This weekend I came face-to-face with a truth I’d long tried to suppress. As Andi took the stage and stepped into the role she was born to play – The Sound of Music’s Maria – I realized we couldn’t dance around this topic much longer. No longer could we ignore the elephant in the room, no much how much booze I imbibed in hopes he’d turn pink. The truth was no longer out there – it was now out in the great wide open.
I’m the “ball and chain” weighing this beautiful bird down.
I kept my identity a secret during the two performances I attended over this whirlwind weekend. If word leaked out that Maria’s real life husband was in the audience – that the loathsome troll who has kept this damsel hidden from the bright lights and white knights of Broadway was seated right there, Front Row-Center Stage, then I’d be forced to head for the hills and Climb Every Mountain in a bid to elude my assailants.
Readers of this Blog are accustomed to my unbridled bouts of hyperbole but I mean every word. She was that good. The entire production was that grand. The whole cast had me in their spell. I had no idea that Community Theater could belt out a production to best the Big City. The Gateway Players’ summer rendition of The Sound of Music was simply sublime – a credit to the Herculean effort put forth by director Patricia Haddock. I stand in awe of the talent I rubbed elbows with this weekend – my life made a little more whole for having the grand opportunity to fill a few hours with a celebration of the artistry, talent and passion that when clicking just right, really elevates the human race to this superior plateau we’ve found ourselves perched upon. Proof positive that an evolved brain works best when paired with a full heart.
I saw this performance twice – once with friends on Friday evening and the second time on Sunday with our children, Colin and Aria, who gew rapt each time their Mom sang one of those songs they’d practiced so many times alongside her. Colin’s at that age where he is really starting to follow narrative – meaning there were a few moments where I had to comfort him that even though Maria was leaving the Von Trapps, she would still be home for dinner with him. He seemed a bit distressed that his mother – that their Maria – was leaving for good. “It’s no different than the Backyardigans”, I explained. “It’s all pretend.” That’s entertainment.
And that’s the nice thing about entertainment. When you have a group of talented people so committed to their characters that they grow a second skin, it sweeps us (the humble audience) away from the rigors of our day.
This cast was that good.
Going in, I really didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I’ve been to a number of Broadway productions and I’ve acted in a smattering of school plays. I’d seen both ends of the spectrum. But, I’d never really experienced community theater.
What have I been missing?
This production was top notch from head to toe. Every role was expertly cast – from the Captain (David Corkum) and Maria (you knew I had to say that but let’s forget I’m her husband and simply roll with it – she was amazing) to the sublime supporting roles Max and Elsa, expertly essayed by Billy Bolster and Gloria (Beth) Amodeo, on to the kids. Repped by a stable of local children and teens – most of whom were paired closely to their character’s age – each one of these young actors brought the house down. Their camraderie with each other and interplay with Maria was perfectly executed. They sold the illusion.
They are the Family Von Trapp.
I don’t mean for this to come off sounding like a review. I’m no theater critic. I just know entertainment and I know that this past weekend, I was entertained mightily. Sitting there in the audience, watching my wife’s dream come true and discovering a whole stable of talented individuals – people whose greatness I had no idea I was living in the midst of – it all just hit me in that sentimental sweet spot the lot of us have. I know some of this can come off sounding sappy but we’re not living this life right if we don’t take the chance to shed our defenses and bare our souls – to let people know when they’ve added value to our days and made even the briefest of moments meaningful.
This weekend, I ran the gamut of emotions.
As I watched my wife up there on stage – alongside the other amazing actors (their performance a tractor beam on a blissfully captive audience) – I felt equal parts pride, happiness and sorrow for her and them. The pride and happiness are easy to explain. The sorrow is a bit tricky. Let’s call it bittersweet.
She had worked so hard and so long to get to this moment and here it was and I knew that as wonderful as this weekend had become – that the old maxim, “all good things must come to an end”, was sitting out there, stage right, waiting to toss the hook on the whole experience. Tempus fugit. Time flies baby. Much like those other important milestones in a life – the march towards your wedding day or the nine month pregnancy vigil – when the big day dawns, it roars in like a lion and right back out more ferocious. It’s not until the day after, you meet the lamb. And then the vacuum fills the space as life reverts back to its regularly scheduled programming.
So, as I thrilled to the performance, I felt a nagging tug at the back of my throat. Enjoy every moment of this – for her, for them, for the community – for it’s fleeting and each second deserves to be tattooed to memory. A memento that we, the audience, were blessedly humbled one warm summer’s eve by those much more talented than us. And we’re all the better for it.
I know, I’ve rambled on and I’m sure some of you readers have already checked out for snarkier locales (give my regards to TMZ). That said, I did have a couple random observations that I wanted to share in order to lighten the mood.
First off – as most of you may be aware (and some of you witnessed) – there’s a BIG love scene to open Act II. Two kisses between the Captain and Maria. Now, this isn’t the road company production of Basic Instinct but they’re kissses all the same. Oh sure, we all know the same song and dance. “It’s just acting… It’s meaningless.” Me, I don’t subscribe to that notion. No, I believe in an eye for an eye. Actually, I’m a new found subscriber to the philosophy. Having attended two productions (Friday eve and Sunday matinee), I counted 4 kisses. My sources tell me that on Saturday evening they kept botching the scene and had to stop and restart sixteen times. As it’s impossible to vet these accounts, I’ll just add an additonal two to the tally – bringing us to a grand total of six public smooches. If you add rehearsals in, I’m looking at approximately 564 liplocks with random strangers coming my way. And I don’t think Maria can argue seeing as how she publically married the man three times over the past weekend rendering our wedding bond null and void. That’s right ladies, I am back on the block. (Heyyyy, where’d those crickets come from?)
I, kid of course. Andi prepped me for her macking with her Sugar Daddy months ago. I signed the release and set her free to sew those wild oats. It’s all good.
Besides, Saturday evening, after she returned home from a post-performance shindig with the cast and crew, she let slip that the Captain was directing Gateway’s fall production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Apparently, the Captain (aka Dave) had asked Andi if her husband was interested in acting sometime during his recent casting call to which she replied… “Nope.” Now, I ask you fellow readers, is there anyone among you who would vouch for such nonsense? I didn’t shave this head to keep ahead of Mother Nature. I did it in hopes that somewhere, someone needed a Daddy Warbucks in a pinch. How much of a stretch could Nurse Ratched be?
So I asked her to recant her assessment and let them know that should the opportunity come along again, I would love to come out for tryouts. Now, I harbor no delusions. It’s been a number of years since I slapped on the grease paint and I’d happily play a singing mop or a dancing tea pot. But, there’s no denying the fact that amidst the tempest of emotions that barreled ashore this weekend, a spell of jealousy may have spun off too. I know it’s a lot of hard work but it looks like so much fun too.
Anyway, Andi kept regaling me with tales from Saturday’s show to which point (as I spied the clock and saw we were just a few minutes shy of 2:00 a.m.) I offered up a heartfelt “Shut It.” Let’s see the Captain pull that. Hey, someone has to bring these diva’s back down to Earth. I’m sure Celine hears it from Renee all the time. I only offer that up because I’ve tossed so much deserved praise her way. I’ve got to bring balance to the force, too, ya’ know.
Finally, I leave you with this.
During the course of rehearsal, I would often pepper Andi with the same disbelieving question – “You don’t have an understudy???” Not to jink things, but what if the production’s central figure came down with a raging case of monkeypox (afterall, we now have a school age child so the odds are pretty good we’ll end up with the bubonic plague by Christmas). Then, I remembered we had a fool proof back-up plan. I’d read lines with her so many times, I could play any one of those characters should someone drop with a pesky case of bird flu. Heck, I could play Gretl in my sleep. Of course, by play I mean read the lines in a blitzkrieg monotone with nary a shred of inflection on the dialogue. So, they’d lose the passion behind the project but on the upside, they could perform 15 shows daily.
Then they’d really have a problem like Maria.