August 10, 2010
One of the privileges of parenting is to cheer for one’s children in their various school musicals. Our boys’ school for eight years was British Columbia Christian Academy (BCCA) in Port Coquitlam. As well as having great academics and strong family values, BCCA has become well known for its strong drama and music programs, led by Mrs. Birth.
My three boys were blessed to be involved in several memorable BCCA productions, including Fiddler on the Roof, Annie, and now The Music Man. My youngest son Andrew had a lot of fun shaving his hair off for his role as Daddy Warbucks, and the next year became Professor Harold Hill of Music Man fame. While putting on a school play is a tremendous amount of work (and driving for the parents!), it is an invaluable way to build school spirit and teamwork.
As I carpooled Andrew each morning to school, I listened to Andrew/Professor Harold Hill sing his heart out. The Music Man has so many unforgettable songs that it’s hard to single any out. “Seventy-Six Trombones” is my favorite, but there are many more: “Gary, Indiana”, “Wells Fargo Wagon”, and “Trouble” are all remarkably gripping. Paul McCartney and the Beatles enjoyed The Music Man so much that they even recorded one of The Music Man’s hit songs “Till There Was You”.
The original title for the play was “The Silver Triangle.” The earliest version of “The Music Man” included a young, spastic boy. Willson’s advisors thought it would be best to eliminate the spastic boy from the story, so Willson decided to change the spastic boy into the younger brother of Marian Paroo and have him lisp. The musical “The Music Man” opened on Broadway on Dec. 19, 1957, at the Majestic Theatre and ran for 1,375 performances. The show became not only a hit but a happening, squeezing out the season’s other Broadway classic, Westside Story, for the Tony ‘Best Musical’ award.
During the 1940′s a relatively unknown musician named Meredith Willson kept fiddling with a musical story about his boyhood in Mason City, Iowa. As a young person, Willson had started off, playing the flute in his town band, before ending up with the John Philip Sousa Band, and then the New York Philharmonic, where he served under Toscanini and Stravinsky.
It took Meredith Willson eight years, forty songs, and thirty revisions to birth one of the world’s most well-loved musicals. The Music Man is one of those very unusual Broadway hits where one person single-handedly produced the book, music and lyrics. Meredith Willson was also famous for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”(1964) about the Titanic.
The gist of the ‘Music Man’ story, for those of you who have never seen it, is that Professor Harold Hill, a traveling salesman and con artist talks an unsuspecting Iowa small town into putting out hard, cold cash for band instruments and uniforms, as a solution to a civic frenzy drummed up by Harold Hill over the town’s new pool hall. “Remember, my friends, what a handful of trumpet players did to the famous, fabled walls of Jericho. Oh, billiard parlor walls come a-tumblin’ down.”
There are few things more captivating to many parents than the gentle form of flattery that suggests our children have some previously undetected musical genius.
In the process of wooing and sidelining the town’s librarian Marian Paroo, Harold Hill himself faces the depth of his own deception, and his longing to be a real-live band leader. The romance between Harold Hill and Marian Paroo is much like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Like any good salesman, the one thing that Harold Hill could not resist was a challenge. Whether it was the challenge of selling band instruments to hard-nosed Iowans or romancing a confirmed bachelorette like Marian, Harold jumped in with both feet.
Harold Hill discovered that behind this brusque, off-putting librarian is a passionate heart with standards so high that make her unobtainable: “All I want”, sang Marian Paroo,” is a plain man, all I want is a modest man, a quiet man, a gentle man, a straightforward and honest man…I would like him to be more interested in me than he is in himself…”
Marian’s mother Mrs. Paroo challenged Marian on her ‘paralysis of analysis’ regarding men: “I know all about your standards and if you don’t mind my sayin’ so, there’s not a man alive who could hope to measure up to that blend’a Paul Bunyan, Saint Pat and Noah Webster you’ve got concocted for yourself outta your Irish imagination, your Iowa stubbornness, and your liberry fulla’ books.”
What The Music Man musical proves to me isthat love conquers all. Love conquered the ‘conman’ Harold Hill so that he ended up staying and literally facing the music. Love conquered Marian Paroo’s impossible standards so that she actually opened up her heart to a member of the opposite sex. Love can conquer all, even your and my hearts. But unless we open up our hearts, Love can never break in.
If The Music Man ever come to your area, I encourage you to not miss out on the time of your life, seventy-six trombones later.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail email@example.com . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide
July 24, 2010
While back in High School, my youngest son Andrew had a tremendous experience as Daddy Warbucks in his BCCA school’s Annie musical . He even shaved off his hair to really get into the part! The entire school rallied around the musical, resulting in a great sense of school spirit and camaraderie. Thanks to the hard work of the drama teacher Mrs. Birth and the music teacher Mrs. Gleimus, the participants blossomed and became a close-knit team. I was very impressed by the quality performance of all the youth that put their heart and soul into the production.
The 9-year-old girl who played Annie was superb. One person commented that she was as good as the original Annie! Her fellow orphans were cute, endearing, and believable, especially in the song ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life”. Another real star in the show was the orphanage director Miss Hannigan, who demonstrated a wonderful slapstick humour: “Why any kid would want to be an orphan, I’ll never understand”. And who can forget the good-natured BCCA Principal Mr. Jarvie who surprised everyone when he was wheeled in as President Roosevelt!
The Annie musical was based on Harold Gray’s “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip. Harold Gray invented Little Orphan Annie in 1924 for the Chicago Tribune. Ironically Harold Gray did not start his comic strip with a little orphan girl, but rather with a boy named Otto (Little Orphan Otto!)
The Annie musical began at the Alvin Theatre on April 21, 1977. The New York show went for 2,377 performances, making it the third longest running musical of the 1970s. In 1982, the movie version was released starring Albert Finney, Aileen Quinn, Ann Reinking, and Carol Burnett.
One of my favorite songs from the Annie Musical is ‘Tomorrow’. Going through a bitter 1930’s depression, it gave people great hope to remember that ‘The sun will come out tomorrow’. It is easy to be stuck in the past, in fear and discouragement. The ‘Annie’ musical reminds us to be future-oriented. To believe in the future gives us the courage to face each day’s challenges. “Just thinkin’ about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow.” Life can beat us down and make us want to give up. The Annie musical reminds us that “ya gotta hang on ’til tomorrow come what may”. The future can seem very mysterious and inaccessible. The Annie musical reminds us that : “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya Tomorrow! You’re always a day a way!” Visionary people believe that there is hope for their future, that life is worth the struggle, that breakthroughs will come if we don’t give up.
The Annie Musical also reminds me that all of us feel alone at times; all of us can feel like orphans. Life can sometimes feel very overwhelming. The answer for Annie’s plea was adoption by Daddy Warbucks. The answer for our pleas in the 21st Century is the Spirit of adoption. All of us long for a father who will accept us and love us as we are. Jesus said: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Jesus reveals the heart of a true, loving Father, a Father who loves us beyond measure, a Father who longs to adopt us as his very own children. God has a special place in his heart for the fatherless, the abandoned, and the rejected. All of us at some level are little Orphan Annie. All of us are waiting to be loved.
Daddy Warbucks sang to Orphan Annie: “Something was missing but dreams can come true; that something was no one but you”. Just like Daddy Warbucks, theheavenly Father is longing to adopt you and give you a new silver locket, if you will just say ‘yes’. The Father loves you beyond your wildest dreams. The Father rejoices over you, and is saying, “It’s okay to come back home. The table is set. The Adoption Party is ready to begin!” God’s family, the Church, would love to throw a party in your honour this very Sunday! See you then.