Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 21, 2008

"The rest of the story"

As a cast member of the Riley County High School production of "Guys and Dolls," daughter Katie had pretty well memorized all the songs in the musical. So in the days leading up to the play, she practiced them at home - even the ones for other cast members.

"I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck . . ."

Then she moved on to "I'll know, when my love comes along . . ." or "so sue me, sue me, what can you do me, I love you . . ."

For husband Art, who helped with sound, lights and sets, the experience was more of a revival. He's old enough to remember when the songs were popular from the original 1950 Broadway production. Throughout the last several weeks, he whistled various tunes, including "Luck Be a Lady," or at times belted out "When you meet a gent, paying all kinds of rent . . ."

The public performances were a hit as indicated by applause, whistles and comments such as "Boy, that was entertaining!"

By all measures, the RCHS production of "Guys and Dolls" was a great show. Eric Zeak was a smooth Sky Masterson and Trevor Geisler was excellent as the nervous Nathan Detroit. Sarah Wirtz was wonderful as the sweet-voiced Sarah Brown and Bekah Bailey was right-on as the brassy Adelaide. And when Brian Ingalsbe, as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, was on stage, I wanted to sing along with him. The Hot Box Dancers, the Save-a-Soul Mission members, the gamblers and other characters were superbly cast. Especially popular among audience members were the performances of administrators Brad Starnes as Big Jule and Nancy Pujol as Lt. Brannigan.

But aspects of the show that also intrigued me had nothing to do with what was being performed on stage. For years, radio commentator Paul Harvey had a program segment called "The rest of the story." These were what newspaper people call sidebars - pieces that don't quite fit into the main story, yet are interesting nonetheless. For this production, there were at least two of them.

The first could be called the "Manhattan connection." The story for "Guys and Dolls" was based on "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure," two short stories written by Damon Runyon. Runyon was born in 1884 in our own Manhattan, Kan. His family's house, located on the northwest corner of Fourth and Osage streets, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

His family later moved to Pueblo, Colo. where he grew up. From 1910 onward, he called "The Big Apple" home and that is where he earned a living as a reporter and wrote short stories. The stories invariably included odd-ball characters with colorful names such as Liver Lips Louie and Harry the Horse.

But if it hadn't been for another connection, the musical might never have been staged at RCHS. At the end of the spring 2007 term, the school's vocal teacher left for another position. The teacher hired to take her place for the fall turned out not to be a good fit.

At the same time, Janie Anthony was finishing her degree at K-State and was looking at teaching possibilities for the spring semester. Unaware of what was happening at nearby RCHS, she had located a position in the Kansas City area. There she would teach math, a subject almost as dear to her heart as music.

But a music alumni meeting in Manhattan changed everything. The former RCHS vocal teacher asked Janie whether she would rather teach music and suggested that Janie contact Superintendent Brad Starnes about the opportunity at RCHS.

That wasn't a difficult thing for Janie to do because her family had known the Starnes family when both were in Sterling, Kan. When she told Brad she was scheduled to go to Kansas City, he suggested she might want to consider the open RCHS position. She did, and, when she was hired to join the RCHS faculty, it had an immediate positive impact in the vocal music area. Katie, who was contemplating dropping chorus, suddenly described it as her favorite class.

When Art stepped in to help with the high school play last spring, he came home after two rehearsals and said, "You guys have to see this." He tapped Katie to help with the lights. After seeing a rehearsal, she declared, "If Ms. Anthony does a musical in the fall, I'm trying out for a part!"

"And now, you know the rest of the story." Just as Paul Harvey said when ending his radio pieces.

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