Archive for December, 2009

Bring Out The Old… Bring In The New

AH… 2009, where have you gone?  Some really high points and some really low ones.  Lets deal with the low and end on a high (not THAT kind).

  • We lost Michael Jackson who was one of my favorite performers growing up and even throughout his wierdness was a genius.
  • Aunt Carol is still hanging on however little.  But good thing… the doctors did not give her until Christmas and she is almost to the new year of that we can be thankful.  So, I guess that can be a good thing disguised as a bad.

And now the GREAT which looking back can easily outweigh the bad:

  • Back in January, after being passed over for a role in a WCCT show, my brother recommended me to the director of Meet Me in St. Louis and that led to three unforgettable shows at a new favorite venue.  I also met some great friends through the VPs some of whom have also transported to the WCCT.  When one door closes, another is soon to open up.  Good words to live by.
  • Last Spring, I got to take another bite out of the Big Apple while once again assuming my role of Manny for the best friends ever.  Buses notwithstanding.
  • The return of Star Trek to the big screen… nuff said.
  • A Halloween road trip to the Big City with loads of friends.
  • The evilness of one Mr. Henry F. Potter.

Of course, we cannot forget the fact that I do have a job in this turbulent economic time and have reasnably good health and a loony bin of a family (wouldn’t have it any other way) and the best group of characters anyone could possibly hope for that I love to call my friends and second family.  Thank you all.  Happy New Year and may 2010 bring you good health, good times, and good fortune.

12 Days Of Christmas

Since we are in the third day of the twelve, I would like to share with you my favorite song and video of the season.  I think it was around last year, but it really got exposure this year.

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Since the good doctor made mention of the two songs here is Josh Groban singing Petit Papa Noel from his glorious Holiday CD, Noel.

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and… Vive la Vent

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Fun And Games On Boxing Day

This year, the extended family gathering fell on the day after the big day when everyone could fit it into their schedule with their other festivities.  Get us all together and it is bound to be a fun-filled event.  The hilarity began when my brother dropped his plate of food on the floor on the way to the table.  He insists that he had both hands on the plate.  I told him he should have had both eyes on the plate as well.  Alicia thought that he was sitting on the floor in the hall eating instead of joining us at the table.

Lots of goodies are always set up on Aunt Sandy’s table throughout the day, cheeseballs, cookies, candy (featuring everyone’s favorite buckeyes) plus the home cooked spread featuring pies and a delicious meal and you do not leave the place hungry.

Chad had to song lead at mass at six so a bunch of us went and came back out.  He did fine except that I think he should have practiced those later verses of “The First Noel” a bit more.  I admit that some of those do get tricky especially if you are not used to them.  The melody is familiar enough but when you are unaccustomed to the lyrics of all five verses then you tend to get overwhelmed.

After mass, many returned to the house and engaged in what I hope becomes a tradition: the euchre battle.  Going head to head with my oldest brother is daunting anyway (PARTICULARLY, KNOWING WHAT A SHARK HE IS!).  I am amazed and pleased to say that Christi?! and I beat Jeff and his rotating partners Dan and Carla 2- 1.

I also received a camera under the tree (let’s see how long it takes before I lose THIS ONE 🙂 )

000_0001Sydney in front of the horrible Eddie Murphy version of The Nutty Professor.

000_0002Carla, Dan, Sydney, and a surprise appearance by someone’s handsome leg.

000_0003Shelby (half covered by a mysterious appendage, Joshua, Jeff, and Elizabeth.

000_0004Sorry Shelby… must have had the blur reduction off.

000_0005Noah opening the Magna Doodle to which he lost the magnet inside the pen before the night ended.

000_0007Autumn, Jason, Carla, Lauren, Dan, Alyssa, and Alex with his second set of Army accessories of the season.

So… lots of fun, love, and FOOD over the Christmas holiday.

Christmas Celebrations

I LOVE CHRISTMAS.  I still look at the holiday with the wonder of a child.  For the entire month of December, I still do believe in the magic of Jolly Ol’ St. Nick but still marvel at the wonder of the true meaning of the holiday.  I even have my sister wrap my presnts and I do still snoop (ok, I admit it).  After getting off work at 2 on Christmas Evc, the immediate family and their kids opened presents and had the first of three feats throughout the weekend.  What a haul!  The highlight of my haul were two Scene-It games.  I had asked for the rather awesome looking Star Trek edition the moment I heard about it and submitted a question to the makers of the game when it was being developed.  I also received a pleasant surprise.  I had picked up the Simpson’s edition for my nephew just after Thanksgiving.  I unwrapped the one of my own for Christmas.  I have played it with some friends and ADORE IT!

Midnight Mass (well, 11PM mass) was beautiful as usual.  The past few years singing “Silent Night” at Communion have been really difficult.  I am immediately taken back to the four Christmas concerts in high school singing the carol by candlelight.  I can still see Emily behind the piano.  I then went home and caught my sneak-in viewing of A Christmas Story.

Christmas Day was feast number two and a day typically set aside for watching movies people had received.  We were treated to Santa Buddies courtesy of Alex.  I was exhausted and slept through half of it.

More fun and merriment to come with the Swary family Christmas.

A New Miracle

Since none of the channels I get are bothering to show the glorious original 1947 version this year, I decided to spend my nine dollars on the Miracle of 34th Street DVD.  There is a treasure trove of added features including a very rare 1955 broadcast on the “20th Century Fox Hour of Stars” of yet another adaptation.  I found it very well done for the limited 45 minute run time.  There were of course deletions from the original but there was one scene that was in this adaptation that I saw for the first time on the stage:  Mr. Sawyer giving his speech on the evils of myth at Susan’s Progressive School.

There were also a few behind the scene stories that were very informative:

  • The filming of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was the real McCoy filmed on Thanksgiving Day, 1946.  This was the second parade given following its hiatus during WWII.
  • Edmund Gwenn (who played Kris Kringle and won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the original) was Santa at the end of the parade.
  • Many of the interior scenes for Macy’s Department Store were actually filmed at the flagship store during the holiday season.  WOW!  Imagine the chaos that must have caused!  An identical duplicate was recreated on a Hollywood sound stage in the event that some scenes needed to be redone.
  • Both R.H. Macy and the Gimbel Brothers loved the film much to the delight of the filmmakers.
  • The film was released in June, 1947.  Fox did not want audiences thinking they were going to a film about the Christmas season in the summer so in its publicity campaign, scenes were carefully selected that would not draw attention to the fact.  The risk paid off and “Miracle” became a hit that ran in theatres for an unheard of 6 month stand.

A holiday treasure that teaches everyone that “faith is believing in something when common sense tells us not to.”  Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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That Which You Take With You

Is only what you put into it.  I don’t know if it is the play, the cast, the character, the direction, but it is probably the whole lot combined into one that makes a production completely worthwhile.  It’s A Wonderful Life is so brilliant because it tells the tale of an everyman who is shown that one person can indeed make a difference to those people around him.  I humbly submit that everyone involved in this production set out to and accomplished this in extraordinary fashion,  Through all the hard work, goofiness, talent, and everything, each member of the cast, crew, direction team put their hearts into it and hopefully it came through in the splendid audiences we had each performance.  If I made even one audience member hate my take on the “Evil” Henry F. Potter then I did exactly what I set out to do.  As Mother Bailey so frequently intoned “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!”

I don’t care what show it is, how many lines I have, or how long I am on stage, I ALWAYS find it so Darn hard to break away.  Two weeks were definitely not long enough for this show.  I loved all the carts, pictures (Jeff’s portrait Chance of a Lifetime truly captured the image of Stewart and Reed).  Even the card addressed to “The Evil One” from my Traitorous Secretary was beautiful.

Now… a few tidbits from the history of the movie, itself:

  • Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter) convinced Jimmy Stewart to accept the role of George Bailey, despite Stewart’s feeling that he was not up to it so soon after WWII)
  • Mary was Donna Reed’s first starring role.
  • Lionel Barrymore also played Rasputin (hmm… something to shhot for?)
  • Instead of “Auld Lang Syne” the original ending was supposed to be “Ode to Joy”
  • The film was voted “Most Inspirational Film of All Time” and “Most Powerful Film of All Time” by the American Film Institute.

So there we have it… the end of a Wonderful Show with a Wonderful Cast, Wonderful Crew, Wonderful Direction and Producing, and most importantly… WONDERFUL AUDIENCE! THANK YOU ALL FOR MAKING THIS TRIP TO POTTERSVILLE SO MEMORABLE!

I almost forgot about the donuts in the wheelchair.  If you missed them they were something which “George” will take with him.

The End Of A Wonderful Show

Well.. “Once again we have saved humanity as we know it.  And the good news is they are not going to prosecute.” (Anyone care to take a stab at that?)

Today wrapped up one of my favorite stage roles and experiences.  Although I have become almost used to a one weekend run this year, it is going to be really hard to close the two week run of this show.  The cast, crew, direction, producing for this Wonderful production was top notch.  I got to work with two awesome friends I have made this year and a few others who were there at the beginning back in January.  So thanks especially to Travis, Mary, Greg, and Dawn.  Lots of laughs along with the hard work!

This afternoons crowd was superb!  Potter kept drawing laughter from the crowd thanks to a few WCCT regulars.  Such great accolades… seriously did I really deserve them?  “George” even mentioned that he had a rough time during our first scene together.  But one of the crowd mentioned that I was spot on in every aspect.  Vocalization, presence, command, total characterization.

After peeling some tape off the stage floor and helping load some flats onto the truck, I went upstairs to the costume room to help organize a bit.  A picture was taken that I will let the photographer share and that is as far as I’ll go with that.  Then, we had leftovers from our Friday night feast.

Closing thoughts in my next post.

A New Week… A New Goon

Well… Friday night began our final weekend of performances and this was another dandy.  My goon had to take over the lights and sound, so I had to hire a new man.  Good help is sooo hard to find.  I am happy to say that my new employee did an admirable job… except for one moment when I had to crack the whip and prod him a bit faster by ad libbing a line.  All of my friends and family who came tonight loved the show and again I was booed.  As long as I know that it is for a good reason, then I think the jeers are almost as good as getting cheers.

After the curtain fell on our fourth performance, Mare led another small group on the nickel tour of the Huber.  Including a few people who just moved to the area from Ft. Wayne where one of them worked at the glorious Embassy Theatre (I have not been there for years).

Finally, it was time to feast at the cast party.  And what a cast party… catered Italian spread: lasagna, fettucini alfredo, bread, salad, and (as is typical) more than enough desserts.  Leftovers for tomorrow.  We presented Trav with his director’s gift of a nice copy of Tom Sawyer among other trinkets.

There was one minor technical glitch.  Somehow, during the off time, the sign that magically changes from “You Are Now In Bedford Falls” to “Pottersville” became damaged and did not work for tonight’s show.

Once again, thanks to everyone: cast, crew, director, producer, and most of all.. Wonderful audience members for another tremendous show!

Now Why Couldn’t We Have Taped This?

tonight, the cast had a brush up rehearsal.  Necessary when you have a two weekend run to keep it fresh in our minds so it doesn’t become stale.  Well… it may not have become stale, but it was far from sane!  It was just a fun, goofy time something that could have definitely made the gag reel of the DVD.  No sets, no curtains, bare stage, and a cast full of clowns.  Mr. Potter somehow became acquainted with some tinsel while getting himself from place to place sans Goon.  George couldn’t keep a straight face while being raked over the coals.  Clarence and Potter continuing their quest for world domination in the sequel… who said the angel gets his wings?  What a Wonderful time!  Bring on the final weekend! But don’t let it end too soon.

I Could Not Hear Much Of What She Heard

Quite a switch actually sitting and watching others perform on the gem that is the Huber Opera House.  Joshua had his Jr/Sr High music program tonight.  Sitting in the audience, I still am in awe what a treasure we have in our neck of the woods and not too long ago it was an eyesore.  Both the band and choir directors made mention of the gorgeous venue and the delight it is to perform on it (I could not agree more!).

I must commend the decision for both the Jr. and Sr. High bands to perform together!  That takes some bravery.  I asked Joshua how often they all practice together.  They only had two rehearsals together and for that they did not sound awful.  I did enjoy “Sleigh Ride” with the whip crack and the horse whinney!  “Coventry Carol” was good, too.

From what I could hear of the choir sounded pretty good, too.  Unfortunately, only half of the soloist’s portion of “Do You Hear What I Hear” could actually be heard.  Then, suddenly, the microphone was turned on.  The final two pieces, the choir’s favorites, were the best.  “Sleigh Ride” again and a jazzy acapella version of “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

Following the combined High School band/chorus finale, I stood up and slipped all around the floor because a certain 6 year old accidentally spilled her popcorn.

Check out the classy shot:

11453_720013894430_20920962_40846470_4497032_nTux which the music department provides.  Not sure how I would feel about that but now I think it looks sharp.  It sure beats having no dress code and having the few who show up in raggedy jeans and t-shirt (of course, SOMEtimes that is no fault of the children).

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