"If you want to play the Minuet in G, you have to think the Minuet in G."
Our neighborhood Hollywood Video store is closing and everything is on sale. Don and I went in to see what deals we might find. Don headed to the used Wii games and I headed for the musicals. I wondered if there might a few old musicals for sale. Even though I owned two video copies out of the three I found, the idea of having any musical on DVD with better visual quality and the ability to scene search right to the dance numbers was more than my hopes could fathom.
Although trying to respect our budget, I grabbed three films for $20. You can go ahead and chuckle or scratch your head in bemusement when I tell you the titles: "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"; "Pajama Game"; and "The Music Man." I grew up with these musicals. First, from the Broadway soundtrack LP's and then when they hit the silver screen and onto television.
I devoured these musicals over and over to get as much as I could of the music and the dancing; and in the case of The Music Man--Robert Preston. I had such a crush on that man. I was too young to realize it at the time but as I grew up, I began to understand that I found that man incredibly sexy. He was handsome, talented, he sang and danced and wooed his leading lady. And after all, I grew up wanting to be both a librarian and a musical comedy soubrette, so being Marian Paroo opposite Robert Preston was heady stuff. And ya know what? As I re-watch the movie for the umpteenth time, Mr. Preston still does it for me. Although these days, I am probably closer to Eulalie McKechnie Shinn (any relation to Donna McKechnie?) than to Marian.
So, imagine a young woman's delight when she actually got to meet Mr. Preston.
My wasband, David got cast in a television movie called September Gun that he shot in Arizona. Starring in that movie of the week were two of my idols: Patty Duke and Robert Preston. I long admired Patty Duke ( in fact, I used to get mistaken for Ms. Duke during the time of her The Patty Duke Show); and then, well, Mr. Preston was that older man than I longed to have serenade me, dance with and well, you know.
Both these theatrical icons did not disappoint. Ms. Duke was wonderful and great fun. Mr. Preston was intelligent, funny and he and his wife travelled with their golden retriever! Oh, he couldn't be any sexier.
At the wrap party, I had the privilege of dancing with the young Sean and McKenzie Astin; and even one dance with Mr. Robert Preston. Oh joy, oh rapture. The man was even sexier in person than his cinema persona ever let on.
But I digress . . .
As I watch The Music Man and sing along with all the songs and bounce to the dances, I also marvel at the fact that later as an adult actress I did a few stage plays with one of the character actresses in the film, Natalie Masters. In fact, she became a dear friend and I still have the Scrabble letter tile bag she made for me. And when I had the opportunity to be on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California, I walked those streets knowing that I was walking on the streets of River City, Iowa. I also had the privilege of working in a stage production of Juno and the Paycock with the amazing actress, Mary Wickes. You probably remember her best from the film, Sister Act. And a proud piece of memorabilia I own is an autographed LP album with a signature from Ron Howard.
Bringing us up to the present, I must make note of the fact that I was must not have been the only one influenced by this Warner Brothers classic because the television animation wunderkind, Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy often includes a musical homage in the series; including, a football parody of the musical number "Shipoopi." Peter Griffin was born, er, drawn to play Buddy Hackett.
Lest you think this is just a paean to Mr. Preston, I want to make note that unbeknownst to me, Professor Harold Hill may have been one of my first New Thought professors. Although, initially a con man, Professor Hill understood the concept of mental equivalents. He called it, The Think System. Professor Hill sold the town of River City, Iowa on buying band equipment and band uniforms for kids who couldn't play a note of music. What he taught them was that if the band just thought the music they wanted to play, that they would be able to play the music. "I think therefore I am. Or, "As ye think, so shall ye play . . ." The kids took the Professor's wisdom to heart and in true musical comedy fashion, when push came to shove, the kids managed to eke out the Minuet in G to every one's delight and make room for a grand, musical finale.
At the end when the droopy uniforms turn into crisp, red and gold band uniforms, do you think it was just cinematic magic?
"I always believe there's a band, kid."
Me, too, Professor.