My creative energy peaked with my involvement in a series of parish musical variety shows, first as stage hand ‘curtain puller,’ later as ‘which verse is next?’ singer(!), ‘transition scene writer, poet and lyricist,’ finally as ‘show creator’ and co-producer. Over the years, lots of on-stage and back-stage associates, as well as audiences, were there.
Whereas my last post on foible and folly #1 “Chairman of the Board” represented my most stressful and what-were-you-thinking? creative activity, the memories of these performances shift the attitude to a sense of pride in creative successes, albeit limited to runs of one to three performances.
Since this collection of memories is essentially a ‘topical’ memoir, I’ll cover the whole topic of my stage experience, excess verbiage and all, documentary style. And I’m remembering the advice my Father received when he was side-hustling, selling insurance to support his growing family: His boss told him his income would grow more by focusing in his professional job. However, my focus remained split.
My theatre background and memories are limited. In second grade my teacher cast me as a witch in some year-end musical. I freaked out, pleaded with Mom to get me out of that role (maybe an early Shakespeare opportunity), doubled the toil and trouble and wound up as a hippity-hop bunny whose coathanger ears flopped. Next opportunity wasn’t until junior year in college, when my classmate and stage centric late actor Edwin McDonough (r.i.p.) was directing the junior show and invited me to be producer. I asked what’s that, he said he’d tell me, he did, and the class presented a successful Guys and Dolls. Those experiences launched me into this new level of involvement.
Two veteran parishioners had participated years ago in local parish performances, and convinced our new pastor that reviving this activity would help harmonize the parish. My catalog of involvement follows:
1. “Music through the Years” – 1979, a collection of oldies but goodies. The music director for a local high school, Carl, had created a portfolio of shows he presented with organizations around the region. My wife signed up for the first one, and found her old tap shoes. I hadn’t known Maureen was a tapper, but it took no time for her muscle memory to kick back in. Near the end of rehearsals, she recruited me to handle the curtain.
Learning Curve… My vantage point taught me some important ideas on directing. First, I was disappointed when a soloist sang only two verses of some of my favorite songs, later being told that solos, no matter how well sung, slow down the show’s pace. Second, I was wondering why there were never consecutive solos, and was told it was for the same reason, pace – switching from comedy to serious, and individual to group, keeping the audience wondering, and awake.
2. “Music in Season” – 1980, seasonally themed oldies but goodies, same relaxing director and orchestra. Maureen was on stage and on the costume committee, and, as there was a shortage of men in the chorus, I made it onto the stage. I have documented my ‘singing trauma’ in a previous post, when in the third grade at a Benediction service, enthused by the energy among the sixty of us, I tried to jump into the ‘lead’ but instead squeaked in like Alfalfa of the Little Rascals, suddenly quiesced by a tap on the hands by Sister Bernadette, from which I never fully recovered until forty years later. However, I was encouraged by a friend who said no one would hear me with about seventy voices in the chorus, and I was able to sing, or intone, and my vocals stayed under the sonar.
The first two performances achieved the desired effect on parish spirit, and I had caught a serious enthusiasm and was looking forward to the next year. But – the director, with great local name recognition, was running for selectman, and later mayor, in his town. We had no local alternatives. I rushed into the gap, my experience being “Producer” for the junior show in college, and tried to recruit a creative staff, but early efforts were clumsily unsuccessful, and the pastor quashed the idea. The parish hibernated for four years…
3. “Broadway’s Best” – 1984, oldies, goodies, and several newbies from the Great White Way, led by Alice, a music director from another town, a disciplinarian (we thought maybe a former nun), who was her own accompanist, with a narrator introducing the numbers by decade. My greater involvement in the series began when she was explaining the strategy, having slides of the original cast albums showing on screen as the numbers were performed. She asked, “Does anyone have the album for Finian’s Rainbow, as backdrop for “Politics and Poker.” I responded, “I have Finian’s Rainbow, but “Politics and Poker” is from Fiorello! – I have that one also.” This quirky interchange gained me instant credibility.
We had decided to alternate between back stage and on stage, so Maureen performed while I crewed. And our house was bulging after the arrival of our seventh child.
4. “Memories” – 1985, second of a trilogy with Alice directing again. The six scenes were ‘Growing Up,’ ‘Dancing,’ ‘Movies,’ ‘The West,’ ‘Cities,’ and ‘Love.’ This time she asked me to write the scene introductions, and I asked if they could be sung. She responded positively, and I wrote verses for which I thought the singers could intuit the notes just from the words. Only one of the six soloists came close, so Alice wrote the notes. The lyrics with Alice’s music sheets are web-sited at https://georgecomeauxliterarygumbo.com/composer-alice-carey-director-of-parish-musical-memories/ . Maureen helped with make-up, and I was on stage again. The performance ended with my adaptation of “Thanks for the Memories”: “of playing in the park, dancing in the dark, and strolling through Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.” At the final curtain, the chairman announced that the transition numbers were locally written, and no one knew they were not really songs.
5. “A Rainbow Connection” – 1986, last of this trilogy, featuring six scenes staged in rainbow colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, (skipping indigo) and purple. This time I asked if the transitions could be in spoken verse. When I started looking for the words, the seventh and eighth lines became “Can you see invisible angels, painting God’s shadow in the skies?” The rest kind of flowed afterwards, and when I took it for her to see, Alice teared up at that second verse.
I was on stage as narrator, and backstage on crew, and Maureen was tapping away again. One great stage lesson came from one of her red scenes, with ten ladies tapping to “We’re in the money.” At one point, all ten were supposed to tap into a full turn. Nine did. The one who didn’t, realizing her mistake, in full poise just stuck out her tongue and smiled, and the audience probably thought the other nine were in error.
Alice suggested I publish the text of the narrative poem. Twenty years later, with the dawn of Print-on-Demand, that finally happened: https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Journey-George-Comeaux/dp/1439210721
Intermission! After three consecutive years performing with Alice at the high school, I’m not sure why, but the following year, within the context of our parish fall festival, we regrouped, and I was asked (or maybe volunteered) to organize the re-formed but newly dubbed “On a Wing and a Prayer” chorus. We performed in the parish hall, with a dinner theatre format, enabled by a parishioner who enjoyed cooking massive volumes of barbecued chicken. For this and thru the last of our series, I was the show runner, creating the theme and content of the shows, naturally including my favorite songs and scenes.
I introduced a small controversy, lobbying to add children in the performances. Some objected because it was “their night to be away from the kids.” I had sensed, in my own family, that the children (other than altar servers) had no identity in the parish, besides attending religion classes. But now the gauntlet was down, and third graders and up were added to the parish spirit.
I acknowledge from now on writing about my own roles in the following shows, but must acknowledge helpful support at every turn. The most significant was recurring scenic designer and often co-chairman, visual artist Bob. His stunning scene for “Memories” included piano keys on the stairs leading up to the stage, and a bouquet of balloons, carried on stage by the cast in the opening number, and sized perfectly to be assembled into a stage-left to stage-right rainbow above the cast for the entire performance of “A Rainbow Connection”. He provided, on stage and backstage, a tremendous contribution of art and energy for the following series.
6. “Faraway Places with Strange Sounding Names” – 1988, in a dinner theatre setting in the parish hall. My first “creation” included four scenes: “Around the World” (then salad); “Into the Imagination (then dinner); “Into Dreams and Visions” (then dessert); and “Then Back Home for Coffee.”
Around the World songs were “Faraway Places,” “Some Enchanted Evening/Bali Hai,” “Can-Can,” a medley “Galway Bay,” – “A’La Amor,” – “Arrivederchi Roma,” “Wunderbar,” and “Around the World.” My personal highlight was a married couple alternate-dueting (almost verse by verse) Enchanted Evening and Bali Hai – ‘Some enchanted evening/Bali Hai may call you—you may see a stranger/Any night, any day…’ . Into the Imagination brought in the kids with “Swinging on a Star,” “Never Never Land,’ an Oz medley “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” – “ If I Only Had a Brain,” – “The Merry Old Land of Oz,” and “Ease on Down the Road.” Into Dreams and Visions” was a Camelot scene with “Guinevere,” “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” “Camelot!,” “Follow Me,” and another alternate-dueting (with Guinevere between Arthur and Lancelot) of “Camelot Reprise” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.” – ‘Each evening, from December to December/If Ever I would leave you—Before you drift to sleep upon your cot/It wouldn’t be in summer…’ (As narrator and Merlin, I introduced the wizard, who “lived my life backward and will tell the story backward,” and concluded, “Whenever mankind reaches his most desperate moments, someone will remember CAMELOT, and we will all start anew.”) Then Back Home for Coffee concluded the evening with “I’ll Be Seeing You” and a Sound of Music medley, “So Long, Farewell,” – “Edelweiss,” – and “The Sound of Music” (with verses alternating between soloists, kids, women, men, and entire chorus… ‘and I will sing, once more’).
Our very expressive choreographer had shot an arrow through my pride during rehearsals, saying this format was boring, and convinced me to print some of the lyrics in the program. This worked great in the dinner theatre format, with the audience part of the chorus in the finale..
I will not detail numbers in successive shows, but I guess I am most proud of my first “experiment,” and if I ever figure out how to convert the original .sam script, I will post my version of the Camelot light dialogue..
7. “Evening Dinner Theatre” – 1989, another dinner theatre format, within the context of a parish “Country Fair,” subtitled “an Oklahoma Medley and other country tunes,” one performance only.
A group of veteran parishioners “did their own thing” with their barnyard jug band for the first scene. Two scenes with clusters of country songs were broken by a trio of parish guitarists, and after a turkey dinner our “Wavin’ Wheat” ensemble presented Oklahoma light, with “Jud Fry Is Dead” performed by the pastor. The country farewell included “My Own True Love,” “Old Man River,” and singalongs “Country Roads” and “God Bless America.”
We stayed in gear and took three consecutive shows on the road, with three performances each on the Stonehill College stage. The staff hurdled another challenge when we scheduled spring performances, some believing we wouldn’t be able to get in our ten weekend rehearsals during the winter, but Mother Nature did prove helpful, for the most part.
8. “down by the levee” – 1990, somewhat of a nostalgic trip back into my childhood roots. The winter controversy erupted when we decided we had to rehearse one Sunday evening in the middle of a snow storm. I remember several women entering the hallway grousing, carrying their tap shoes – but when they began tapping to “Mississippi Mud,” the energy was palpable and the show actually came together at that rehearsal.
The opening number was dramatic, a banjo player sitting on the stage and a group of ladies singing “Swanee River” from the floor; as they stepped up to the stage, the curtain opened with a backlit panorama of couples holding hands (you really had to be there), and the lights coming up for a rousing “Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee.” A “Huck Finn” set was a medley from the musical “Big River,” followed by a Riverboat Gambler scene, and the first act ended with pantalooned ladies tapping out their “Mississippi Mud” spectacular. Act II began with Stan Freberg’s parody, “Elderly Man River” – correcting all the violations of language protocol (“He doesn’t plant potatoes, he doesn’t plant cotton…) For the complete text, google YouTube Stan Freberg “Elderly Man River.”
The “Cotton Blossom” set was the main event, a medley of “Show Boat” songs. The Levee Farewell was a reprise of “Muddy Water” (from “Big River”) then “Ol’ Man River,” with lyrics I had recently discovered from a re-creation of the original 1927 musical: “New things come, an’ ol’ things go, but all things look the same to Joe; War go on, and some folk die; the rest forget, the reasons why; I keeps laughin’, instead of cryin’; I’m tired of livin’, and feared of diein’ – but Ol’ Man River, he jus’ keeps rollin’….. along.”
Debut Performances: A special memory from this show was that Maureen and her Mother were on stage. Irene, a nurse, brought her stethoscope into the riverboat scene when the Moonlight Gambler was shot for not knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Also, my teenaged daughter Annie made her debut.
9. “Vacation Fantasy” – 1991, another tour through my favorite numbers, this time with six scenes, some combining two shows into one. The opening scenario had the chorus walking up the aisles onto the stage and a cruise ship, singing “Vacation on a Cruise Ship,” with a borrowed tune from Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” – “Vacation in the Country.” The ship takes off, and a family of six, the Overdues, arrive late, greeted by the hosts, Cosmo and Stella Phargon, who don’t refund their money but offer them a trip into their fantasies, sparked by looking through Cosmo’s Fantascope.
Maxwell Overdue’s hidden fantasy is to have his own harem – bringing in “Kismet” numbers, suddenly interrupted by his wife Olivia and the King of Siam with a parade of his eighty-seven children from “The King and I.” Olivia Overdue takes the Fantascope and finds she wants to be First Lady, and becomes Martha Jefferson from “1776.” Charlie Overdue is the youngest, who just wants to get away from school, and Fantascopes into “Annie” and “Oliver” numbers. Act II began with Angela Overdue, a pre-teen, Fantascoping into the future when she meets a lover “Far from the Home I Love” in a “Fiddler on the Roof” scene. Teenager Christine Overdue Fantascopes being a prima donna on stage and enters a scene from “A Little Night Music” and “Phantom of the Opera.” (Holy Fantascope! She is that now! See ***) Finally, Joey Overdue, a shy teenager, Fantascopes learning how to whistle, but is afraid to enter his fantasy, so Maxwell enters with him, beginning the scene with “Anyone Can Whistle” from Sondheim’s flop of the same name, then encountering various Disney songs and characters, including the Seven Dwarfettes and the Fairy Godfathers. The Godfathers bibbity-bobbity-boo’ed off each other with hoop skirts, and the biggest laugh of all of these shows exploded when one of the Dwarfettes, Ginger, middle-aged, short, and somewhat expansive, trudged onto the scene and paused dramatically before introducing herself: “I’M HOPELESS!” (You really had to be there!)
The last scene was an intense challenge for me, because I had been constructing what I thought would be a glorious finale, a “Les Miserables” scene ending with the Resurrection theme. But, when I presented the plan to the committee, the first five scenes went over well, but the sixth had everyone staring in disbelief. The timing was awful, and a chorus member in the front row of the presentation had a son on the front lines as we were awaiting Iraq I. Stunned silence erupted, then someone suggested, why don’t you put a Disney scene in there? Whoever suggested that saved the show, and this scene may have been the all-time favorite for both cast and audience, ending with black-lighted and white-gloved “The Second Star to the Right.”
Debut Performances: *** Sandy Piques (http://www.sandrapiqueseddy.com/), now Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy, was Christine Overdue. She had been a shy teenaged cantor in our parish, but flourished in our high school’s excellent music programs. She and two other sopranos shared verses of “The Phantom of the Opera” in her fantasy scene, and later she and director Alan performed at my business office, he the Phantom mesmerizing her with “The Music of the Night,” then coaxing his Angel of Music into the Phantom aria, so professionally performed that my branch manager worried we had brought the original Boston cast into the meeting. He asked how much we were paying them, then relaxed when I said “Seventy-five dollars each.” This might have been Sandy’s first paid gig.
10. “Treasures in the Attic” – 1992, was presented as a couple’s fiftieth anniversary “This Is Your Life” celebration, attended by a large extended family. “Beer Barrel Polka” and “Anniversary Song” opened the show, but some of the teenagers soon become bored and climb up to the attic to do whatever, and discover a large trunk with memorabilia. They are spooked when an uncle appears from the shadows, also whatevering, then hiding his flask. As the kids retrieve artifacts from the trunk, from old family photos to dial telephones, uncle explains the significance and introduces the scenes: “Roaring Twenties,” “The Depression,” “Home Front,” “USO,” (Act II) “50’s & 60’s Superstars (the Beatles – a boy quartet then girl quartet), Patsy Cline, Elvis, and the Supremes).” Finally the kids in the attic return to the celebration for “50’s and 60’s Dance Party,” concluding with “As Time Goes By.”
Debut Performances: The program shows sixty-one numbers in this show, lots of nostalgia and pop culture for everyone. My daughter Annie was co-narrator, daughter Mary debuted, and daughter Sarah joined the cast as one of the girl Beatle quartet. The girl Beatles held separate practice sessions in a determined effort to out-Beatle the boys (they did!), and Sarah requested that they have their own separate bow at the curtain call, and may have staged that herself.
One of the songs I included in the Depression scene was “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?” The director assigned it to me – and I barked out my first ever, and last ever, solo performance. After the show closed, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that the bar used in the Depression scene was not distributing “fake spirits” to the “Yes, We Have No Bananas” and “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts” chorus.
Interlude – Behind the Scenes… lots of things were happening. I was energized by the last several opportunities, fully supported by Maureen, who had joined the parish staff around 1987, more for the service than the compensation, for the ‘simple’ job of preparing the weekly bulletin. It wasn’t long before she was a major player, whom I considered a parish communication minister. But in 1991 she was diagnosed with cancer, and a roller coaster ride for the whole family ensued. Her courage enabled the family to continue flourishing, and her presence on the parish staff helped the production crew get what we needed. However, the parish had begun a slow decline in spirit, and Maureen, in her last cycle of treatments, nudged me to get another show organized, because nothing else was happening.
Thus, the stage is set for the next performance, a very rocky road. Performances were planned for November 8 and 9. A good rehearsal would be followed by a disastrous rehearsal, and I told Maureen we needed three more weeks to get the show together. She said no. Back to another good rehearsal, and another disaster, including one of our leading characters, who was a spot-on Lucille Ball, left the show in frustration. I said we needed to reschedule for the next year. Maureen said no.
11. “Channel Surfin’ USA” – November 8 and 9, 1996, a social satire focusing on our most addictive drug – the television! The setting was the living room of the Couch family, proudly showcasing their first-in-the-territory ‘Wall TV.” Bob and the stage crew built the two-tier, three ‘rooms’ on each tier, Wall TV, each pod covered with a screen that would be back lit when any one of the six screens was active. Harvey and Matilda Couch were hosting a neighborhood progressive TV Character dinner, all guests dressed as TV characters, strolling through the neighborhood for each course of the dinner, returning to the Couch house for dessert and the unveiling of the monster TV. Grandparents Elmer and Thelmer Couch would supervise the four Couch children remaining in the house, and referee their privilege of breaking in the TV.
The Cable Guy was just finishing installing the TV, and demonstrating how the remote would switch from one pod to another, with introductory scenes of the pre-programmed ‘favorites’, which could be shown simultaneously or double-clicked to cover the whole wall screen (full screen mode was performed in the living room in front of the Couches.): Sitcom (an “I Love Lucy” scene), Cartoons (a Jetson scene), Great Performances (“I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Mis), Westerns (a Lone Ranger scene), MTV (Springsteen’s “Fifty Seven Channels and Nothing On”), and Ed Sullivan (“Surfin’ USA” from the Beach Boys). Then the Cable Guy required Matilda and Harvey Couch to sign a disclaimer, accepting possible side effects: ‘motion paralysis, compulsive time wasting, inability to communicate with humans, etc.’ Matilda signs, relieved that it was ‘nothing serious.’ The guests arrive in their tv character costumes and leave for the tour, and Elmer and Thelmer manage the kids taking turns activating their favorite sectors in full screen mode, the order of selection being youngest to oldest.
Youngest Buddy Couch chooses Cartoons, and, with a double click, the Jetsons roll across the stage. Pre-teen Carla Couch chooses MTV, and several young performers come on stage doing the Macarena, then adult cast members, followed by several seniors hobbling front stage with their lumbago version. Midge Couch selects Sitcoms and the Brady Bunch appears. Then a surprise, teenager Samantha Couch passes, saying she wants a longer turn with Great Performances. Elmer requests Westerns, and the Bonanza family comes fighting onto the stage, and Thelmer completes the first round with Ed Sullivan, bringing out Larry, Moe, and Curley Shuffling. After a similar second round, the act ends with Samantha getting her wish, a Great Performances mini-scene of Les Miserables (the scene I had been unable to present in “Vacation Fantasy.” – all things in their proper time!)
After intermission, Act II began with the strolling revelers returning to the Couch house to enjoy the Wall TV. However, lightning knocks out the power, and confusion is immediate, and disappointment reigns “What do we do now?” One of the neighbors begins “From a Distance,” the whole gathering joins in during the darkness, with flashlights passed all around. When the lights come back on, someone observes, “We’re all here, in costume, we can entertain ourselves,” and the six-theme rotation resumes with neighbors performing, including a square dance on Ed Sullivan to Perry Como’s “the Final Wheel, and it goes round, round, round…”
The finale scene has the neighbors leaving to return home, but one couple doesn’t leave, explaining, “We don’t live around here.” Harvey Couch asks where they live, and they point to the wall tv, and Roy and Dale return to their pod for “Happy Trails, to you, ‘til we meet again.” The Curtain Call has the entire charactered cast on stage farewelling with “Everybody’s Channel Surfin’, Surfin’ USA!”
Debut Performances – Fourteen-year-old Danielle, now a music teacher, was Samantha Couch, leading the Great Performances “Les Mis” scene, and singing “In My Life” and “On My Own.” Nephew Jamie, later a Community Theatre leading man but here first time on stage but a perpetual skit maker (I hadn’t seen his earlier college Elvis photos) was a credible Jim Carrey-like Cable Guy, also George of the Jungle in Cartoons, and rescuer of the “Les Mis” scene, letting the director know the students were not survivors of the barricade scene. Son Tim and son-in-law Chris joined Jamie and me as the Cartwright family in the Bonanza scene, and Tim was in the opening MTV scene, after causing maximum stress for refusing to rehearse, but, in his MTV pod in the opening scene, when he raised his fist at the end of his “Fifty-Seven Channels and Nothing On” Bruce opportunity, I could think “Halleluiah, he nailed it!”
Requiem – I had always observed we needed three miracles for every show we put on, and this time, it was more than that. My Baby sister Mary, thirty-six at that time, a Chaplain at University of Houston with a Masters in Divinity from Notre Dame, was paralleling Maureen’s journey, beginning her sixth year of cancer treatments. I missed a rehearsal the week before show time by attending, at Maureen’s direction, her funeral on All Saints Day, 1996, pall bearing with her seven other brothers. Her casket was cloaked with a religious stole featuring a dozen sainted women from the Bible, and a nun performed a liturgical dance, including presenting incense to our parents, and then to me. I returned home for hell week, and on Wednesday of that week, hospice told us Maureen would die that day. She didn’t. Thursday night, I showed for dress rehearsal with my “Bonanza” team, but co-chair Bob met us at the door and said go home. We performed Friday night, and brought home a video of the performance. Theoretically, Maureen could hear the music and songs, including Tim’s debut solo. Saturday afternoon, sometime between two and three o’clock, one of the most beautiful skies we ever saw, bright blue and sunny between wispy white and billowy white clouds, must have been a personal invitation for Maureen. We performed that night. The only compensating benefit was that my parents and ten siblings, up from the south, were in the audience.
The first page of the program had a poem dedicated to Maureen and me. Later I told a cast member I don’t know how we ever performed, and he answered, they did it for Maureen. My belief is, she did it for me. As the real “Executive Producer” and inspirer of the show, I believe she wanted me fully occupied and diverted from the intensity of her last days. The beautiful skies that greeted her ascension was actually an encore event from the prior week, my brother Bob, until then not a poet, celebrating the heavenly skies from the two-weeks-apart passages with a long poem, “Dos Angeles.” Maureen died early afternoon on Saturday, and we were able to perform Saturday night. At her grave site the following Tuesday, brother Mike and sister Carolyn sang “Danny Boy,” Danielle from the cast sang the Les Mis welcome, “Come with me, where pain will never find you,” and Jamie led the reprise, “Can you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night, it is the music of the people who are climbing to the light…” RIP, Mary and Maureen.
12. “Holi-Daze” – 1997 – on the Rebound – I can’t remember what motivated us to return to the stage the following year, but veteran heavy lifter parishioners Bob and Mike agreed to direct, and the show was on. I constructed the show around the calendar, beginning with “We Need a Little Christmas” and circling through “Over the River and Through the Woods” for Thanksgiving, and a reprise with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I don’t remember any of the particular challenges, but my pride was stoked with the chorus performing “You Can Be Santa’s Helper,” a verse I had written with music by brother Mike, and “A Mother Knows,” another of my verses somehow melodized for the singers by accompanist Anne.
Nephew Jamie returned as co-narrator with Kathy, veteran since teenager in the early shows, all greened up as Grinch and Grinchette, taking us through the seasons. I was able to incorporate several seasonal songs from my second favorite musical, “Shenandoah,” throughout the script: Easter, “Pass the Cross to Me”; Memorial Day and July 4th: “Next to Lovin’, I Like Fightin’ Best,” “I’ve Heard It All Before,”, and “Freedom”; Father’s Day: “Pappa’s Gonna Make It Alright”; Labor Day and Veteran’s Day: “The Only Home I Know”; and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Birthday: “Why Am I Me?” Also, favorite “Les Mis’s” “Master of the House,” with revised lyrics, found its way into Father’s Day.
The only miracle I remember for this show was just that we did re-group and re-perform. We received a significant directorial assist from Jamie, who went on to Direct some high school performances as Community Theatre showman and leading actor down the road, as he provided some continuity to the selection of songs, pulling the show logically together as the Grinch and Grinchette narrators began the year by challenging the children’s chorus to remain in their “I’m Getting Nothin’ for Christmas” motif, to following their leaders in “The Seven Deadly Virtues”, to their maturing in “Why Am I Me?” With his touch, the Grinch’s character arc was eventually achieved.
Finale: The show must go on, but it hasn’t, and it isn’t. My former production partners are no longer on the scene, and Maureen as parish secretary had me connected to the inner sanctum, and every family seems over-scheduled with daily activities in our super-streamed society. In the beginning, fewer women were in the non-household workforce, and free time was not so scarce.
Somewhere along the way, I imagined up a new scenario, anchored by a tie-in to our town’s history. At one time the Ames Shovel Company of Easton, with a charter stretching back to 1774, produced maybe 2/3 of the world’s shovels, propelling pre-industrial revolution economies, including the Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. My outline for “California Dreamin’” begins in a high school history class, with the teacher arriving to rowdy students talking about west coast summer plans. She gives an assignment, four teams researching travel to California, scene 1 by horse and buggy (to be narrated by Lewis and Clark and Annie Oakley), scene 2 by train, scene 3 by car (Easton had produced an early, well built Morse automobile), and scene 4 by airplane. Each scene would be led by a different three-generation family, so cast members could lead in their favorite scenario, and chorus in the others. My outline is on paper, somewhere. I have the energy to build it out, but not to organize, but, if asked, I am available!
Curtain Call: That’s all, folks! You really had to be there!