Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Sole Survivor

Part IV of a four-part series on the grandkids' musical theatre debut in Oliver!

"[My house] caught on fire and only I escaped," Bootsie writes (with considerable help from her older sister).

She has been asked by her director to think what her past life (all five years of it?) might have been like before arriving at the workhouse that constitutes a significant part of the setting of Oliver! Hopefully, this will give her a sense of character and a sense of belonging in the overall dynamic of the show.

"[O]nly I escaped" reminds me of the opening of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. In that, the novel's first-person narrator, Ishmael, establishes himself as the sole survivor of the whaling vessel Pequod. But at that point, Bootsie parts ways with Ishmael. Here is the rest of her backstory:

"It was snowing outside. I happened to look through someone's house through their window, and so I knocked on the door, and I was quite scared when they opened the door. It was a little boy, and he said: 'Oh, not another one.' And then I walked in angrily, and I stayed there for the rest of my childhood."

In Bootsie's case, the time invested in thinking about her little ragamuffin character must have worked. Although all three kids (and their rose-selling mama) did a wonderful job in their musical theatre debut together, it was Bootsie alone who garnered actual press coverage.

"One particular child in Oliver! stood out from the group," writes hometown reporter Patrick Murtha in the St. Marys Star. "Perhaps it was the impishness of her looks and actions. Perhaps it was the hat that was many sizes too large, slipping suddenly and sporadically over her eyes."

Wow. What must it be like to be singled out, at the ripe old age of five, for notice in a newspaper review? But Murtha isn't finished yet.

"[H]er rollicking antics appeared to be no act; rather, they seemed to flow like reality, unprompted and unprepared, from her little limbs and seemed to erupt from an unrehearsed soul. She played a spirited and spontaneous child, whom anyone, if I can paraphrase an old-timer, would love to have as a grandchild."

Bingo! I can vouch for that last comment. From her animated delivery in the chorus of the show's opener ("Oliv-ah! Oliv-ah!") to her little center-stage dance feature with the character Nancy, Bootsie handled her role with outstanding stage presence. I was amazed--but then--I am supposed to be amazed. That is the role of a Googie, and I am hopelessly typecast in that delightful part.

And, yes, little Bootsie, anyone would love to have you as a grandchild, and I am one of the very few lucky ones who get to actually do that. I look forward to watching you dance and sing your way right through this summer and rollick right into kindergarten.

You are a joy--and I am so glad that you alone escaped that house fire.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pick-pocket Pooh

Part III of a four-part series on the grandkids' musical theatre debut in Oliver!

"The curtain rose, and homeless children burst upon the stage . . . ," writes Patrick Murtha in a recent op-ed piece in the St. Marys Star, the weekly newspaper of the town where the kids live. The reporter then describes the show's opening as "a lark with mischievous and rambunctious rascals, in an apparently harmonized cacophony of motion, being at one place and everywhere about the stage."

Mischievous. Rambunctious. Cacophony. Had I not known that Murtha penned these in reference to the musical's opening scene, I would have thought he was writing solely about Pooh. Although those words are certainly appropriate for his onstage role as an orphan/thief in Oliver!, they also describe his everyday personality and behavior to a "T."

My oldest grandson has displayed a penchant for the theatrical as long as he has been able to walk and talk. I have written about this numerous times here on the blog, and, in case you should wish to revisit some of those great stories, you can do so by googling the blog titles/dates below. (I tried to imbed the actual links, but ran into a problem.)

To read about how Pooh, barely two years old, assumed the character of the dog thief Horace in our playtime enactment of 101 Dalmatians, google "Googies Attic: Just Horacing Around" from 15 June 2011. Perhaps it was this experience that prepared him for the pick-pocketing required by his character in Oliver!

To laugh boisterously about the time that, in his role as a "mean mouse," Pooh mistakenly tried to kill the title character of The Nutcracker, google "Googies Attic: Attack of the Rapacious Rodent from 15 Jan. 2012."  Finally, if you care to meet, in all his glory, the special superhero Pooh created (and costumed) for himself, check out "Googies Attic: Naked Man" from 8 July 2012.

Although he was easily the smallest boy in the play, Pooh, a first-grader, executed his part in the manner I would have expected. In the "Pick a Pocket or Two" scene, he stole quickly and furtively among the Londoners to--well--steal. Finding himself nose to nose with the menacing Fagin, he emitted a trailing, high-pitched scream that demonstrated the Doppler Effect better than an Amtrak barreling past your local train station. Two magnificent cartwheels showcased his wiriness and agility, and a time or two I even saw him" smoking" a pipe.

At the director's suggestion, Sooby and Bootsie were happy to come home after the earliest rehearsals to contemplate their characters and give themselves a "past" to help them empathize and to blend into the milieu of 1850s London. No such nonsense for Pooh. He was pretty sure he already had this down.

I am expecting this resourceful little pick-pocket for a Mother's Day visit this coming weekend. It will be my first time to see him since closing night, and I am anxious to hear how the third weekend of shows went. But just to be safe, I think I'd better remember to lock up my jewelry and find a safe place to stash my other valuables.

He was that convincing.