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The thespian stumbles, well on his way to being COMPLETELY EFFING CRAZY!
We join the fun, as:
> KEVIN GOES AROUND THE WORLD… IN 80 MINUTES!
. Twice a year, Lanark Park mounted an elaborate theatrical showcase to exhibit the talents of all the kids enrolled in their various classes. In spring of 1970, Francis, the park administrator, called me into her office and sat me down. Appealing to my vanity, she asked me to be a “special guest” in her spring extravaganza, an overblown corruption of the familiar Jules Verne classic, which she paraphrased: Around the World in Eighty Minutes. Although the cast was almost entirely youngsters, she needed an older actor to play a small cameo role. Flattered, I agreed to be cast as the King of Siam. How simple could it be? Apparently all Francis wanted me to do was march onstage and directly plagiarize Yul Brenner’s performance in The King and I. I could do that. That sounded like fun.
. The play was a one-shot-wonder, to be presented outdoors in the round, as part of a larger spring festival. A mock hot-air balloon provided the centerpiece around which all the action took place. Each of the various classes had some contribution to make: crafts classes made the balloon and setpieces, art classes made the posters, flyers and programs, sewing classes made the costumes, children’s drama classes had the speaking roles, and scores of kids from various dance classes played the assorted ethnic peoples of the world. Each time the balloon would ‘land’ in a new country, another nationality danced-through in colorful native garb, welcoming our intrepid heroes. Being in a dance class at the time, my younger sister Kelly was in the play too. Dressed in a grass-skirt, neck draped with a flower lei, Kelly’s class performed a traditional hula-dance in the Hawaiian number.
. Since I was a V.I.P. my presence was only required at the final tech run-through. While watching and waiting for my cue, it quickly became painfully apparent that at eighty minutes the show was about seventy-nine minutes too long. The awful thing just went on and on and on like a bad dream that wouldn’t end. One group of shabbily clad, no-talent brats paraded around the stage after another, ineptly fumbling through their paces in the sweltering spring sunshine. Insects kept buzzing my ears and a fly kept trying to land on my eyelid. Fortunately, I made my appearance fairly early in the play, shouted out a few top volume “etcetera- etcetera’s”, and left the stage, the better to make good my timely escape.
. Our performance took place the following day. The park was just as hot and insecty, and there were tons of people there, enjoying the various attractions and exhibits. The audience for the play was about three times what I had expected- a much bigger crowd than I had ever played to anywhere! This was a bit intimidating, and I had a brief anxiety-attack about blowing-it, considering what happened the last time I stepped foot on stage- and after a single stop-and-go rehearsal! The large assembly of family and friends pressed into a tight circle surrounding the stage, and the play got underway.
. I watched from a distance, as the usual miracle transformed yesterday’s mess into today’s show. I’ve seen it so often: from out of nowhere, some intangible brand of magic descends on a production between an awful dress rehearsal and the opening curtain. Still remarkably bland, at least Around the World in 80 Minutes was not the grotesque turkey I had forecast. When the balloon reached Siam, I made my bombastic entrance through the audience, playing each “etcetera!” for all it was worth, getting a big ovation as I exited. After my walk-on, I slipped away and out of costume, discreetly joining the back ranks of the audience.
. It was a long, hot wait, but finally the balloon ‘arrived’ in Hawaii, greeted by the curious, topless young native girls, their flower garlands serving modesty, and the luau began. It was a sight to behold: a chaotic group of freckle-faced kids, all hula dancing like mad- each to their own agenda, without any regard for the movements of the others. I smiled broadly, the proud brother watching his sister’s first public performance. Things started out fine, but halfway through the dance, in mid-gyration, Kelly’s lei began to shift. Intrepid performer, she danced on. Then, it shifted some more. Every movement made it more precarious until the garland just kind of came apart, slipping down at an angle to her waist. Noticeably more premature in her development than the others, Kelly was the only kid in her group who had any breasts to expose, but exposed one was, for a dreadful few moments, as she struggled to cover up without missing a beat of the south-sea dance. Finally, the number came to an end and her face beet-red, Kelly hulaed off stage with the rest of her class.
. I was mortified for my little sister. Poor Kelly! What a disaster. But what a trooper she had been! She didn’t seem to let it get her down. She handled it like a pro and afterwards, she was all beaming smiles, justifiably proud of her accomplishment…
How I became the world’s only Jewish Turkish knight!
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