IN THE SPOTLIGHT: History + Musical Theatre = So blessed

In August 1970, one month before my sixth birthday, my family traveled to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Delaware for our vacation, and we spent four days in New York City where I saw my first Broadway musical, 1776 starring William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Betty Buckley, and Ken Howard as the opening cast in 1969.

By the time we saw the show some sixteen months after its opening, we were blessed with Broadway performers such as David Cryer as Jefferson, Arthur Anderson as Rev. John Witherspoon, Ellen Hanley as Abigail Adams, John Cunningham as John Adams, and George Hearn as Dickinson.

It would be many years before I was a true fan of musical theatre as it seemed so ridiculous for everyone to break into simultaneous song and dance. Even when I began working with famed director and producer, Joshua Logan, I was still somewhat apprehensive about fully delving into the world of musical theatre. I was very much a band guy. The story of 1776, however, and the names of historic figures with whom I was already acquainted, began tugging me into port.

Mother shared three things with me from the experience of my first Broadway show: (1) my father leaned over to my mother during John Adams’ initial tirade, “Piddle, Piddle” to whisper, “Why do I feel like we’re watching our son up on the stage?” (2) I literally sat on the edge of my seat, never once sitting back. (3) I was remarkably silent and absorbed in thought the remainder of the evening. Mother said she and my father asked, several times, the remainder of the evening if I was feeling well.

I watch 1776 on television or video every July 4th. It’s a religious tradition. I am historically, culturally, and patriotically inspired.

Yesterday, Thursday, 27 January 2022, I was that five-year-old boy, again. I saw HAMILTON on stage for the first time.

Life-changing? Not really. But, I was definitely moved into a marvelous expedition of extraordinary entertainment, utmost euphoria, modest blessedness, and surprising reverence.

I knew the music, thoroughly, and had watched the musical on Disney+ the moment it opened in the wee hours in July 2020, but getting to see the blocking, choreography, complete movement, and lighting all in one setting was unprecedented experience. Twenty-four hours later, I am still feeling beyond this world.

1776 in 1970, and HAMILTON, fifty-two years later…

Thank you, Diana (Jolliff) Haas and Danny Jolliff for always introducing me to that broader world, so many phenomenal experiences at a young age, and the encouragement, even insistence to investigate my interests.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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