When my brother and I were in high school, he was in some boring Shakespeare play that I got dragged to see. It was fun hearing him talk about the cast party, though. Larry Zeiger, a Point Loma High School English teacher, runs the school's Gotta Sing Gotta Dance productions. Zeiger told me I'd have fun at one of their shows. He and I had talked about movies at a previous party, so I figured I would trust his taste.
The night I attended, police cars and a fire engine blocked off a street near Point Loma High. There had been a bomb threat. At the school, I overheard a few students talking about somebody who got hurt on a golf cart that rolled over. I hoped nothing would go wrong during the night's show.
In the theater, two mothers nearby were joking around. One was telling the other that her son looked cute in a skirt. Her son, James Albrecht, was playing Hercules. "I didn't have a daughter, but I got to make my son a skirt. I'm so thrilled."
As I looked at the program for the evening's performance, The Princess of Princeton -- A Fairly True Fairy Tale, Zeiger walked by. He told me that this is the only student company in the United States doing productions like this. The students don't just act, sing, and design and build the props, they also write the shows. They form writing groups, research current events -- politics, pop culture -- and, in this case, fairy tales, and combine these elements into scripts. Along with the usual fairy-tale characters, we got CNN commentators, SpongeBob, and Howard Stern to liven things up.
I met some Point Loma High alumni at the show that night. Shawn Loescher, who played saxophone in The Princess of Princeton, takes three weeks off each year to help stage these productions. I asked him if he was going to the cast party afterwards. "I can't. I'm writing a requiem for a friend who died. I have a deadline on that. Wait, that was the wrong choice of words."
Steve Silva, who was in Zeiger's first show here in 1977, told me, "The only difference is the production has gotten much better over the years since I was in it. Mr. Zeiger brings so much happiness to so many people. I still remember the play, and it was 28 years ago. I'm sure all these kids will remember this for the rest of their lives. There aren't many people who have such a positive influence on their communities and the lives of so many young people. We've been lucky to have him."
My contribution was buying a few cupcakes and cookies out front. I scarfed 'em down right before the play started and noticed I had crumbs all over my shirt as I sat down. Luckily, during the play, confetti and fake snow were thrown on the audience, so the crumbs blended in.
Early in the play, an African-American kid was adopted, and a woman said, "I'm a red-state mother." I realized then that there might be some controversial stuff in the show. Later, another kid said, "All I have to do is get all C's, and I could be the next President of the United States." The songs in the show were a great mix of originals, oldies, and a few from other musicals, like "A Stud and a Babe." It was a duet sung by Casey Gardner and Stasia Conger. The song had great lyrics that were a bit risqué. When I met Conger's parents after the show (and saw in the program that she would be attending Christian Heritage College, studying theology), I asked them if they were bothered by any of the lines in the song (one line has her lamenting that her breasts aren't round enough). Her dad said, "It's theater, and we know that. We know where her heart is." Her mom said, "She did say 'Dad, you aren't going to like some of the words in this'." Her dad handed me a ten-song CD that she recorded. The vocals sounded like a lot of the contemporary female singers you hear, but I liked the fact that it was guitar pop, not hip-hop.
The program indicated that three other cast members had also produced their own CDs.
There was lively singing and dancing to the songs "Steppin' Out With My Baby," "Silhouettes," "Dream Lover," and "Ladies Night," which the crowd really got into.
There was one scene where the seven dwarves rap, and the students wrote their own lyrics. Cinderella raps: "Give this party a chance/It got me excited when Prince shot me a glance/But when I lost my slipper/He was after my pants!"
A Jewish dwarf (Eli Elbogen, who also played SpongeBob), complete in yarmulke and beard, sang: "My shvants was shnipped/I read the Torah/I hold the Shamus/And light the Menorah."
The crowd roared with laughter as the song continued with a "metrosexual dwarf" rapping: "Hey sweeties, what's up?/I'm the metro one/I go down to Hillcrest when I want some fun."
One dwarf rapped about wearing glasses, "but if you ask for my lunch money/I'll kick your asses."
Kory Davis played the wicked dean of Princeton, who believes in segregation of students based on types. She used facial expressions and cracked a whip for emphasis. Davis had a great singing voice, belting out "Whatever Lola Wants," from Damn Yankees.
There was a scene where Jack and Jill were supposed to kill Snow White but they didn't. The girls ended up singing "Hit the Road, Jack" to him.
I was surprised how often I laughed, seeing Martha Stewart and Howard Stern in jail, and Pinocchio trying to kiss a girl while she complained about him poking her eye out or getting splinters in her face.
The play ended with the big-band classic "Sing, Sing, Sing," which was accompanied by a dance routine. One girl fell down, and another girl almost fell when a guy was twirling her around, but it was an entertaining close to the show.
After the show, a few students got up and talked about Larry Zeiger and how they'll never forget him. They sang a version of "Dust in the Wind" (similar to the way it was done in Old School during the funeral scene). The crowd was laughing and many held up cell phones that were turned on, the way people hold up lighters at a rock concert.
The cast party was at Old Venice Restaurant in Point Loma. It was a mix of students, parents, and alumni. Zeiger said, "Usually it's just alumni and parents here. The kids go and have their own party somewhere else." One of the kids did confide in me that they were going to leave this party early for a bonfire on the beach.
Most of the kids were sitting at their own tables. I enjoyed listening to the parents talk about what colleges their kids were going to attend. One explained that she took her daughter to several universities and said, "I found out you should never take them to look at a campus if they are hungry. Then all they want to do is leave and get something to eat. If you eat first and they aren't tired, then they don't mind looking around the campus."
There were a few football players in the show. One of them, Hal Roca, was very polite. He thanked me for coming. I told Zeiger that I thought it was nice of Roca to say. Zeiger said, "Football season ends in December, and I usually get a few football players who want to learn to sing and dance and act. Who would have known?"
I would've told Roca that I liked his rapping dwarf, but I forgot which one he played. I only remembered him in a dress, speaking with an Asian accent that had the crowd in stitches.
There was a wrestler named Tyler Vess who played one of the pirates as well as one of the five guys named Moe. He looked like a young Brad Pitt, and he told me he wanted a career in acting.
I left the party wishing I had been in a play in high school. Then I thought that between basketball practice and writing for the school newspaper, I probably didn't have the time.
There was also the little problem of me being unable to sing or dance.
Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.