The (Almost) Perfect 10

About a month ago wrapped up the 10th musical The Captain has directed at his high school.  It is also the 10th high school musical I have choreographed alongside him.  I felt this decade of musicals was a big deal, and so on closing night, the cast called him up on the stage, said a few words about the big “10” and gave him an amazing bouquet of balloons and flowers.  He was mortified but was OK with it in the end.  The Captain is very modest about his successes.  He actually turned a few shades of tomato.  Mission accomplished.

When The Captain took over the theater program over 10 years ago, it was following a director who was a legend at the school.  Kids can sometimes be strange (imagine that!), and they were none too accepting of “the new guy.”  It took time, but he made it.  And 10 musicals later, he really made it.  I believe this is a milestone that doesn’t occur often, so balloons, flowers and adequate blushing were required.

Being a director is extremely time-consuming.  We had both of our dudes during  the 10 years.  String Bean was just an  infant during the production time of the first musical.  I would wear him in a Baby Bjorn while I choreographed the dances.  Squishy came along four years later, just in time for me to demonstrate dance techniques a la Kevin Bacon.  I rode the ride alongside The Captain during the journey, filled with ups and downs,  crazy teenagers, overly involved parents and a fickle administration.  Ten spring musicals.

Here they are in order:

  • Once Upon a Mattress
  • South Pacific
  • Guys and Dolls
  • Footloose
  • Fame
  • The Boyfriend
  • Godspell
  • Crazy For You
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

I am proud of The Captain and the almost perfect 10 shows.  I say almost perfect because some of them were bumpy rides.  In Footloose, he cast a brother and sister to play the parents of the wild and strong-willed Ariel.  The brother and sister sinister duo teamed up on him and attacked him on a social media website.  Anonymously, of course.  But, besides that little snafu in year four, it was almost smooth sailing.

The conclusion of the tenth musical.

So, in the words of Joseph, “Any dream will do,”  but three standing ovations also work.

The Bard, Field trips and Nail Biting

Each and every year, I embark on a perilous journey.  One that defies all things known and makes the impossible possible.  One that is a black hole with a narrow escape.  One that encompasses magical powers beyond the scope of nature.  What is this odyssey?  Why, it is taking students on field trips to see a Shakespeare play.

This year, I enlisted the help of my trusted friend and confidant Suz.  She and I gathered all of the courage and tenacity we could muster to organize this massive undertaking.  She is the reason I made it through the day.

Let me back up in time and explain the path of the most recent journey we were destined to travel.  It was year 2002, and I was summoned to a grand place in the land of Cleveland known only as The Great Lakes Theater Festival.  From this moment on, I was entranced by their powers.  Enamored by their gently use of The Bard’s great words.  Encased in their sheer talents.  I was, to put it mildly, hooked.  As Juliet would say, “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.”  Yes, indeed.

From then on, I took students to see these incredible works of art each year.  It was a time to develop young minds, and show (not tell) them how important and timeless the plays of Shakespeare really were.  It was mystical.

But not always.  Many times there were alien students among us.  One particular one did the worst thing possible – he tripped an actor.  According to E.T., his legs needed “extra room” so he put them in the aisle.  Bad, bad alien student.  Another Alf-like creature listened to his iPod through Act I, Scene II of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  His excuse?  “I don’t understand what they are saying.”  My response, “We covered it in class.”  One Mork actually fell into a deep slumber during Twelfth Night.   His rebuttal after other students woke him up with furious tapping and shaking?  “The girl is dressed like a guy and it creeped me out.”  Classy.  These are the villains of my days with The Bard.

But, alas, I have held true to my word and provided the non-alien youth with the best gift of all: the gift of live theater.

The cover looks like Twilight meets R&J.

This year’s presentation was Romeo and Juliet.  I was ecstatic for a few reasons.  First, this is actually one in our literature books, and second, I teach it every year.  Double score!  We both got crazy-eyed with happy thoughts and reserved not the usual 40 tickets, but a whopping 80 tickets with visions of Romeo dancing in our heads.

Yikes.  But we had high hopes. Maybe too high as Mercutio states, “True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing by vain fantasy.”

Let me just state that, for the days approaching the trip, it was as if “the mad blood stirring” was a reality.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

Finally the big day arrived.  We herded 80 students into two school buses at the blistering early time of 7:35 a.m.  We ventured on the hour and a half bus ride to Cleveland.  We gathered all of the students and promptly got them seated in the theater.  We smiled as we sat down in our seats, breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The set. Taken without a flash before the show began.

Intermission came.  Our students deserved halos for their amazing behavior during the first half of the performance.  Brainvomit40 looked at her watch: 11:39.  The buses had to be back by 2:25 for their routes.  Would the show be finished and we be out the door before 1 p.m.?  Enter nail biting.

Throughout the second half (and I must say half, it was technically Acts III, IV, V), I couldn’t focus.  All I could think about was what was coming next.  Here is a look into my mind:

“OK.  She is getting the sleeping potion.  Finally.  Good.  Now she is going to have a monologue and drink it.  Fine.  Now Romeo is going to find out she died.  OK.  We’re good on time.  Crap.  Romeo still has to fight and kill Paris and there is dialogue.  Darn.  OK, he took care of Paris.  Now the death scene.  Geez.  Totally blanked that the Friar’s so many lines here.  Come on already and bring out the Prince to wrap this up!”

By this time, I have no nails left to speak of.  I would be lying if I didn’t confess that we were about to cheer when Juliet said, “O happy dagger!”

The play ended, and we made it on the buses by 1:06.  We made it back to the school by 2:22.  Whew.  I should have been feeling down because it was over, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but instead I was thinking thank goodness this is once a year.

I still love the Bard, and I appreciate the opportunity to showcase how incredible his words come alive in a live performance.  “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.”

To Shakespeare!

Here is another post I wrote about the Bard.  Enjoy!

Memphis the Musical

The Captain and I like going to see musicals.  Unfortunately, we are almost eight hours from the lights of Broadway, so we have to take what we can get in good ol’ Ohio.  Last year, we decided to buy season tickets to the Broadway series at the Cleveland Playhouse and it was one of the best entertainment decisions we have ever made.

The most recent performance was the musical Memphis.  I really didn’t know what to expect besides it being the 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical (which pretty much was all I needed to know).

It was – hands down – one of the best musicals I have seen. Ever.  Now, I have to admit, I really like rock and roll. In fact, I think most of America/England/Canada/basically most of the world digs rock and roll.  Earlier this season, we saw Million Dollar Quartet and I felt like I was watching Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis live in concert.  It was breathtaking.  Memphis was breathtaking as well, but for different reasons.

One of the biggest movies of 2011 was The Help based on the book by Kathryn Stockett.  Sometimes taking a risk and exposing some of the less-than-stellar aspects of our history, as Kathryn Stockett did, is a good thing. Memphis, too, took this risk.  It spoke of an uglier time in American history – one of racism, bigotry and extreme prejudice.  Memphis focused on the music scene where radio was dominated by the extremely caucasion Perry Como’s of the world, and radio stations, just like schools, drinking fountains and seats on the bus, were completely segregated.

The story begins with an aspiring white DJ, who appreciated good music, stating it is “The Music of My Soul,” begins to break through the barrier and integrate black music (which was referred to as “race music” in the musical – I was shocked to learn this was a common term in the 50s) into the mainstream.  Think Hairspray but with even more of a statement.          The musical also delved into a love story involving an interracial couple – the lead DJ and the amazing singer he fell for.  This very sweet relationship, happening during such a perilous time, sadly caused both of them much heartache.  Until the mid 70s, there were laws throughout the Southern states banning interracial marriages.  For this couple, the choice became clear: stay in the South and hide the relationship or move to NYC and be together.

Parts of the musical were heartbreaking.  It is sometimes difficult to be reminded of the racism: it’s bitter nastiness and extreme hatred.  Parts of the musical were uplifting.  The progression of how this DJ motivated a great change in society.  Parts of the musical were dynamic.  The singing and dancing were truly outstanding.  This is an excellent musical to see.

Oh, and, we’ve come a long way since the 1950s.  Thank goodness.  I hope we, as a nation, can keep moving forward.

Great musical - get tickets!

If the Broadway tour of Memphis stops in a town nearby, get tickets.  Don’t hesitate for a moment.  It is worth it.  “Memphis Lives in Me.”

Musicals: Amish Style

Romeo and Juliet of the Amish world?

I can’t make this stuff up.  This is a poster advertising a new musical.  Although it is not well-known, it may become a Tony Award winner.  It is called The Confession, an Amish Love Story and a new musical.

There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.  First, it is an oxymoron.  Second, who is going to come and see it?  And, third, why did I see this sign to begin with?

I live in Ohio.  There is an Amish population not too far from me.  I don’t visit there very often (although they do have good cheese), but sometimes I am put into situations that force me to drive into the cusp of the Amish world.  On Saturday, a friend of mine had a birthday and she wanted to go to the Amish world to have some down home Amish cookin’. Here are the gist of my texts with the birthday planner:

Me: Really?  They don’t serve any wine there.

Birthday planner: That is where she wants to go.  It is her birthday, you know?

Me: Yeah, I understand. But they don’t serve any wine there.

And so it goes.  When we got there, the poster above greeted us by the hostess station.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  Seriously, I thought, there is a musical for an Amish love story?  This could be epically hilarious or an epic fail.  After staring at the poster for an unrealistic amount of time, I decided that instead of their title, they needed to go more mainstream.  Here are some of the suggestions I have for Amish musicals to, you know, attract more of an audience:

Thoroughly Modern Miller

How to Succeed in Plowing without Fueled Machinery

Hamalot: The Quest for the Golden Butter Churn

Eli and the Amazing Technicolor Barn

Beauty and the Buggy

The Phantom of the Lumber Yard

A Grand Night for Quilting

Me and My Goat

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sawmill

The Yoder Family

Seven Beards for Seven Troyers

Little Shop of Knick-Knacks

Bring in ‘Da Cows, Bring in ‘Da Pigs

I could go on, but I think I have given the Amish community some golden, buttery, homemade noodle nuggets of suggestions.  Maybe I will think of some novel ideas for them next week, like “Gone With the Electricity” and “The Scarlett Bonnet.”