Saturday, December 4, 2010

Although there was no frog at the manger...

I have always loved to perform. It’s in my blood. My dad sings (and so did my mom) and they both did community theatre and church choir for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memories have to do with music and performing. We would sing in the car whenever we went on trips even if it was 20 minutes out to my grandmother’s. We would sing in harmony. My parents carried a hymnal in the car and I learned songs like “Old Rugged Cross,” “Amazing Grace,” Man who Stilled the Water” and “I'll Fly Away.” I remember sitting on the piano bench next to my dad and learning the entire score to West Side Story and The Sound of Music when I was barely tall enough to climb onto the seat. I remember being granted permission to stay up late to watch a musical on television and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world.

Early on I wanted to be a famous actress or singer or be on Broadway. I wanted to be a STAR- in capital letters! I learned all the songs and dance steps to Annie and was going to be the next one. I loved to be in church plays, school plays and my entire family was in The Music Man when I was 8 years old and we did community theatre. I was Gracie Shin, the mayor's tattletale daughter. Being on the stage and losing myself in lights, costumes, music and the thrill of being someone else was appealing at even an early age and the magic wasn’t wasted on me even then.

When I was in second grade, my big break came along, or so I thought. Every year we had a Christmas musical. These weren’t the average run of the mill act out the nativity things either; the music teacher wrote, choreographed and assigned music to make a huge production with full blown costumes and staging. This year it was “Christmas in Sesame Street.” The tradition was, and everyone knew it, that the 6th graders got the big speaking parts with solos and all the rest of the grades, K-5 trooped on stage together as a class and sang a few numbers and trudged back off to sit in the front three rows and be quiet or go to the principal, for the rest of the show.

This magical year something different happened. All of the main speaking parts went to the 6th graders like normal; except for one role: Kermit the Frog. He was going to be in his reporter mode and interview Santa Claus. We had to audition. I have no idea why- maybe because the music teacher didn’t have enough 6th graders that year? Maybe because she knew us little kids had talent? Maybe because we were the only ones small enough to fit the costume but still learn lines? I have no idea but…I was chosen to be Kermit!! I also beat out my biggest rival- Gina G. She was a horrific child and my little 2nd grader persona hated her for whatever reason. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe my luck! I knew I was going to be famous! It was going to be my big break! I was going to get to be Annie on Broadway because of this! (I have no idea how my mind made the leap from our tiny town of 12,000 people to me being on Broadway, but…)

So I learned my lines. I practiced at home. I memorized them all. I got out of class for 45 minutes three times a week when we have full rehearsal. This was even better than I dreamed. I despised my 2nd grade teacher and I got to miss her class- it was like winning an academy award on top of getting the role! All the other kids were so jealous. I had a costume! I had lines. I missed class. I was cool.

Then the music teacher told me the other part. The play was going to end with everyone in the swamp where Kermit lived and we were going to have a big production number. We were all going to dance and sing to “The Disco Frog.” (Kermit sings this on the Sesame Street Disco album and Christopher Reeves performed this little ditty when he made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show. I totally showed my age here, didn’t I?) And because I was Kermit I had to sing and do a solo dance. *SWOON*. I was in the height of my glory and about ready to start writing my speech for the next Tony awards. This was the best thing to ever happen to me.

The show went great. I was great. I knew my lines. Everyone did really well. The kindergartners got through without any of the little kids falling off the stage and no one forgot their lines or music. I danced and interviewed Santa like a pro. It was amazing. It didn’t matter that I was hot and sweaty in my frog costume or that no one could see me because it had a hood. It was a wonderful night and the grand finale was a show stopper. I boogied around and did the hustle and the famous Travolta hand to hip then across to the air. It was phenomenal. People clapped and cheered. I was forever now ensconced in the theatre and my love of performance could never be stopped.

This is why my parents gave me something froggy for Christmas every year, ever since 2nd grade. Sometimes it’s a stuff animal, stationary with frogs on it, ornaments, key rings, music boxes, t-shirts, pajamas, a purse, whatever. For many Christmases, well into my adulthood, I always was given something with a frog on it for Christmas- not a Kermit, but a frog. That way I can always remember the year I was a STAR.



Curley said...

Can you believe it? I had this nice post written and hit the wrong key and lost every bit of it. I can just see you in your frog custome, stealing the show. I know you would have been great as Annie, since I have personally heard you sing all the songs from the play. I love it. You have great parents to instill in you the love of music and you in turn to your son.

Mellodee said...

I, too, have a love of music and performing! So I totally and completely "get it". I didn't start as early as you into performing (umm, I was mostly grown up already), but no matter how old you are I don't think you ever forget being a "star", even if it is only once! For that moment, one is part of the grand and glorious theater tradition and you know in you heart that there's nothing better!

Getting an annual "frog" is like renewing your Tony-level stardom. What a great thing for your parents to do!!