The story of Olympic Dream/Nightmare is this: 

I always thought that Nancy versus Tonya was the greatest sports story of all time. The highest profile attack on a competitor in sports occurred in women’s figure skating, of all sports! And putting the “pipe” in a pipe dream is only the tip of the iceberg (as it were). The story also contains a classic underdog, mustachioed supervillain, improbable comeback and an ending that is bittersweet, surprising and heartbreaking all at once. 

 

Unsurprisingly, I am not the only one who has been inspired by this story. One of the first things my wife Elissa and I talked about when we met was the Nancy/Tonya story. She thought it would make an excellent musical and had even started to write lyrics for it (which became part of Watch ur Back). I was immediately on board, and wrote several songs during a vacation we soon took. I learned upon returning that someone else had already written and staged a Nancy/Tonya ”rock opera” (google it, like I should have done six years ago). I have neither seen nor heard this production, but I am sure it is great and deserving of a silver medal. Hearing that it exists very nearly kneecapped Olympic Dream/Nightmare.

 

Nevertheless, there have been something like five Spiderman movies in the last decade, and I had fallen in love with the songs and could not resist writing more. The resulting album loosely follows the story, focusing instead on the themes it implicates and the emotions I suspect it provoked, which extend far beyond figure skating. Among other things, “Nancy versus Tonya” is really about dreams versus the reality that dreams rarely come true; confidence versus self-doubt; succeeding versus failing (including when it matters most); and complexity versus pigeonholing. Musically, the record is a mixture of rock, funk and much more – imagine if Steely Dan, Phish and the modern musical theater scene spawned a crowbar-wielding stepchild. I hope that you enjoy its many nuances. And may random Russian medaling never ruin your lifelong goal. 

 

-- Ben Halperin, Brooklyn 2019

© 2019 by Ben Halperin and The Ninth

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