When I was growing up, there was no "American Idol" or "Glee". Instead we had the movie "Fame" and Original Broadway Cast albums. From the age of 4, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Well, it was a toss-up between singing and dancing for a living, or becoming a nurse. My aunt used to be a candy-striper and I would frequently walk around my grandmother's house in her white nurse's shoes and stiff hat. But I digress.
My first memories of being onstage happened when I was in 4th Grade at Middleton School in Skokie, IL. I was the head singing troubadour in a ground-breaking production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves". It was ground-breaking by the fact that the leads were double cast with a kid doing the voice offstage, while another kid would lip sync onstage. Amateurs! I will have you know that I did ALL my own singing as the singing troubadour. But who the fuck are we kidding? Troubadour, shmoubadour...I was still in the chorus. I still remember the song we sang:
"We are the singing Troubadours to introduce to you,
A story that we guarantee is absolutely true.
Except for what we added, except for what we changed,
Except for parts we didn't like, and parts we re-arranged."
My first solo in a musical (if that's what you want to call it) happened in 6th grade in our production of "The Chicago World's Fair". I played General Balbo and wore a cute little army hat made from two pieces of green felt sewn together. I wont bore you with the lyrics to that one, but suffice it to say, it was a song about a Ferris wheel and brought the house to tears.
Jumping ahead...I used to play the shit out of those Original Broadway Cast albums. I practically wore out our Hi Fi playing "Magic To Do" from Pippin.
The only exception I made with Broadway Albums was the movie soundtrack to "The Sound of Music". At a very young age I was a boy soprano and developed this crazy obsession with Julie Andrews. Since "Sound of Music" was one of the first movies I ever saw with my father (thanks for making me gay Dad!) I developed this crazy impression of Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things" that I took to the playground. And I got the cuts and bruises to prove it.
I got my first real taste of playing to a big audience at a summer fair at Oakton Park. I sang "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha, and wore a poofy shirt and a drawn on mustache. I was terrified, but muscled through it and gave the performance of my life for a sea of overweight moms and dads eating funnel cakes and corn.
Having accomplished high school stardom, I found myself at Illinois Wesleyan University in leg warmers and tights, dancing publicly wherever humanly possible. My dream was to do chainee turns around the fountain at Lincoln Center or dance on cars celebrating my hot lunch.
But instead I did jeter leaps through Downtown Bloomington, IL praying that Miss Debbie Allen would somehow find me and say, "You want fame? Well this is where you pay!"
Last night as I was icing my back and dreaming of pain-free-leg-warmer-days, I watched the American Idols belt out their songs. Do kids these days even play Original Cast Albums anymore? Or do they just have aspirations to be on Glee? It made me sort of sad. So I went outside and did chainee turns through my neighborhood in Studio City while singing "Magic To Do". After I saw the police arrive, I ran back inside and quietly sang "I Have Confidence" doing my best Julie Andrews, which now sounds like Bea Arthur.
I miss my days of idealism and innocence. But luckily still living "The Impossible Dream". Now where are those leg warmers?