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  • Kelly Marks

Broadway

The house lights went down; the audience quieted in anticipation. The curtains grew back, the stage lights came up, and 73 actors filled the stage dancing and singing in perfect unison. They were belting out the song, “Food Glorious Food'' from the musical Oliver, while dancing on and around the picnic tables that were on the stage.


Paul and I had been invited to the show by the producers. To be honest, based on some comments from the head honcho, we weren’t sure how great it was going to be. We were eyeing the exits even as we were finding our seats I am ashamed to say. We were even scouring the program to see how many songs we would have to endure before intermission when we could slip out unobserved. After flipping front to back and back to front a couple of times, we realized there was no intermission. We were stuck.


From the opening number however, the cast captivated the entire audience. We were all fully invested. We believed that Fagin was going to teach Oliver to be a great pickpocket, and that Nancy would do the right thing. We also knew Sikes was dangerous if not by his fake beard then certainly by his off-key singing.


I’m sure you’re aware by now that this was not a big-budget Broadway show, and the obstacles this theater troupe had to overcome were not for the faint of heart.


First of all, the mics worked when they deemed it fit and at no other time; second, the cast was so large the stage had to be built out some to accommodate them all, with a prayer that no one would fall off; additionally, very few of the actors were well trained if at all. The audience sat in metal folding chairs on the floor of the cafeteria of the middle school. Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were singing their hearts out, occasionally out of key, but they gave it all they had.


Paul and I left that evening recounting the highlights of the show, and there were many. The producers (a.k.a. theater teachers) lamented the budget, the lack of equipment, bad acoustics, and all of the other hardships, but I wonder if that didn’t help make it better. These things kept the adults from taking it too seriously, from having expectations that were too high. Sometimes having it all just makes things more difficult. The more we have, the more we expect, instead of the more we are grateful for.


At the end of the play, the cast filed out and took their bows. They were grinning from ear to ear, as well they should’ve been. As the applause died down, the cast took one more bow. The very moment the curtains closed, 73 excited squeals exploded from behind it. You could hear the joy spilling over. Together they had done it, and they had everything they had needed. It couldn’t have been better on Broadway!




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