It had been much too long since we visited Mary Ellen and Brian’s family in central
. When I heard that Brianna had the lead in
their school’s musical, I knew I had to be there. This news was extraordinary because Brianna
had never sung in public before. Yes, we
knew she was musical since she played first chair clarinet and participated in
the state band, but even though both her parents were singers, Bri had never
expressed an interest in being a vocalist. Nothing like starting at the top! We drove up Friday afternoon and went straight to the school. Illinois
Lincolnwood Junior and Senior High School at Raymond (just a little south of
have an outstanding auditorium for a school its size, but there has not been a
long tradition of theater there. Mrs.
Weatherford came six years ago, if I understood correctly what she said when
she honored Patrick Crawford for six years’ participation in drama under her
direction. Brianna came to Lincolnwood
as a freshman; and although she participated in the chorus or in small parts
each year, she had never aspired to a lead role. She doubted that she could act, but she
definitely can. (I have always noted that shy students are often extremely effective
on stage. Shy is not a completely
accurate way to describe our Brianna because in so many ways she is self
assured and deservedly quite confident. Yet she is often quiet, never pushy,
nor does she have to be in the lime light.) Springfield
Despite the lack of a good sound system or sets for quick scene changes, Mrs. Weatherford has managed to gradually increase the difficulty of the annual musical each spring,. This year’s presentation of Guys and Dolls, based on Damon Runyon’s story and characters, was the most challenging school production in her career there, and the results were most impressive. The amount of talent for a school that size was evidence of her hard work and the training she has provided the kids.
Brianna seemed a natural Sarah Brown, and the twinkle in Patrick Crawford’s eye made him an excellent Sky Masterson. Tanner Butler was quite believable as Nathan Detroit, and Alicia Benning as Miss Adelaide was as believable as anyone could be to have put up with a fourteen year engagement. Her smile was adorable, and I enjoyed the beautiful smiles of all the Hot Box girls. They had obviously been well coached.
Despite the dinner Brian treated us to after the show, I had to have a muffin when we reached their country home and Trent greeted us with hugs and hot homemade muffins.
Gerald broke his record by going to both nights performances. He knew I would want to see both nights as I always try to do when we visit the
shows. I explained to him that each performance is
different, and it was just like wanting to see both games in a double header or
all three games in a weekend series. I
still expected him to stay at home the second night, but he was right there to
applaud with the rest of us. Getting to
meet two of Mary Ellen’s friends I’d heard her talk about was a special treat
for me. Freeport
Jeannie had driven down from
Freeport with Cecelie and they’d stopped by to pick up Elijah for the Saturday
performance. So Brianna had a couple of
cousins in addition to her brother Trent and her friends there that night. When she got home from the cast party, I am
sure the younger generation had another party downstairs. I don’t know what time she got home because
after we all visited and feasted on Mary Ellen’s buffet, Gerald and I headed to
bed. But since Jeannie had told her two
that they would need to be back on the road at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Cecelie was
concerned because she heard Bri tell her mom she’d be home by 3:30. Mary Ellen had to explain to us that was a
standing joke between them, but Bri would be home at a decent hour. Illinois State
Brian reminisced throughout the performances because his high school had also done Guys and Dolls. He had been Nicely Nicely Johnson and his sister Vicky had been Miss Adelaide. Watching his pleasure at those memories reinforced what I have always known: Theater participation provides students with invaluable group bonding and gives them perks that last a lifetime.
We slept late Sunday morning and had a leisurely breakfast and then visited more before we headed into Raymond again to worship together. It felt good to pray with others for the victims of the
bombers. After church, we drove to Litchfield
to the same restaurant where we’d had dinner after the Friday performance. We lingered as long as we could before we had
to be back on the highway to head home to Boston Southern
Baby green leaves on the trees lining the roads were accented with the white and purplish pink blooms of the occasional dogwood or redwood. Despite the chilly winds, it was a beautiful day. Gerald was driving, and I was relaxed. My lunch soon demanded a siesta that no amount of trying could postpone. When I awoke, we were almost home. It was good to have been away. It was also good to be home.