The above is a photo of a program from a high school musical performed at my alma mater of Ravenswood
Penitentiary High School in 1976, courtesy of my Facebook pal and high school chum Pami…and the significance of that production was that it served as the the-a-tah debut of your humble narrator, who was only in seventh grade at the time. Do we have a picture of this? Yes, we do…get a gander at the nerd in the top right corner (you might have to click to embiggen):
Nyaaahhh!!! Talk about a geek! (I am proud to admit, by the way, that I was voted in my high school yearbook “Most Likely to Be Pantsed During Gym Class.”) Old-time radio and classic TV fans are familiar with the source material of this play as the long-running sitcom starring Eve Arden as America’s favorite schoolteacher—but apart from the character of Connie Brooks there’s very little in the actual stage musical that resembles OMB. Connie’s object of affection in the stage version is a high school coach named “Hugo”, and the benevolent dictator in charge of the high school answers to “Mr. Wordsworth,” not “Osgood Conklin.”
I got the part in this play because my music teacher, Joyce Good (Pitchford), suggested I try out—I used to get extra credit points in her class by being my natural hambone self and she encouraged me to channel that energy into good and not evil. I think I may have been the only one in the cast who was familiar with the radio/TV show (well, I had heard a few of the radio broadcasts—my exposure to the video version would come later) and all I really did in the play was imitate Gale Gordon. In recognition of my talent for mimicry, I won the “Best Actor” trophy handed out yearly by the high school theatre department…and according to its director, the wonderful Lonnie Brewster; it was the first time he had given the award to an underclassman (seventh grader).
Anyway, I thought you might get a kick out of seeing what a doofus I was in high school (yes, I know that a good many of you are stunned by this revelation). And incidentally, the title of this post is not one of my typically terrible puns—that’s the actual song I got to sing in this thing. Sometime back, another Facebook friend (and the man who encouraged my early writing efforts), Forrest Poston, told me he still had his cassette copy of the play…complete with my vocals. (I pray this does not fall into the wrong hands.) In fact, I remember seeing Forrest backstage during one of the play’s performances (he was there to review it for the school paper) and he was telling me that I was “layin’ them in the aisles.”
“How’d my song go over?” I asked him. After the longest pregnant pause in the history of the theater, he continued: “Yes sirree, boy…layin’ them in the aisles…”