I love live theater. There’s something awesome about it. Movies are one thing; a live performance is another. In a movie, there are retakes, but theater is like real life… if you make a mistake, you have to force your way through it and keep going (if you do it well, the audience never notices). Most actors actually prefer to act on the stage, since it means more interaction with their audience, as well as the task of delivering an entire play rather than a few lines. That is part of the allure and the charm, to marvel at the talent it takes to memorize and recite a two-hour production.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of performances. There have been Dinner Playhouses (the only time I have ever really appreciated Oklahoma!), local group functions, church theater companies, and Broadway musicals on tour. I’ve even been in a few plays here and there, with clammy palms and an impending heart attack. My first role was Mary, the Mother of Christ, in a little Church Pageant. The boys liked playing football with the baby Jesus doll in-between rehearsals and Joseph was wearing Nikes under his bed sheet. Since the boys had a habit of rattling the manger in rehearsals, I did something very un-Mary-like when they knelt down to look at “Baby Jesus.” I said, “Touch him and die.” But I said it with a smile, so no one knew about it.
The next year I was the bad Christian who turned a girl away because she didn’t dress right for church. I had fun with that part. What can I say? It’s a well known fact that the villains have more fun.
I’ve seen two different local productions of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In one of them the potted tree kept falling over. I’m fairly sure by the end, the director was annoyed enough to want to kick it across the stage, but she didn’t.
There are many stories about mishaps in live theater and some of them are truly funny. My favorite musical is The Phantom of the Opera. Though most of the time the show runs smoothly, now and again it doesn’t. A Christine I saw had to quickly and quietly disentangle her skirt from the Phantom’s boat, while singing and trying not to trip on her way out. She did it so well, I’m not sure anyone but me noticed. Not everyone keeps their cool, though. One time, Michael Crawford was having such trouble with the boat (it kept stopping, then starting), he really did give it a stout kick. Another time, he was so tired from multiple performances that he fell asleep at his perch and almost missed his line! Over the years, wigs caught on fire, lines were flubbed to magnificent absurdity, and costumes have been torn. In the 25th anniversary performance, the arm of the Phantom’s jacket caught in a wire, and he had to remove it and finish the play without his topcoat.
Recently, I had a chance to attend a performance of Murder on the Air, by a local group. It was a Friday night and I’d spent the entire day putting together an issue of the Prairie Times. I was tired and not sure I wanted to go but I did. And I loved every minute of it. The 1940’s setting, the beautiful harmony of the musical pieces, the terrific acting from a group of talented young ladies made me forget the long day I’d had at work. I was sorry to see it end.
Summer is a great time for live theater. It’s a great time to laugh and socialize and see a show. I hope you find time to squeeze one in this summer, if you can — even if it’s not “off Broadway.”