Two Gentlemen of Verona: Summer Summer
I am not a musical theater lover, but in my family, I am outnumbered 3-1. Both of my children have musical talent, and performed in musicals in high school. My son’s Luther Billis in “South Pacific” was hysterical, and my daughter’s Babe Williams in “The Pajama Game,” was awesome (although I have a soft spot for her Harry the Horse from “Guys and Dolls”). In addition, my wife has a beautiful voice, and sang on stage when she was in high school.
I have no such talent, but many of my friends at Clarkstown North were involved in our theater program, so I was convinced to join the stage crew. Remarkably, I have even less talent at building sets than I do at singing, but I found a role. My school was old, and did not have a modern “back stage” with counterweights to allow for easy raising and lowering of backdrops. I’m a big guy, so my job was to raise and lower the backdrops. I was also good at carrying things, bracing things, getting pizza and driving people home in my parents’ huge Pontiac Catalina. For this dedicated service to the theater, I got to be part of the production, and, notably, attend the cast parties where we black clad crew members would mostly sit together and complain about the actors.
One of the most fun shows that we did was “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” a rock musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. Not only was it different from most of the other shows I was involved in—the music did kind of rock—but it was a pretty risqué show. Note the album cover in the video above. Naked breasts!! And they let us do this show in a high school. I specifically remember that there was one scene with simulated intercourse (which is not what we called it back then). As a parent whose kids did theater, I can pretty much guarantee that stuff wouldn’t fly today.
For a regular high school in suburban New York, I remember that the production was quite good—in fact, a few of the cast members went on to professional careers in show business (and a bunch became lawyers, too). Demonstrating my keen talents as a stage crew member, I got to lower an actor from the sky, a feat that I actually performed again the following year, when we put on “Once Upon a Mattress.” Which is another thing that I suspect would not happen today, due to insurance issues.
A few years ago, if I decided to write about this production, the odds of any of my fellow crew members, or any of the cast members, reading it would have been small. But now, because of Facebook, I have reconnected with a bunch of them over the last few years. So, I will post the link on my page, and maybe it will spark some nostalgia in others.