The First Night of the Last Musical

 Last night was opening night at my son's high school for "Hello Dolly!"  It will be the last musical that he does at the high school and I am a bundle of emotions over all of this.  So, get ready for some real Bfth blubbering in the next couple of paragraphs.

Let me start off by saying, that the stage he graces was one that I was in high school (too many years ago to mention).  The first show I did (which was during my sophomore year...nothing really much went on in my freshman year, at least not that I knew about) was "Mame."  (Which, like Dolly, has music and lyrics by the late great Jerry Herman.)  I had such a blast (and I was only in the chorus) that I became very involved with the high school theater group until I graduated.  

Seeing my son on that same stage is amazing and overwhelming.  In elementary school he was somewhat shy.  All grades presented concerts and he was never very much into that.  In middle school he didn't do any shows.  (I think he should have, but...)  However, over several summers he attended week long "theater camps" (Shout out to Within 4-1/2 days, the students (ages 4 and up...which is quite a range) learned a show and performed it Friday afternoon.  To be brutally frank, they weren't very good, but as the organization says, it's not about the performance, and it’s about the process.  There was a lot of learning.  Even more important there was a lot of growth on my son's part.  It became such a big part of his summer, that for the past two years (and hopefully this year as well) he has WORKED at the camp, mostly on the sound board, but doing a myriad of other things as well. (I believe his least favorite job is taking the youngest to the bathroom.  Not what he expected, but important training for what the real world might hold.)  

As a result of those summers, one of the electives he signed up for his freshman year was drama.  It wasn't his first choice.  I don't think it was even his second.  But it was the fall elective he was given.  He was one of the few freshman in the class. (I'm not sure there were any other freshman, but I could be wrong.)  However, because he was in that class, and he was encouraged by the teacher, he auditioned for the fall production, "Comedy of Errors."  He was proud to get a small role (Jailer/Balthasar/Headsman), but even happier to make friends with all the people involved with the production.  (He got a ride home after the first rehearsal from a senior who had a convertible.  Believe me that was a big deal!)  

The show and the people involved was transformative, and not just for him, but for my husband and myself.  Because I wanted to know what was going on (and my son isn't a big talker), I joined the parent organization.  I helped with ticket sales and concessions for each of the 4 shows.  When he got a chorus role in the spring musical, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," after taking tickets and stamping hands, I was front and center for each unique performance.  (It's a wonderful show that is different every time.  If you have a chance to see it, GO!) 

At the time I thought the first weekend in March was way too early to have a spring show, but I was wrong.  The show closed on Saturday night and the following Friday was the last "normal" day of school until...are things back to normal yet?

We've learned over these past years, that pandemics can't keep theater from happening.  The annual one act festival turned into pre-recorded zoom shows.  The fall 2020 drama was a radio play.  (How's that for inventive.)  The spring 2021 musical was postponed until May and was held at a nearby outdoor venue.  The original retrospective, had a limited number of students on the stage at a time while the audience sat masked outside.  (Freezing...who knew it would be 40 and below the first weekend in May?)  By the next fall, the show was more of an improv:  the hysterically funny "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," 30 plays in 60 minutes.  Those on stage were maskless; the audience was masked and falling out of their seats with laughter.  (You haven't lived until you've seen my son perform an autobiography of a match.)  This crazy show was the perfect antidote to depression we'd been living in for a year and a half.  This show and the amazing cast and crew behind it, brought laughter and fun back into the lives of all who saw it.

Spring 2022 brought "Footloose" with autumn of 2022 bringing Shakespeare back into the school with "Romeo & Juliet."

Now here we are in 2023 and as I sat in (almost) the front row last night, as my son took to the stage once again, my heart swelled with pride.  This little kid who would barely sing in elementary school was vivaciously belting out:  "And in the winter she'll shovel the ice. And lovingly set out the traps for the mice. She's a joy and treasure for practically speaking, to whom can you turn when the plumbing is leaking?"

So this is the beginning of the end.  There are three more shows to go.  I'll be there for every one of them.  And you can bet I'll have plenty of tissues on hand as he lovingly closes the show with:  “Hello, Dolly! Well, hello, Dolly! It's so nice to have you here where you belong. I never knew Dolly, without you, Dolly, life was awfully flat and more than that was awfully wrong."

Truer words were never sung.  Without Dolly, without theater, life is awfully flat and awfully wrong. Theater is magical.  Theater is transformative. Theater changes, improves lives.  I’ve seen it happen before my eyes.


  1. Amen. The change in James has been incredible. He did a great job, and his parents are amazing!!


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