to score and underscore some of my favorite films, including Dreamgirls, Superman Returns, and Fantastic Four. Apparently, I've been enjoying his work for years without knowing it.
Of course, as a fan of "the new generation" of musical theatre writers, I'm a little more familiar with his works. The most famous of those, Bare: A Pop Opera, is the one that had an impact on my life. His musical (with collaborator Jon Hartmere, Jr.) came at a time in my life where I needed it without realizing I needed it.
To say that Bare hit me pretty close to home is an understatement. While I was never in a private Catholic high school, the rest of the show parallels my life in so many ways, it sometimes feels autobiographical. Like Jason and Nadia, I am very close to my sister. Like Peter, I was the quiet guy who only let loose during my hours spent working with my school's drama program. I also had a drama teacher confidante - she and my sister were the first people I ever told I was gay. My mother still struggles, sometimes publicly and always to my face, with my sexual orientation, just as Peter's mother does.
Jon Hartmere, Jr. (left) and Damon Intrabartolo
But most significantly, my first relationship was with my own "Jason." Back in the early 80's being gay was not like it is today. The closet was deep, and the door was firmly shut. My "Jason" was the captain of the soccer team; I was the drama geek that was in every play the school did. My "Jason" was super smart - we met, in fact, because we were both misplaced in freshman English, and were sent to the guidance office for schedule changes together. We got pretty close, pretty fast, especially considering how far "under the radar" we had to be. He dated girls; I played shy. We snuck around on weekends and holidays; the school week was "keep as far away as we could stand it" time. And classes we shared were excruciating. But it was totally worth it when we found stolen moments to be alone. He was my first love; I was his. I got to most of his games; he never missed a show I was in. And then, we almost got caught. And the terror of that, caused my "Jason" to call everything completely off. Thankfully, unlike Bare's Jason, my guy didn't kill himself. But he did end up marrying the girl he took to the Prom, and they have kids, not unlike Jason might have with Ivy.
All of that was literally decades before Bare came into my life - decades of anger, refusing to forgive, and tons of self-doubt. But Bare did come along, and its sad tunes and modern rock sensibility struck a chord with me, and the story made me pretty much obsessed with Jason and Peter. Recognizing that I was fortunate that the love of my life was still alive, I made contact with him again. We talked things through, and I'm glad to say we made our peace. Now, I occasionally hear from him, and we email each other with major life news. We even saw a production of Bare together. We wept, understanding every single word all too well.
Michael Arden as Peter and John Hill as Jason
in the 2004 off-Broadway production of Bare: A Pop Opera
Thank you, Damon. I hope that you realized that your life made a difference to many people before your untimely demise. We will never know what else you might have improved the world with in the future. But I, for one, am so grateful for the time we had you in our lives. Rest in Peace.