The Parent Trap: The villager is a star

The old saying goes that there are no small parts, only small actors. I believe that, and have tried to impress that feeling in my daughter as she enters into a foreign world – her first school musical.

I have experience in this world, having performed in three school plays during my time at Archbishop Ryan High School for Boys (this was before the co-ed revolution). I performed in two plays at Ryan and one at Nazareth Academy. Hey, all-girls schools have to get their talent from somewhere, right?  

Later in my life, I performed in community theater and starred in a few student films. My wife has even more impressive credentials in school plays, community theater and as a professional singer.

So when one of our children decided that she wanted to try out for the school play Beauty and the Beast Jr., we were very excited. But we went into the situation with our eyes open. Often, the lead actors in such productions have advantages such as good singing voices. As hard as she tries and as much as she enjoys it, she is not going to be the top singer in the pack.

Even though she didn’t realize it, we expected her to land into the chorus. But she was still holding on to hope that she was going to wow the director and be awarded the plum part of Belle. The day that she came home with her script was very exciting, until she asked me what her part was. “Am I Belle?” she asked excitedly. I had to tell her the truth – what she really would be in her stage debut.

“Villager” the memo read. One of many. She was a member of the chorus.

She was disappointed, but I quickly told her that there was nothing to be sad about. In a musical, the chorus has the most fun. There are so many advantages. You have fewer lines to memorize. You get to sing your heart out with a lot of people. And the friends you make can often become friends for life.

But as a member of the chorus, you can’t just stand around and stare at the ceiling, waiting for your cue to sing. You have to be aware of what’s going on, and react to what the lead actors are saying. I was worried that my little girl would wander around, perhaps leaning over to ask the director, “Do I sing now?”

But her first rehearsal left me pleasantly surprised. I received a text from my wife, who was watching this past Saturday morning. “She’s acting!” the text read. “It’s in the genes!”

There will be four performances of the school musical. We’ll go to as many as we can, at least one of them with my parents. I worried about our girl waving from the stage, but no longer. She knows the score. She understands what’s going on.  She might not have any lines and she might not be the best singer on stage, but my Villager is going to be a star.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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