God On High Heard My Prayer: How I Slipped Into Musical Heaven This Week

Patrick Connolly

{Caution: This post is a Musical Theater geek’s paradise.}

A couple of Sundays ago, I went to see Les Miserables on Broadway starring Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean.

Oh boy, I’m going to lose so much professionalism for this, but….

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH RAMIN WAS INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, no. Incredible is an understatement. There are at least five other adjectives that demand justification: indescribable, unforgettable, mesmerizing, spectacular, marvelous, etc. 

But it wasn’t just Ramin Karimloo’s performance that made the experience those five-to-six adjectives above. This was my very first theatergoing experience seeing Les Miserables live on stage. Even when sitting in the very last row of the Rear Mezzanine (still amazing seats, by the way), the fact that this was MY VERY FIRST experience seeing this musical live on stage—a musical that has been known as many things by many people, including the dreaded….oh lord, help me…”overrated”—makes this a memory that’s going to be remembered for a very long time. It actually might be at the very top of my favorite theatergoing experiences, with only Hairspray, The Lion King, Memphis, Next to Normal and Sweeney Todd rivaling it. 

I share this experience because I know what it feels like to be a gleefully outlandish geek when it comes to witnessing phenomenal theater. You could try with all your might, but it’s challenging to put into writing what is basically a life-changing experience that would influence how you perceive the world to be. You can’t instantly write a Facebook status immediately after seeing something like that. It’s an impossible task. 

At times, I try to imagine what it must be like for a performer such as Ramin Karimloo. To hear all of his fans sing the praises of his work as Jean Valjean, and feeling completely humble about what he does for his career. That’s not only the sign of a fantastic performer; that’s also the sign of a terrific human being. 

Within the last few days, I nearly felt like Ramin Karimloo, albeit in rather different ways.

This past weekend, I was responsible for portraying The Cat in the Hat in the East Hartford Summer Youth Festival production of Seussical. This role was an enormously personal investment from me for a few reasons: 1.) Dr. Seuss. Of course. 2.) EHSYF. Of course. 3.) I was responsible for portraying one of the most iconic characters in all of children’s literature—one that I’ve been a fan of for many years and counting. I can’t stress how much of an honor it was to play this role; it was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had as a performer, and I don’t know how such an experience can ever be topped. 

Well, possibly with hot fudge and a cherry, but that’s for another day.  

The one thing that truly surprised me throughout this experience was the reception after the curtain call, where everyone involved in the show would come out and greet their family and friends. Now granted, I was prepared to take pictures with children who were enormous fans of The Cat in the Hat to begin with, and of course, they were very enjoyable experiences.  

But nothing prepared me for what came in store after Saturday Night’s performance. 

On that night, one of my best friends came to see the show with his girlfriend. While he’s an enormous fan of Dr. Seuss, he isn’t necessarily the biggest fan of Seussical (he’s not a big fan of most of Seuss’ work being crammed into one musical—a criticism that certainly isn’t invalid). I believed strongly, however, that he would have at least somewhat appreciated this production for what we had to offer. I come out into the audience after the show ends, and he was sobbing, telling me how completely amazed he was by the production overall. It was probably the best reaction I received that weekend, and one of the most important reactions that I’ll ever receive as a performer.

Because it reminded me how much of an emotional impact theater can be for both the fan and the performer. For the fan, it could potentially change their outlook on how they perceive life in general, similar to how I saw Les Miserables. For the performer, it could give a fan an experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else, very similar to what I achieved with Seussical. 

At this point in my life, do I ever feel lucky to be both. The power of theater is unlike anything else in the world, and I wouldn’t trade such a feeling with anything else.  

 

It Truly Takes Two: My Top Five Male Broadway Duets

Patrick Connolly

Is there anything better than a powerful duet in musical theatre. In fact, some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre history are duets. From "Anything You Can Do" to "Tonight" to "For Good", these numbers can be the highlight of an entire show. 

Interestingly enough, when thinking about some of the best duets, you usually don't consider duets performed between two men.  So to give songs like these their due today, here are my five favorite. 

“Agony” from Into the Woods

I’m pretty biased when it comes to this song: I was Rapunzel’s Prince in a production of Into the Woods, Jr. in 2005, and I was responsible for singing his part. But even taking the bias out of the picture, this is easily one of the wittiest male duets ever written for the stage. Of course, it is written by Stephen Sondheim, who is arguably one of the greatest musical theater composers of all-time, so I shouldn’t have expected anything less. 

“The Confrontation” from Les Miserables

Again, a little bit of bias considering a.) It’s Les Miserables, and b.) I sing this with one of my best friends—also a musical theater geek—every single time we get the opportunity. I don’t care. Even though this duet lasts for a brief amount of time, the amount of power this song has is astonishing. I’m a huge sucker for voices that overlap each other, and it’s done so well in this song. I could listen to (and perform) it over and over again, ESPECIALLY if it’s performed by Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis. 

“Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden

No, this song is not a duet between Severus Snape and James Potter expressing how much a little girl reminds them of Lily, but I can understand the confusion (Perhaps a parody could be created in A Very Potter Musical: The College Years?). In what is easily one of the very best songs of this musical, this duet is a marvelous expression of the grief presented in two perspectives: one who longs for his wife, and another who longs for an opportunity. It also helps if you listen to the version with Mandy Patinkin and Robert Westenberg first. An absolutely beautiful duet.

“What You Own” from Rent

Whenever I get into a conversation about their favorite songs from RENT, I mostly receive “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” as answers. While those answers are absolutely valid, one of my favorite songs from the musical seems to get sidelined. It is a duet between Mark Cohen and Roger Davis that appears in Act Two; I don’t know why most people talk about it more. Not only is it unbelievably catchy (as are the majority of the songs in the musical), but by God, listen to those harmonies by Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. Harmonies were practically born for music, and this song is a shining example. Also, there’s an overt reference to “The Twilight Zone” found in this song, and I am totally okay with that. Thank you, Jonathan Larson. 
{THIS LAST CHOICE FROM NEXT TO NORMAL GOES INTO SPOILER TERRITORY. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE BRILLIANCE THAT IS NEXT TO NORMAL, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. CHEERS!}

“I Am The One (Reprise)” from Next to Normal

My favorite male duet in all of musical theater. Despite being oh-so-brief in under two and a half minutes, it contains more raw emotion and power than ANYTHING that’s played on the radio today. The amount of complexity is astonishing: listen, for instance, to the words “I am the one who watched while you died”, and how it is sung by both Dan and Gabe. With both characters singing this line, it means two completely different things to each of them. With Dan singing this line, it represents his grief for when Gabe died as an infant. With Gabe singing this line (or at least, the visual representation of how Dan would see Gabe as a teenager if he continued to live), it represents his perspective of seeing his father grieve for such a long period of time. Both Aaron Tveit and J. Robert Spencer kill it with their incredible vocals, but any great actor/singer can perform this song, and the song’s message would still come across powerfully. It’s that good.  

Comment below what your favorite male duets are in musical theater history!  

My Five Favorite Alan Menken Broadway Songs

Patrick Connolly

Happy Birthday, Alan Menken!

In honor of his birthday today, I’ve decided to do a list of my five favorite songs that Alan Menken was responsible for composing. Now I’m narrowing it down just to his work for the stage, so what you will see are songs that were composed for the stage—and not for the screen—by the master himself (If it were the opposite, you would have had a whole post on my favorite songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). So without further ado, here is my list!

“No Matter What” from Beauty and the Beast

This is a gem of a song that doesn’t get the credit that it deserves (it was even omitted in the most recent touring production of Beauty and the Beast. Shame on them!). The song further explores the relationship between Belle and his father, Maurice, and it’s quite touching. One of the many things you can accomplish when adapting a film for the stage is the opportunity to develop the characters more. Not only does this song do exactly that, but there is an extra layer of relatability that allows for fathers/mothers and daughters/sons a chance to be deeply moved. A really nice addition that brings a little more depth to an already impactful story. 

“If Only (Quartet)” from The Little Mermaid

There was a demo version on YouTube(above) that consisted only of Ariel and Eric singing this song instead, and the result was so beautiful that I wish it could have been placed somewhere in the Broadway adaptation. But that doesn’t take away the wonder of this version, which is a quartet that takes place the evening before the Contest to see who will win the heart of Prince Eric. This quartet consists of four characters expressing their respective longings: Ariel wants to talk so Eric could know how much she means to her, Eric longs to know why Ariel’s appearance is so familiar to him, Sebastian wants to help her as much as he can (despite the sunset on the third day arriving very soon), and King Triton simply longs for his daughter to come home. The result is a song that deserves to be held up to a standard as much as “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World” is.   

“Feed Me (Go Git It)” from Little Shop of Horrors

Menken seriously had a great time writing the songs for Little Shop of Horrors with Howard Ashman, and it’s clearly shown in this song. This is the first time where we see Seymour and Audrey II (A.K.A. THE COOLEST PLANT EVER!) interact with each other through song, and it’s quite simply a blast to listen to. It also is one of the more sadistic songs Menken has ever composed with Ashman; I mean, good lord, how many songs can you think of that involves a man being manipulated by a plant to get human flesh, and feed it to a man-eating plant? And how many songs can you think of where it involves exactly that, and IT’S MEANT TO BE FUNNY? The answer? Not very many. But its uniqueness is what makes it stand out, and is one of the many reasons why this is one of my favorite songs that Alan Menken was involved with. 

“If I Can’t Love Her” from Beauty and the Beast

If there’s one aspect that I love about the stage production of Beauty and the Beast more than the brilliant film that inspired it, it’s the fact that the Beast gets his very own solo. And it’s flat-out amazing. In fact, I would argue that it ranks alongside the very best of Menken’s repertoire. It expresses a grief that can only be sung—the grief of a beast who will lose all of his humanity if he can’t love the one who could possibly change his life. What’s so incredible about this song is, just by looking at the music and lyrics alone (even without somebody performing it), it’s almost impossible not to feel the stakes. But when you DO add the performance in, it’s like slipping into Musical Theater Heaven. I’m getting chills just THINKING about it. This song is a masterpiece, and one that will continue to be appreciated by yours truly.  

 “Proud of Your Boy” from Aladdin

Originally intended to be part of the 1992 animated classic, the song was scrapped as the creators at Disney felt that it didn’t fit well within the story. Looking at the final project, it’s somewhat understandable, but god, does that fact break my heart. This was one of the last songs Howard Ashman collaborated on with Alan Menken, and it was a shame that Ashman didn’t get his vision fully realized. Now, because of the Broadway adaptation, I can sense that Ashman is smiling greatly from up above, as it not only fits very well in the adaptation’s story; it is also, simply, a masterpiece of simplicity—an absolutely beautiful song of a son wanting to make his mother proud no matter what. In my opinion, few Disney songs can top it, and it’s comforting to know this song is getting the exposure it deserves. 

Ten Movies That NEED To Be Stage Musical Adaptations (And Yes, Most Of Them Are Animated)

Patrick Connolly

The Nightmare Before Christmas—It’s impossible to describe why it needs to go to Broadway in a paragraph without heading into “rant territory”. So in order to control my temper, the best way to describe why it’s on this list would be to jot down the many, many things that make it absolutely appropriate for Broadway.

Ahem:

--Halloween
--Christmas
--Halloween AND Christmas
--Seasonal classic status
--Jack Skellington. Can you imagine the guy playing the role?
--DANNY. GENIUS. ELFMAN.
--OOGIE. BOOGIE. SONG.
--What’s This? What’s THIS? WHAT? IS? THIS?
--The set design. I mean, good lord, just think about it.
--The costume and make-up designers. They would go absolutely, positively bonkers with it.
--Oh, and did I mention DANNY. GENIUS. ELFMAN???

I’m sure I’m missing a lot, so please, leave your thoughts about it in the comment section.

Anyways, moving on.

Cats Don’t Dance—You’ve probably never heard of this film, and sadly, it’s because this film isn’t as popular as other animated films made in its era. It should have been, honestly, and I believe this film would be adapted into a killer musical production for the stage. Aside from the film being an enormous part of my childhood (and even that sounds like an understatement, if you ask me), the film has plenty of qualities that make it all set for Broadway. For one thing, the title alone pretty much sells itself; it almost sounds like a title for an upcoming Cole Porter production—a title that would have probably been released after Kiss Me Kate’s departure on Broadway. There’s an old fashioned musical sensibility this film has that would be easily translatable for the stage. And honestly, how awesome would it be to see “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” performed on the stage? It would blow audiences away with each performance. A few songs would have to be tweaked in order to make it even more entertaining, but it could easily be doable. 

The Prince of Egypt—I don’t know if they’re going with the plan to put this on Broadway once the One-Act starring Norm Lewis is finished, so that’s why this is on the list. But good lord, do I want this to be on Broadway so much. This would be a PERFECT fit for it. I can imagine how absolutely awesome it would be to stage the sequence with Moses parting the Red Sea. And my word, how unspeakably beautiful would it be to hear those songs performed; if it’s how I envision it to be, I can imagine Norm Lewis perfecting “Through Heaven’s Eyes” to its ultimate potential. Though maybe that’s because Norm Lewis and Brian Stokes Mitchell both have incredibly similar voices to me. I don’t know. And my oh my, how the audiences would be BLOWN AWAY by how “The Plagues” is constructed for the stage. It would be a sight to see. Overall, I would LOVE to see this get the Broadway treatment. Stephen Schwartz would be most certainly be pleased.

Rushmore—This is the most unique choice on the list for me, considering that a.) the film is not animated and b.) I’d never thought I would be putting something like this on the list in the first place. Yet, here we are. I saw this film a few years ago, and not only do I think it is my favorite of Wes Anderson’s filmography; I also am quite surprised that this film hasn’t gotten the stage treatment yet.  Some of the film focuses on Max Fischer’s skills as a playwright, and we actually get to see Fischer’s productions come to life right before our eyes. I could imagine somebody like Tim Minchin—the songwriter for Matilda the Musical—writing the songs for the musical; there’s something about the quirkiness of the material that would feel very suitable for Minchin’s style. Wellp, here’s hoping this film gets its due.

The Polar Express—You would think that a classic story like The Polar Express would get its due for the Broadway Stage by now, wouldn’t it? Apparently not. Some say that it would be a rather impossible feat to put a story like this on stage, but much like Julie Taymor’s astounding vision for The Lion King, a little bit of strong imagination goes a long way in the end. Sure, you may need more of a budget than usual, but it could lead to many, many rewards. Drawing inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg’s beautiful illustrations wouldn’t hurt either (was that a pun illustrated with intent?), but providing your own vision for how to make the magic happen would be essential. Yes, you would definitely use some of Alan Silvestri’s beautiful songs and compositions (“When Christmas Comes To Town” is my personal favorite song from the film), but writing brand new original songs that could become the next “Christmas Song” or “Have Yourself A Little Merry Christmas” would be as incredible as hearing the ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh. As Mr. Groban once sang, you have everything you need if you just believe.

Cars—Okay. I know what you’re thinking: CARS?? A MUSICAL ABOUT CARS?? YOU’RE INSANE. And….well, yeah I normally am insane, so that’s not necessarily a critique against my personality. But here’s the thing: about a few months ago, I had this rather crazy vision for a musical adapted from the 2006 hit PIXAR film; coincidentally, I read an article on this blog that talked about how more musical events should be performed in an arena-style theater, and this made my vision for a musical adaptation come sparking like fireworks in my head. If there ever is to be a production of Cars someday, it should be held in an arena-style theater structured similarly to Daytona Speedway (although not EXACTLY like a speedway as the actors would be too far away, but you get the jist). The actors performing as the car characters would be wearing uniquely designed roller skates that would look like wheels, as well as puppeteering the movements for the car’s eyes and mouths. It would also stay true to the film’s soundtrack, with songs by Randy Newman, James Taylor, and the works, as well as original songs that are created for the musical. So yes, I hear ya: the idea sounds crazy, but sometimes, greatness comes from crazy.

Enchanted—Alan Menken + Stephen Schwartz’s Songs + An Affectionate Spoof on Disney Fairy Tales = An Unqualified Success. So why hasn’t it gotten the stage treatment yet? Granted, it could be because that the whole concept of fairy tale characters entering the real world has been DONE TO DEATH, but there’s something unique about Enchanted that would be a perfect fit for the stage. Disney would have a ton of fun with making this musical literally come into a reality, and I’m sure there would be plenty of actors who could be great choices for characters such as Giselle, Prince Edward, Robert, and many others. Heck, you could probably get back Amy Adams for a reprise of Giselle if you had the chance, but I don’t know. Regardless, this would be an incredibly fun musical to put on a stage, and much like the others on this list, it could very well be accomplished.

The Princess and the Frog—What the majority of the world’s population thinks about Frozen—or at least, thought about it, before it became a target for pure backlash—is practically what I think of this film. In my opinion, it is EVERYTHING that Disney strives to stand for—something that looks at the past with great fondness while also looking forward with a sense of progressiveness. Much like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I have been waiting and waiting patiently for this film to receive the stage treatment it rightfully deserves. Again, some of the songs would have to be a little longer in order to fit the quota as a legitimate Broadway musical, but that could be done in a matter of minutes. And much like the film, it would be a complete feast for the senses. Similar to the oh-so-amazing opening of The Lion King, I could just imagine band players walking down the aisles and onto the stage during something like “Down In New Orleans”. I have waited so long for a musical adaptation of this brilliant film, and I’ll continue to do so until that wonderful day arrives.

21 Jump Street—With musicals such as Monty Python’s Spamalot and Something Rotten becoming successes on Broadway, audiences seem to love shows that parody other works of art. So why not something like 21 Jump Street? As adapted from the film directed by self-aware comedic duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, It already has the material to claim itself as a legitimate parody, and a lot of fun could be had by parodying the contemporary musical comedy (coincidentally, the contemporary musical comedy parodies other classic musicals; that would mean 21 Jump Street would be that rare parody that parodies parodies. I can only imagine how 21 Jump Street would pay homage to The Book of Mormon with a number dedicated to Korean Jesus). Musicals such as 21 Jump Street would continue the tradition of parodying musicals, but do so in a way that would still feel unique for the Broadway stage. I’m telling ya: Korean Jesus needs to have his due.

And finally, just because we need a little more humor in the world…

Jurassic Park—Because singing and tap-dancing dinosaurs, that’s why.

Let me know what movies you think deserve to be adapted into musicals in the comment section below! 

Why Variety Is an Important Thing to Have In Theater

Patrick Connolly

It’s good to leave a theater happy and satisfied. Who wouldn’t want such an experience in their lives? But imagine having to leave a theater happy and satisfied every single time, and not experiencing any other emotion at all. Ironically, that would produce a third feeling: boredom.

Variety is to diversity. Without it, there is no such thing as a rich life. Yes, shows that provide a happy and satisfying time at the theater are worth every penny, but shows that manage to go the extra mile—shows that not only entertain, but provide a truth about the nature of life itself—deserve to be heavily acknowledged.

I think back to a show like Next to Normal, a show that takes bold risks in making theatergoers feel a variety of emotions. There’s one scene in particular when Dan Goodman—husband to Diana Goodman—tries to make everything feel like it’s all good, and nothing bad will ever happen. This backfires when Diana makes a cake for her son Gabe, even though her son has been dead for sixteen years. In this one scene alone, complex emotions run amok. In the beginning of the scene, happiness and joy is king until sadness takes over when Diana enters the room. Eventually, anger and tension start to take over as Diana explodes in front of Dan, so much to the point where she throws forks and knives onto the floor. I can’t think of another moment in musical theater like it, to be honest.

There’s also a show like Children of Eden, perhaps one of the most underappreciated musicals in Stephen Schwartz’s career. Despite its obvious religious overtones (of which, for the record, I don’t mind in the slightest), there’s a significant amount of truth about the human condition located within some of Schwartz’s amazing songs. Take the titular song, for instance. The lyrics that speak to me the most are “You will know heartache, prayers that don’t work, and times of bitter circumstances/But I still believe in second chances”. The importance of humanity shines through in just that one lyric; ideas of sadness and redemption are expressed in those few seconds, and the result is nothing short of rewarding.

Shows like Next to Normal and Children of Eden make me realize how important variety should be in the theater world. Both musicals provide genuine, raw expressions of the human condition that has no intent in sugarcoating the realities of life. There’s no doubt I appreciate those good ol’ fashioned song-and-dance musical comedies (which is referenced and parodied to great effect in “A Musical” from Something Rotten), but there’s something about musicals—and plays—that manage to go the extra mile to provide truly unique theatergoing experiences.

Now excuse me while I attempt to create a musical that would add more variety in the theater world. 

Patrick Connolly and the East Hartford Summer Youth Festival—Part One

Patrick Connolly

The magic began seven years ago, with an order from my loving mother: “You are either doing it this summer, or there’s chores. Pick one”. 

This “it” that she described was auditioning for the East Hartford Summer Youth Festival production of Footloose—a production that would be directed by my father, Joe Connolly.

Never have I loved obeying my mother that much, for it eventually led to four summers of extraordinary emotional resonance. There was laughter. There was heartbreak. There was love—tons of love, actually. I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a community theater group with so much heart in my life. During these past four summers, I was surrounded by a bunch of saps, and I’m all the better for it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. A very good place to start, indeed.
My first experience of the East Hartford Summer Youth Festival was the one that started it all. With Footloose, I played Travis, one of Chuck’s bad boys. It was good that I had a small role, considering I was just getting introduced to this theater group. And if I may say, it was one perfectly timed introduction. With adventures such as going bowling at Vernon Lanes, along with going to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at midnight (my first midnight screening!), it was the first time where I truly understood the non-biological definition of “family”. Now, when some hear that word, they could automatically think of their biological parents, siblings, cousins, and so forth. When I now hear that word, I think of something much more profound, yet just as familiar; to make it brief, the majority of the cast and crew members I’ve met during that time were some of the best brothers/sisters I’ve never had. It was sad when it was over, but I smiled because it happened. That, and I also had another incredible summer to look forward to.

So I kept moving forward, and made it to another summer. I was involved in a production of Kiss Me Kate; I played Gremio, and was able to perform in a number called “Tom, Dick, or Harry”. While there were former cast members I missed dearly from Footloose, I was able to meet new people that I would eventually become lifelong friends with (one of them even writes for this blog. He knows who he is!). One awesome aspect about our production was that we had a rotating set, similar to how The Barricade was designed in earlier productions of Les Miserables. It’s a little complicated to explain, but I shall do my best: One side of the rotating set was backstage of “The Taming of the Shrew”, and the other side was where “The Taming of the Shrew” was being performed. The tech crew continually rotated the set with each scene, and it was quite an undertaking. More proof that those behind the stage are just as important as those performing on the stage. Overall, it was an experience I enjoyed just as much as I did with Footloose. 

And then, one summer later, there was The Wiz. 

I’ll put it like this: if the earlier two productions represented The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, then this easily represents The Return of the King. Hands down.

I was fortunate enough to have played The Tin Man during this experience, and let me tell you, out of all the performing experiences I’ve had within the past twelve years, this might easily land on top (with only Harvey and Godspell possibly rivaling it). It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; there was laughter, there was yet another midnight experience at the movies (I may or may not have used a stick from the front yard as the Elder Wand), there was a toy balloon that was stuck attempting to fly to the end of backstage, only to have it eventually saved by Lori Brunette—or as we now call her: “SuperLori”. Most of all, there was love. We all came together like one big family during the whole experience.  The entire cast and crew were in tears at closing night, although that could have been my fault considering my speech caused me to break down in front of everyone. Regardless, there was a strong case of separation anxiety coming from all of us; nobody wanted to leave, nobody wanted to forget, and nobody wanted to say goodbye.

Unfortunately, we had to. 

In the early morning hours of November 12th, 2011, my father—who was responsible for directing Footloose, Kiss Me Kate, and The Wiz—died unexpectedly. It came as a shock to all of us who knew him, which made the adjustment all the more harder. His last production was You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, for which he produced the show while his good friend, Murry Philips, directed EHSYF alumni who played the major roles. In my opinion, it was the best possible way to go out for him; this was considered one of his passion projects from the very beginning, and it clearly showed. Why wouldn’t he fall in love with a message such as

“Happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you”? 

We moved forward with the final EHSYF production before I headed off to college: Once on This Island. This production was directed by Valerie Nettleton, one of my Dad’s former students from Timothy Edwards Middle School, and I was fortunate enough to play Agwe, God of Water. I will not sugarcoat it; it was rather tough. We had to adjust to a lot of things that summer, and there was off-stage drama that was flying from left and right (some of it, admittedly, caused by me; I won’t get too technical here, but I did what I could to learn from my past mistakes).  

Then, just a couple of weeks before the show opened, something amazing occurred. Most of the cast and I went bowling at Silver Lanes, and during that time, we sang “La Vie Boheme” from Rent a capella (I sang as Mark; probably one of the best days of my life). A moment like that would normally happen in the movies, but then again, this experience was anything but normal, and I mean that in the greatest way possible. At that moment, any grievances we had about the experience were gone. This was one of those moments when a community theater group came together and rebelled as a community. 

Two weeks later, the show closes, and once again, we were all in tears by the end of it (not as brutal as The Wiz, but just as bittersweet). The last number of the musical—“Why We Tell The Story”—couldn’t have come across as more of a parallel to those who were parting ways for their college experiences, including myself. It reminded me that we all tell our stories not only to enlighten and broaden the minds of those we know and love; we tell these stories to remind ourselves of where we came from, what we have accomplished, and how our pasts can affect future generations for the better. 

That, my friends, is why I chose theater over chores. Now excuse me while I go thank my mother over and over again.