My uncle was a professional actor, and theater and acting has been a part of my life ever since I played the part of the Kid in "The Kid versus the Bruiser," a vaudeville-style boxing skit I did when I was 5. But until now I have never done a musical.
(Image: the show I did features a cat and a hat, among other things; all props to Theodor S. Geisel)
And I think I might do another, someday.
Musicals take a different kind of gumption from regular theater. In an ordinary play, you have to become someone else for a while. That's not that difficult for me.
In musicals, you not only have to be someone else, you have to sing as someone else and dance as someone else. Which is an awesome and at the same time horrendous prospect for most of us.
And a school musical-- that's what this was, by the way-- presents a whole other kettle of fish. Great reams of paper and reels of film have been expended telling stories about this cosmos, the world of the drama clan. Apparently there is an entire movie that is called "High School Musical," though I've never seen it.
I probably should, now.
I didn't cotton to the drama people in high school. They were too enthusiastic for me, and too mysterious: quirky types who wore scarves, and rubbed each other's backs at the drop of a hat. The school newspaper was more my speed, and still is.
But 30 years removed from high school and my acne and awkwardness, drama (and even a musical) is a big, fat blast.
I didn't audition for my role as Yertle the Turtle in Seussical the Musical. It was an emergency. Another faculty member had been recruited and had had to withdraw. I got called something like three weeks before opening night.
Now Yertle is not a big role. I had one short solo and was in five numbers out of thirty-five, so it was a cameo. But I made hamburger of it until our closing show, in which I think I finally got most of it right, except for the dancing.
You need a lot of practice for the dancing, more than I got.
And what about the students? Awesome, every one of them. Our school is K-12, which meant that pretty much every grade had a member in the cast. So at the same time that you had the self-assured seniors showing everyone how it's done, you had the lower school kids leaping around with simple joy and the middle school kids working hard to master the tough stuff and show they belonged.
It was a family.
Which made me the crazy uncle in the green face paint.
And what about the show? Well, whatever genius decided that Dr. Seuss' stories and rhymes would make for a hilarious and poignant Broadway show, hats off to them. Musically it is a tour of the melting pot of American musical styles, from the African-American spiritual to Latin salsa to R&B, 50's Rock and Roll, The Beach Boys, ragtime, the jitterbug, the circus calliope, and of course the classic American musical ballad:
I can fly
Yes, I have wings
Around the moon
And far beyond the skies
You called my name
And you set me free
One small voice in the universe
One true friend in the universe
Who believes in me
Loads of fun.
My favorite part wasn't a part of the play itself. One of the things that's imperative in musical theater is, apparently, to encourage everyone. This is because many people who act are highly talented, extroverted perfectionists who have challenges believing consistently in themselves (sometimes referred to as ENFPs; fun link below on that topic). In a musical, where there is a triple threat of failing, you almost never have all three phases of your game simultaneously free of error (see above under "hamburger" for typical actor's self-assessment).
So you praise. You encourage. Are you ready? Are you excited? Thumbs up. Break a leg. You're awesome. You were so good. I love your costume. No, that looks good. Do it. Keep it. I love it. You rock the house.
That's music to this teacher's ears.