Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 18, 2008

Let me entertain you

Last Friday morning when husband Art was dropping me off at my campus office, we stopped briefly to watch two semi-trailer trucks and a large tour bus pull up to McCain Auditorium's back dock. They were bringing in the props and cast of "Gypsy," a musical I had purchased tickets for last fall. I thought daughters Mariya and Katie might like to see the show that was a Broadway blockbuster back in 1959. But I had recently decided that Art's mom Donna and my Mom would probably enjoy the production even more.

I was pretty sure 98-year-old Donna would. She, Art and Art's brother had seen the show in Chicago in 1961 with the original cast, including star Ethel Merman in the role of Mama Rose. Donna said how much she liked that performance.

My hunch turned out to be right. Mom and Donna really did enjoy it. Donna knew every one of the musical numbers, including "Let Me Entertain You" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses." She said she enjoyed it even more this time than when she saw belt-it-out Merman on stage. She continued talking about the show the next day, prompting Art to locate tidbits on the Internet about the musical, Merman and the subject of the show - burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee.

One reason Donna liked it better was that she thought the girl playing the young Gypsy looked like Katie.

"I thought the resemblance was uncanny," Donna declared. "I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Didn't you see the resemblance?"

I didn't, nor did Mom, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

I had really expected that would be the extent of our weekend foray into the world of show business, but the seed that would change those plans was planted the previous Sunday when Art received a request to help with the lights and sound for the show, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," at Riley County High School. He had pitched in a number of times over the years, beginning when oldest daughter Mariya was involved in drama at the school. He roped Katie into helping him with some of the setup and before she knew it, she was handling the lights so he could devote himself to the sound.

They worked the rehearsals and the Wednesday afternoon matinee for the grade school and after each, they came home pumped up, commenting about how the student actors fit their parts, how well they sang and what a good job they did overall. Katie, initially none too pleased about being drafted, became excited that she, too, was contributing something to the show. Several times she commented that if they chose to perform a musical next year, she'd try out for it.

But when Art asked Mariya to videotape the production, I decided it just might be worthwhile to make it a complete family affair. So I asked the moms if they were interested in attending the Saturday-night high school performance. They both said "yes."

We arrived about 30 minutes before the show was to start, but much was already underway behind the scenes before we arrived. The actors were busy putting on their make-up, donning costumes and getting their wireless microphones situated. Orchestra members behind the orchestra pit wall were tuning up. The stage manager was making sure everything was set up correctly backstage and directors Carolyn Hendricks and Janie Anthony bustled back and forth, attending to last-minute details.

And then the show began. I quickly found myself laughing at the antics of the "Peanuts" characters. Linus (Brian Ingalsbe) danced with the blanket he wasn't quite ready to give up. Schroeder (Eric Zeak) played Beethoven on the piano as Lucy (Kaley Flack) plotted how she might get him to notice her. Snoopy (Trevor Geisler) flew a mission in his Sopwith Camel in search of the Red Baron and later tap-danced his way across the stage as he waited for his supper to arrive. Peppermint Patty (Jenn Phelps) interacted with the other cast members as the most typical youngster, mostly involved with the moment. And, in spite of Charlie Brown's (Nick Donovan) notable lack of self-confidence and accomplishments, he remained optimistic, and was finally recognized in the end as being "a good man!"

After the show, the mood was upbeat and the enthusiasm was contagious.

"Boy, they were good and that piano player (Janie Anthony) sure is talented," Donna said.

That was a pretty good review for someone who never reads the comics and had only a vague idea who the characters were.

Art added that the real measure of the show had come Wednesday afternoon. The elementary school kids didn't just laugh at the jokes, but during the songs and dialogue they were attentive ... and, most amazing, they were quiet!

So it was quite a weekend. From youngsters to 90-somethings, everyone had been entertained!

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