March 1st…“IN HIGH SCHOOL DAYS, WERE YOU EVER A CAST MEMBER IN A MUSICAL PRODUCTION?”
The passing of over fifty years have not diminished one iota of the fantastical magic of the grand musical story of “Camelot”!! It still graces my heart and memory. Early, in our High School Junior year of 1971, in Battle Ground, Washington, our beloved Concert Choir teacher, the honorable Mr. Orrell Peru, opened up to us the world of Broadway musicals in the form of the story of the mythical kingdom of Camelot.
In a very short time, I had fallen in love with the songs and storyline of this “Lerner & Lowe” creation. I had aspired to, and auditioned for, the part of “Prince Lancelot”. Alas, though, since my school grades were low, the selection committee decided that I already had enough on my curriculum ‘plate’, as it was; therefore, I did NOT get the part of “Lancelot”. Instead, I was awarded the supporting role of Lancelot’s servant, “Squire Dap”. Now boys will be boys, so, in the derogatory humorous nature of High School males, my fellow choir buddies used to have fun by renaming me “Squire DIP“! 😉
Overall, this was going to be a great life experience of embarking on a trip into how a stage musical is put together from start to finish. Days, weeks and eventually months went by as we teamed up to learn our singing parts, having our parents create costuming, watching stage sets being built in the West Gym of our High School, etc., etc..
Another aspect of this fantasy musical was the dancing. I was chosen to be one of those dancers. Our choreography instructor was Mrs. Donna Stone. For a small-statured woman, she held us to a rigid discipline as we learned the craft of creating the dance sequences that would occur in this performance. Our young male egos were bolstered by the appearance of having muscles as we seemed to lift our feminine dance partners into the air, when, in actuality, Mrs. Stone had taught the young ladies to jump upwards just before we assisted them with our hands at their waists. Sure looked impressive, at least! 😉
Dress rehearsals for “Camelot” had finally arrived. All choir members were to assemble at the school stage that evening for a first full run-through of the musical with all of us in FULL costume. Seeing that the musical, historically, was set in 12th Century England, the fashion of that time held that men wore leotard tights on their lower extremities. Jump aboard the time machine, if you will, to the year 1971 and that’s the LAST thing a young male would EVER want to wear…….girl’s tights or leotards. Yet, wanting to be obedient to Mr. Peru’s directives, I faithfully came that night in full costume INCLUDING my blue, girl leotards. I walked around the corner and onto the stage and was mortified that only ONE other guy had worn his leotards that evening along with me. He and I were immediately and verbally pounced upon by all the cat calls and whistles that the other male cast members could muster. Embarrassed is a huge understatement for how we felt!
With his voice raised in justice and righteous indignation, Mr. Peru came to the rescue of myself and the other leotard-wearing cast member as he began to strongly chastise all of the other prideful male choir members for THEIR failure to not appear in FULL costume for that very important rehearsal. You could have heard a pin drop in that large auditorium after Mr. Peru was finished lambasting the cast. He finished with, “If EVERYONE is not in FULL costume for the next rehearsal…..the entire musical will be called OFF!!!” We knew he meant it, too! On the next rehearsal night, every leotard was on every boy. The two of us who had endured our classmate’s taunting that night felt happily vindicated for having endured that rancorous teasing.
Without a doubt, our musical would’ve never been “born”, if it weren’t for the talented leadership of Mr. Jim Detchman and our great young members of the Battle Ground School District’s Symphonic Band. These were the days before fancy pre-recorded soundtracks existed, so if you wanted accompaniment music, it had to be performed LIVE.
With the gala event just weeks away, now it was time to promote our musical extravaganza. Mr. Bob Peck, and his great school district Art Department, created large posters to go up all over our town and local area venues. The school newspaper did articles with photos of the upcoming “Camelot” musical. Even the local “The Columbian” newspaper and “Reflector” newspapers created stories to put out the word to the public that it would only cost $1.50 for Adults and just $1.00 for students to attend this gala event.
The opening song of “Camelot” states my heart feelings so well as it sang…..”In short there’s simply not, A more congenial spot, For happy-ever-aftering, Than here in Camelot”…….for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.