Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Summer Musical

There was never much to do in Silver Creek in the summertime. Growing up, I mean. It was, and is, hardly a hotbed of excitement and without school the days tended to be a bit dull.

When I was in high school the first week of summer was always heaven. Sleeping until noon. Reading whatever I wanted, rather than what I had to. Endless TV, root beer popsicles, and hanging out. But by the second and third week I was usually so bored that I actually cleaned my room.

But between my freshman and sophomore years the high school instituted the summer musical program. It was actually a summer school class, for which we got three whole credits. But it lasted all day, was insanely fun, and resulted in two whole performances of a badly produced, directed, and choreographed musical that the entire town went to.

The choice was South Pacific. All the sailors were 15 and hearing them sing “Nothing Like a Dame” was nothing like a sailor. All the nurses were taller than the sailors. Our male lead was a tenor instead of a baritone, which made all the duets sound like two female cats competing over the sexiest tom in town. And the female lead weighed close to 220.

The “uniforms” were salvaged from local thrift shops or made by local moms and made the US Navy look like a ragtag bunch of munchkins. The pit orchestra had no string section and fourteen trumpets. Every overture sounded like a fanfare. People kept expecting royalty to show up.

But it was so much fun we didn’t care.

Silver Creek High has an impressive auditorium, allowing for huge sets and lighting. Of course we had neither, but we had the space for them. And when not plunging head-first into rehearsals, we’d all sit on the stage painting flats and making a huge cardboard cannon of which we were so insanely proud that it was in the background of every scene – even the interiors.

We’d throw open the huge doors big enough to drive a truck through and let the warm wind blow across the stage while we sang our little hearts out to the hard work of our one and only rehearsal pianist. Mr. Lang, the choir director, stepped up to take the helm. The fact that he had no dance experience at all made the choreography consist of lots of walking aimlessly around the stage and making huge arm gestures as if everyone was directing everyone else to a different part of the island.

Rehearsals started every morning at 10 am and we’d all show up early because we were so darned bored. Since it was technically a class, we’d have to line up on the stage while Mr. Lang took role, then he’d actually leave – go have breakfast at Missy’s Diner – and leave us with the run of the place. We’d play tag in the curtains, do each other’s faces with outlandish paint in the make-up room, and eat our PB&Js. Then Mr. Lang would stroll back in at about 1 and we’d finally get some work done. Until 3. Then he’d leave again. But still we hung on. The custodians finally kicked us out at about 5. You’d never seen such a dedicated cast. Nobody wanted to leave.

There were romances, with the kind of instant, desperate passion only horny 16 year olds can achieve. There were huge, teary fights worthy of any Opera diva. And there was absolutely no talent whatsoever.

Actually, that isn’t true. The girl who plays Bloody Mary (who sings the lovely “Bali Hai”) really had a gorgeous voice. Her name was Rebecca Su and she was the shiest girl ever. She never talked to anyone and the only reason anybody knew she could sing is because she had a horrid stage mother who paid for punch sold at intermission in exchange for her daughter getting a solo. Rebecca, poor thing, would sit in the fourth row reading Harlequin romances and not speaking to a sole until called upon to burst forth with her song. Then the stage would resound with the one good voice in the cast, before she’d leave and go back to “Love’s Captive”. We all tried to be friends with her, but she never friended back.

At the end of the summer, giddy with anticipation, we opened on Friday and closed on Saturday. Every bored mother and father, and every reluctant sibling in town had to go to one of the performances. There was, of course, thunderous applause from indulgent parents and a town starving for anything to do in the heat of a boring summer.

And then it was over. The place we could go. The something we could do. And we went back to our sleeping until noons and our root beer popsicles.

To this day, whenever South Pacific is on TV, I’ll watch it and think of our 15 year old sailors and overweight nurses. And wonder how the hell we got away with anybody left in the audience at the end of the show.

It’s a pretty good indication of city-wide boredom when a town will sit through such dribble because it’s better than nothing. Ah…show business.

1 comment:

Duke said...

Do you think maybe the town stayed because they enjoyed seeing kids they knew having fun? Adults often watch kids on the playground for the same reason. It may not have been all boredom. I suspect most of the audience were either related to the kids or somehow tied to them. It's fun to participate with kids in activities, especially if they mean something to you.