2003-07-13 @ 4:56 p.m.
|Friday, July 11 was the 65th anniversary of the death of legendary composer George Gershwin, and when he died he happened to be working on my favorite Gershwin song, "Our Love is Here to Stay". But Gershwin wrote a lot of great music. I play the piano and know this for a fact.
As a teenager growing up in the 1970's, I was sort of a freak child. While everyone else was grooving to disco and rocking out to Elton John, I was listening to Gershwin, Billie Holliday and playing show tunes from Broadway. I certainly didn't get it from my parents who played Mitch Miller around the house. I just alway got MY groove from songs with meaningful lyrics and bluesy tempos.
As far as the theatre music. I played the piano for all the choral groups in high school and was music director for all the plays. This was around the time of "A Chorus Line", "Chicago" (the original production, which I actually saw with Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdan and Jerry Orbach) and "Pippin."
Theatre was always so much better than the reality at home. Alcoholic father. Self centered mother. World War III everynight. It was my small chance to shine. I played the piano. People would gather round. I was the star of the theatre department. My best friends in high school were the gay guys, whose futures fluctuated between theatre and owning a hair salon. It was a win-win situation for me. Free theatre tickets AND free haircuts. Plus they loved me, because of my catty sense of humor and I loved them because they were safe. But I also loved working in the theatre. It was the family life I was lacking at home.
I only got to trod the boards once in a small part in a play called "The Visit". I had the first line in the play and I was a nervous wreck every night when I had to say it. But I loved the feeling I got on stage. It was very powerful and I really enjoyed it.
My second brush with theatre came about 10 years after high school. I once again got to be IN a play, although I didn't have any lines. I was kind of an extra. I had started out as the music director, but the music proved to be a little too difficult, so I stuck around and the director put me in where ever they needed an extra body. It was the musical "Cabaret" and I was the cigarette girl.
I enjoyed that immensely, because "Cabaret" was my favorite movies at the time (I had seen it an astonishing 24 times and had even met one of the stars of it, Joel Grey). Even without any lines, I did get to slink around the Kit Kat Klub in several scenes, give the high five to my fellow Nazis in "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" and sing "Cabaret" in the finale. Singing "Cabaret" was particularly special to me. Even though it was the finale and the whole cast was on stage, I would stand there and sell it like I was Liza Minnelli. I don't have a particularly good voice, but I knew the moves, I had the attitude and I was belting it for all its worth. I even have a photo from that scene. Most of the cast is staring straight ahead with their arms straight out and I have my head tilted, eyes closed, my lips curled like Liza's, and my arms angled, like I'm punching the hell out of that last note. It was my version of "American Idol". Except nobody could vote me off. I liked that.
When I walked off stage it was back to meek, mild witty kitty, but for that 2 hours I was able to transport myself to a different place. I only wish I could do that now in real life.
One of my gay friends did make it to Broadway. To protect his privacy I won't reveal what show he's with, but I always knew he would make it. He was in all the plays in high school. Got kicked around in the locker room by bullies. And then came back in triumph to his recent 20 year reunion. While most of the bullies are now working as car mechanics at Pep Boys or as Asst. Managers at Safeway, my friend is rubbing elbows with famous people on a daily basis. He lives in a very expensive Manhattan apartment. And is very decent about not holding their past behavior against them. I'm not sure if I would have been able to show that self restraint, but he's a Taurus.
We still talk or write 2-3 times a week online. I even went to visit him in NYC last November and he gave me a weekend worthy of only the very luckiest Cinderella. Theatre tickets, walks along the East River, dinners at trendy restaurants. For someone used to going to food pantries it was a dream come true and my friend was only too happy to share his good fortune.
So all these nights back in high school, when we were huddled over those exotic copies of the New York Times, looking at theatre ads, who would have thought, he would have been involved in one of those plays, 25 years later. Ya just never know.
Lyrics by Lennon/McCartney. All angst copyright by awittykitty