When I was a freshman in high school and my English teacher (a nun!!!) taught The Fantasticks, by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.
I spent a few weeks every summer in Maryland with my Aunt Sissie (my godmother) and her family. One evening she took my best friend Marie Angela and me to see Carousel at the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC. I think we were 14. I can still remember what I wore, the smell of the grass under our feet as we walked to our seats, and the sound of that wonderful score, heard under the stars. I was hooked!
My high school mounted a production of The Sound Of Music and hired a real string section for extra class. That elevated the fine-but-still-developing voices, and I remember the plucked upright bass made everything sound bigger and more serious. I was transfixed. My classmates had become actors, beyond my reach. But upon reflection the real message had been, wow, anybody can get up there! And so, in college two or three years later, I did too — which helped turn me into the superlative audience member I am today.
My first music memory is falling asleep to the cast album of The Music Man, Side One. I would have been just about three. That devolved into listening to my parents' cast albums. Just before I turned six, I listened to and memorized the cast album of The Sound Of Music. (I still know all the words to all the songs.) The first national tour was going to play in Los Angeles. My mother bought matinee tickets for my sister and me. We were carefully coached on proper decorum for weeks prior to the big day. Florence Henderson, long before she was Carol Brady, played Maria. I still remember exactly how the stage looked. I had been warned to be quiet and resist the urge to sing along, but that wasn't an issue because I was spellbound. That night, my parents went out by themselves and left us with a babysitter. I performed the entire show -- all the songs and as much of the dialogue as I could remember -- for my babysitter. I'm sure she was thrilled when I finally crashed.
I was born in Cuba, and back in 1957, when I was nine, I was sent to a summer camp to learn English. Afterwards I met up with my grandmother in New York, and she took me to see Bells Are Ringing. I believe that Judy Holliday had already left the show, but regardless of who played the part that night, by the end of it I had been forever smitten with the theatre. A few days later I was shipped back to Havana with an original cast album of the show. Shortly thereafter I came down with the Hong Kong flu, but had a little turntable next to my bed on which I played the album non-stop. My English was still not too fluent, but I asked my mother if she would write down the lyrics, so that I could learn them phonetically. Before long I had memorized every song on the album, even though I had no idea who “José Ferrer and Janet Blair and Fred Astaire” were, or what they could possibly mean by things like, “It never shuts… like Chock full o' Nuts!” I just sang right along. I have now lived in New York for many years, and seen countless plays and musicals since then, but that show, and those lyrics that I first sang with my broken English, will always be the most special to me.
Growing up, I was passionate about music and cared little for theatre despite having performed as the Mikado when I was seven. My neglect of the theatrical arts continued through adulthood as I helped steward this little audio technology company I managed into becoming an AV technology powerhouse in the New York area. Then, back in 1992, a client we worked with on corporate event projects called to ask whether we were interested in working on a Broadway show handling video display technology.
At the time, video technology wasn't used in theatrical production - it was too expensive and unreliable. Therefore, most visuals were supported by slide or film projection. We developed a system of "flying" monitors for the production of The Who's Tommy, directed by Des McAnuff, which turned out to be a rather big hit.
That first opportunity on Broadway turned into a long love affair as my former company has by now supported more than one hundred different productions including Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen The Musical, and about ten different productions of the hit show Wicked. (https://www.worldstage.com/project-gallery/?_sfm_project_industry=theatrical)
While I am still most passionate about music, my commercial interest in theatre has blossomed into an admiring interest. My wife and I typically enjoy two or more theatre nights per month and I am active as a board member of Brooklyn's Theatre For A New Audience.
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