A dramatic turn for the better

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, December 5, 2013

I fondly recall my two brief flirts with the stage, both musicals.

“Slattery’s Band” was written by my middle school music teacher, and I marched up and down with a tenor horn, sounding the refrain during the title song.

Four descending notes after the chorus: “Let’s join in Slattery’s Band.” Repeated about 10 times.

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It was not a significant role by any means. There were no lines, and four or five other brass instrumentalists marched alongside me wearing the same daffy costume. (Think “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” only amp up the ridiculousness a tad.)

As a reserved young chap, I recall nerves almost getting the better of me. However, I mastered them and forced myself into the glare of what seemed like a huge audience, but in fact was probably only 70 or 80 bemused parents.

The other foray, which I recall with a touch more embarrassment, involved my singing (not lip-synching, which would have eased the pain just a little) “Jukebox in Siberia” in the character of Shirley Strachan, lead singer of Australian band Skyhooks (extra points for any reader who’s heard of them).

“Kruschev, he’s there lookin’ cool, Mikhail and Brezhnev shootin’ pool,” I tried my hardest to lisp over the top of some serious feedback, which mostly drowned me out.

And then, with my three friends pretending to play guitar, drums and bass reaching a crescendo of imagined sonic fury, came the chorus: “At that jukebox in Siberia, deep in the interior; get down, get down, Vladivostok, all the Russians wanna rock….”

I don’t know whether the show’s director was under scrutiny by ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organization) as a political subversive trying to brainwash kids into thinking communism was cool, but it’s a great memory all the same.

It floats to the surface whenever I visit a Suffolk high school auditorium, during rehearsals, for a story on a drama club’s production.

These kids, I often think to myself, are creating the same kind of memories that will stick through life.

The general public can be uniquely entertained at several Suffolk school productions planned for the coming weeks and months.

King’s Fork High School’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau” opened Thursday, and continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee also planned for Saturday, while Nansemond River High School students are putting on “Alice in Wonderland” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week.

On Dec. 17 at 6 p.m., students from Oakland Elementary School will perform a play written especially for them by a Hampton Roads playwright; and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy plans to perform “little Shop of Horrors” on Feb. 20, 21 and 22.

While not all the kids will play leading roles, they all get the chance to share in the spirit of creativity and grow in confidence.