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!

Open House and the Big Fart

I rushed into open house at Squishy’s elementary school last spring with a sense of trepidation.  It was the middle of our March Madness. First, The Captain was one week from the opening of Thoroughly Modern Millie at his high school (he directed, I choreographed).  Also, spring baseball had started for both boys, and finally, all three of the dudes I live with were in rehearsal for the Wizard of Oz.  Needless to say, I was a human taxi cab and the Open House became one of four stops that evening.

After finding a place to park (because this is not easy on Open House evening), I finally had the chance to get a good look at Squishy.  He had chocolate ice cream all down the front of his white Life is Good t-shirt.  Awesome.

“Squishy, did Grandma really have to give you ice cream the second before I picked you up?” I asked as I took his incredibly sticky hand in mine.

“Mom, I wanted it and she gave it to me. Geez.  I was hungry, but now I want a Star Wars book from the book fair and a brownie,” he replied, quite sure of his goals for the Open House.

“I don’t think so,” I said as we continued through the door.

Squishy dropped my hand and ran down the hall like lightening.  I was hustling behind him, bumping into the massive herd of parents in the hallway.

“Wait up,” I called to him, as I tried to put on a very fake “I have everything under control and my life is really a dream” smile for the parents who turned their heads to look at me.

“I am trying to catch up with you, sweetheart!” I stated to him in an as pleasant as I could get, sing-song voice.

“Mom, you are so slow,” he hollered down the hallway, “Oh, and I farted.  Safety!”

Awesome.  Now my kindergartener has yelled “fart” across a crowed hallway.

But it gets better.  It always does.  A guy I dated for a long while BC – Before Captain, Before Children – was standing nearby with his absolutely beautiful, poster-like family.  And he was smirking.  Did I mention it always gets better?

My fake smile turned into gritted teeth.  My posture changed to that of a wild animal.  My hair turned into the snakes of Medusa.  I smirked back while briskly walking by and said, “Hi there.  Gotta catch up with my little man!”

Secretly, I kind of hoped that the fart would linger and bring the idyllic family to its knees.  That would be awesome.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. This photo was taken at the open house.

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.”

The Thinks You Can Think

This past weekend, The Captain and both of my dudes wrapped up a three-weekend run of the musical Seussical at our community theater.  In a word, it was “adorable.”  I really wanted to be clever and put a Seuss word in there, but, alas, none come to me.  Yet…

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”  The musical is actually the story of Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg.  There are also references to The Lorax, The Grinch, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.  The Cat is the “narrator” of the musical, and the characters are all the Seuss favorites.  In a word, it was “magical.”

Both of my dudes are in this photo.

My little guys were Whos.  They had to wear stuffed suits and wild wigs.  They were adorable.

String Bean had to hold the roast beast so the Grinch could carve it.  His face was priceless!  In a word, it was “precious.”

The Captain played one of the three monkeys who torment Horton.  His song was called, “Monkey Around” and the main lyric was, “You wanna monkey, monkey around?!”  Is it bad that I completely burst out laughing during this song?  Well, I did.  Thank goodness I was sitting by one of my friends, who also was laughing.  Not sure why this song would be included – adult humor?

A monkey…I am so proud.

It was pretty difficult keeping a straight face while my husband, in orange and white striped bib overalls, orange Chuck Taylor’s and an orange beanie is bouncing around the stage, like a monkey, asking the audience to “monkey around” with him.  So wrong on so many levels.  In a word, it was “goofy.”

“Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person, no matter how small!”  The musical itself carries this message throughout, and it is one to always remember.  I don’t know how the good Dr. Seuss did it – but he made his work immortal. Move over vampires, read some Seuss.

I had the pleasure of getting to take pictures for the show, and that was a blast, but very challenging, too!  I hope I captured the heart of the show.  In a word, it was “memorable.”

So, here are some of my favorite “magical, precious, goofy and memorable” Seussisms:

“Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”

“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter,
and those who matter don’t mind”

“Today is your day, your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.”

In a word, Seuss is “Seusstacular.”  And a happy belated birthday to Dr. Seuss.

Oh, the thinks you can think!

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.”

Hair on Hair

This weekend has been a progressive bad hair day.   Saturday evening we were invited to go to a masquerade ball.  It actually is just a fundraising dinner at the community country club and people dressed pretty and wore masks.  Mine was from my birthplace of New Orleans and was quite festive.  There was a photographer there and pictures were mandatory.  Look, I am not normally camera-shy, but I was having a bad hair night and I just wasn’t into it.  At all.

After the “ball,” we headed home to catch up on some DVR stuff (like this week’s favorite, Grimm), and my phone started to light up like a vacancy sign at Myrtle Beach.  Plink, plink, plink.  I grabbed it, muttering about who would be texting me so late, and then I realized: someone was Facebook tagging me in the pictures from the event.  Bad hair and all.  Super.

Side note:  I am very particular about the pictures of me that go on Facebook.  It is not that I am hiding my identity or true self, it is just that I like to be the one to tag myself.  It is just a thing I have.  Sometimes it feels like Facebook is a little TMI instead of being something that I can control.  Also, the person who tagged me in all of the pictures WASN’T EVEN AT THE FUNCTION.  Creepy.

Truth is, I am growing out my hair for Locks of Love.  However, I am a horrible hair stylist.  I did not pass Go or Collect 500 dollars in the school of how to do my own hair.  Thank goodness it is naturally wavy because I really don’t have to do much to it.  For a formal function, though, I am (and was last night) at a loss.

Sunday, the hair issue continued.  Mine ended up in a loose, twisty pony tail and stayed that way all the way up to Cleveland.  We are season ticket holders for the Broadway Series of shows in Cleveland at Playhouse Square and today’s show was the Broadway revival of Hair.  How fitting.

The show was what I expected – peace, love, happiness, war protests and “long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, down to there, hair.”  There is a thing about this show.  Historically, it has a nude scene in it.  Totally naked, not PG, not PG-13, but nude as the day they were born naked.  I wondered, would Hair in Cleveland be like Hair in NYC?  Would Hair show all the hair?  Would Hair take it to that level in Cleveland during a Sunday matinée?  Now, I have seen shows that sported hair – in New York, but never in Cleveland.  So, I was curious.  Was Hair going to be all that Hair is traditionally supposed to be?  Well, now that I have piqued (or peaked – wink wink) interest, I will tell you.  In a moment.  I need to savor this second.  OK.  Time’s up.

Yes the cast of Hair bared all.  For a brief moment, under very low, blue-tinted lighting, they did drop trousers.  And then it was over.  Pretty anti-climatic (no pun intended) leaving me to wonder if it was really all there.  Hair.

When I got home, I took my hair out of the pony, put my Playbill away and placed my mask in the van to take to school and hang up on my bulletin board (because, like doing my hair, I stink at decorating bulletin boards).  I passed a mirror and thought, my hair isn’t too bad at all.  Like a masquerade, my hair can be something to hide behind, but, like the musical Hair, it is also part of my identity.  So I will just let it go.  For now.

“Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair.”

One of the masks from the "Ball of Bad Hair."

Peace, love and let the sunshine in.

Jazz hands, Go-go boots and a State of Memory Loss

There are some days when I am many people. Today is one of those days.

This morning I was a mom. I fixed lunches, got backpacks ready, made coffee (for me!) and put clothes out for my dudes to wear to school.  I forgot to take the coffee with me.

This morning (and until 2:30) I was a teacher. I stopped at the local donut shop (and, if I must say, the best donut shop this side of the Mason-Dixon line) to pick up two dozen scrumptious and oh so healthy treats for my first period class. I gave three exams today, graded countless essays, backed up my Mac, complimented many students on end of semester projects and edited two exams to give tomorrow.  I also spent over 30 minutes trying to find my car keys so I could leave the building.

This afternoon I was a choreographer. I made up an audition combination in the car while driving from my district to my husband’s.  I put the jazz hands, jazz squares and grapevine steps together along with other tried and true audition moves for the next musical I will be choreographing. I taught over 60  teens the combination – still in my work clothes – with enthusiasm and energy that I wasn’t aware I had.  I was so into it that I left my phone in the auditorium.

This evening, I am tired. I can’t remember anything that I had planned to accomplish tonight. I am aggravated about my phone and all I can think about are jazz hands and Go-go boots. Plus, I keep remembering the look of anticipation, nervousness and desperation on those kid’s faces. I was once in their shoes, so I hope the director will cast the show with care. If he doesn’t, I may put my foot down.  After all, I am the show’s choreographer and he is my husband.  This is our 10th year of working together on shows. But the funny stuff that goes along with a husband/wife team (think opposites – I am the goofy one, he is the serious one, or I am good cop, he is bad cop) will have to be for another post.  I can’t seem to remember the stories right now.  All I know is that I complained enough about the phone so he went back and brought it home.  What a nice director.  Jazz hands.

Where, oh where, did my iPhone go?

Back to the…theater

Thought I was going to say future? Yeah, no.  I am back to the theater again. Earlier this year, I posted about my entire family being involved in the musical The Wizard of Oz. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in the lobby, waiting to pick up my little guys while a hot, yet not so healthy, dinner of Wendy’s was waiting for them in the car – along with spelling words to review on flash cards and sometimes even the dog because I just wanted somebody to love that wasn’t singing show tunes. Ha.

Back to the point of this post. I am sitting at a read through of a show that I am not in.  Again. Both of my dudes are in it and, I know this is shocking, so is my husband. They are all three in another show less than a year since the last one. This time instead of Dorothy, the Lollipop Guild, the Tin Man, et all, we have Horton, the Grinch, and the entire Dr. Seuss coalition. It is Seussical the Musical and it will consume my life until the end of February. Super dee duper and bah humbug.

Do I seem a little cranky about the prospect of dedicating my life to the theater? Well, maybe a little. I just don’t get into it like the rest of my family. My mom is the fabulous “lady of the theater” (which must be said with a flip of a scarf, a dramatic accent and false eyelashes), my husband loves it and even is the theater director for his high school, and my peanuts both enjoy the bright lights and the post-show carnations and lollipop bouquets.

Speaking of bouquets, in my marriage vows, although I can’t seem to locate this on the wedding video, it states that I will choreograph all of my husband’s productions. Instead of saying “I do” to that one, I think I might have said, “I might?!”  Geez. This past year, besides carting campy Munchkins to and fro, I choreographed Thoroughly Modern Millie AND High School Musical. I am theatered out. And a  5, 6, 7, 8.

Guess what?  I also get to begin choreographing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  In February.  Right smack in the middle of Seussical.  I am not thrilled.

So, anyone want to meet me on weeknights while my family is singing about an elephant who hears a whole new world on a flower?  If so, name the time and the place and I will be there.  With my dream coat on.

Footloose a second (or third, or fourth) time around

The saying is “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  It is turning, for me, into “six degrees of Footloose.”

As a kid, I love, love, loved the movie Footloose.  Kevin Bacon was so cute with his spiked hair and his dance moves in his signature yellow VW bug jamming to the Police.  Kenny Loggins songs fluttered through the film and made us all mimic the different dance moves.  We all loved Ren.  We all despised Ariel’s dad.  We all felt that Ariel looked like she was 40.  But, we all cheered at the end.  Loved it.

Many moons later, or over 25 if we really want to get technical (hey, I was young when the first one came out – I didn’t even have a training bra), Footloose returns to the big screen.  I am a little anxious thinking about it.  I don’t want it to ruin the original, although I HATED the lead female in the original film.

I remember when we watched it – first at the movie theater and then on our VCR.  It was the beginning of “break-dancing” and “line-dancing” and more.  It directly faced the issue of religion versus dancing (similar to the ongoing debate of rock-n-roll versus religion since the 1950s).

Footloose has a lot of history in my marriage.  I know that sounds strange, but I have choreographed the musical Footloose for two different high schools, one being where my husband is the drama director.  For a two full years in my adult life, Footloose was all I could think about. Everybody cut, everybody cut.  Yikes.

And now, the fateful opening night of the revival film (I say revival because even the car looks the same) and I am already singing, “Let’s hear it for the boys” in my head.

Kevin Bacon – you will always be Ren to me.  Everybody cut Footloose.