As Judas, Brandon Victor Dixon was simply fantastic. The only capable actor among the principals, Dixon sang beautifully, interpreting the material instead of painting by numbers. He brought unpredictability and riveting vitality to the production, and made it seem effortless. He pulled me to my feet several times, my internal 16 year-old pumping his fist and lip-syncing with the TV.
This weekend, New Hartford High School is performing Guys and Dolls. I advocated for the show, and I’ve been pleased with the process. My lighting students are doing next-level work, and for the first time I have two students on the fly rail. The set is really amazing – I expect applause when it is revealed during the overture. This will also be my daughter’s final effort as student stage manager; in all likelihood, the last time we’ll work together as creative peers on a show.
A high school musical is a kind of miracle. Hundreds of people come together and work furiously for a few weeks to create something that didn’t exist before. Theater kids get it done.
This week, I’m preparing for my sixth musical at New Hartford High School, the third one entirely designed and run by a student crew. This is an abridged version of the letter I gave the crew, as they begin attending rehearsals.
We said our job was to raise a self-sufficient, contributing member of society; mission accomplished.
My favorite moments in theater are when I’ve been caught off guard by a performance, or was surprised to love a piece I hadn’t expected to. Director Nick Abounader and company pulled off something close to theatrical alchemy with their recent production at Players of Utica, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: the ensemble was so in sync with the material and each other that the whole thing became gloriously more than its parts.
It’s become a birthday tradition that Susan and I should be surprised by Sarah onstage.
Our class president was prohibited from speaking at graduation, because the administration was nervous about what he’d say. Tor is now an internationally known lawyer who defends computer hackers; what might a politically conscious playwright make of that, with Tor as a performer in the show?
Theater is one of the few educational activities that’s measured by the enjoyment of the participants. I want to shift the bar.
The single best performance I watched in 2016 was Sarah’s, but don’t tell her. It wasn’t polished, for god’s sake, but it had an immediacy that knocked me, and lots of other people, off our feet.