Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Broadway Baby

The first show I saw was The Sound of Music, put on by my high school alma mater sometime in the late 1980s. I was in elementary school, and I was completely enamored with the (what I perceived as) incredible talent of the "big kids" on stage. Every year, Mom and Dad would take us to the high school musical, from The King and I to Hello, Dolly to Guys and Dolls. Then when I got older, I experienced professional Broadway, in the Big Apple, for the first time--Beauty and the Beast and Damn Yankees. I was hooked.

I don't know what it is, but when the lights are dimmed and those first schmaltzy notes swell from the orchestra pit, my insides tingle. I end up wistfully imagining myself onstage as one of the characters, and I find myself humming the songs for days (or, more often, singing them at the top of my lungs in the car, with the volume turned up loud enough that I think I sound just like the actress on the CD). Showtunes are just in my blood. What more could you ask for than a world where people randomly break into song, and everyone on the street magically knows all the words and all the same dance steps?

Steve and I headed home last weekend for (in my case) a Broadway-filled weekend. On Saturday, I went with my parents and my best friend, Julie (ironically, Broadway strikes again--we became best friends when we co-starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat together) to see Thoroughly Modern Millie. Some friends and I had tickets to see Millie on Broadway in March 2003--but the day we arrived in NYC on chorale tour, the musicians went on strike, and all theaters were dark. I was beyond disappointed, especially when I got the soundtrack and fell in love with the music (and with the incredible Sutton Foster's voice). So my parents, as a birthday present (hint, hint...it's coming), bought my ticket to go see the show when it came through Toledo on its national tour. The actress who played Millie...wasn't Sutton...but I loved seeing the show nonetheless.

And, afterwards, the wonderful bonus was some great girl time with Jules, over dinner at none other than...Subway :) We had a great time catching up at the familiar restaurant where we enjoyed dinner together every week last year while I lived at home.

On Sunday, the Broadway extravaganza continued with the main reason for coming home: the high school production of Bye, Bye Birdie! Besides the fact that Birdie has been one of my favorite shows ever since I saw the 1995 movie version with Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams, there were several important reasons to come home and see the MHS version. Many of the parts were played by kids who acted with me in our high school shows when they were 4th and 5th graders. And, the musical was the directing debut of an old friend of mine, the super-talented Melissa Saneholtz, who I performed with in several shows before she was hired by our alma mater as the high school music director this year.

Jamie knocked my socks off when she was just ten years old and played Nellie Oakley to my Annie in Annie Get Your Gun. She had tremendous stage presence for a fourth grader and was absolutely adorable. Ever since, she's been like the little sister I never had--she was even a junior bridesmaid in my wedding last summer. Now a sophomore, she has unfairly skipped the awkward stage altogether and grown into a beautiful, talented performer. When I heard she got the lead--Rosie--in Birdie this spring, I knew I had to make a trip home. She did a fantastic job. (I wish I had a scanner so I could post "then" pictures of these kids--I dug out old scrapbooks when I got home and they are hilarious!)

I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Andee, Jamie's older sister, not once but twice. She was the cutest little Munchkin in The Wiz (I was Addaperle, so the Munchkins were "my" little kids) before appearing in Annie Get Your Gun two years later. With her sparkling smile and personality, Andee instantly wins you over. Not to mention, talent--and beauty--definitely run in this family. I have loved seeing Andee in my old show choir for the last few years (she's a senior now) and she stepped skillfully into a supporting role in Birdie. I think it takes more talent than people realize to pull off a role with few lines--Andee's facial expressions, reactions to other characters and comedic timing as Mrs. MacAfee were stellar.

And then there was Wes--the fourth grader who played the mayor of Munchkinland eight years ago, and whom I wanted to take home with me when the show was over. I fell in love with this kid--and it's hard to believe he's now grown up enough to have played Albert Peterson in Birdie as a senior this year. Wow! Grown up indeed--I was blown away by his voice!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, filled with not only musicals, but time with family and dear friends. And it was capped off, much to Steve's delight (insert wink here), with my belting out "An English Teacher" and "Spanish Rose" on the way home last night as I drove the last stretch. This morning he informed me he had the unfortunate selection of "How Lovely to be a Woman" running through his head, thanks to me :)

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