Big River, Big Fun

I haven’t played for a musical theatre production in awhile -so I was delighted when my friend Edd Key asked if I could sub for Big River, playing at Taproot Theatre Company. I worked there back in the day – and while we weren’t a great match for a long term job (I was looking for a nonprofit tech job and found one!) –  I’m a big fan of their stage work!

In any case – Big River is the Huck Finn story set to music – great music, in my opinion – and I ought to know: I must have listened to the CD 20 or 30 times, played each tune that many times, and then, last week – played the show 5 times!

And here’s the best part. The cast didn’t know me from Adam. Neither did the band. And yet, on day one – I was treated with respect, good humor, kindness and more.  And when I made mistakes (a lot, especially on Wednesday and Thursday!) they tried to help me fix them.

I’d forgotten (at least a little) how instant a community forms around a common purpose -and how I’ve missed that. I’m not playing at church these days – and while I still have rich communities (here at home, at work, running, swimming, music and so on) there is something compelling about a musical theatre community that tugs at me in a deep way.

I remember playing for a production of ‘Godspell’ back in the day, and how rich it was to fall into the easy rhythm of show prep, show, post show. We laughed a LOT. No one cared about work, culture, religion. The emphasis was on showing up and doing your very best work. And then celebrating – before, during and after!

At the last show, they guy that was playing Jesus (also a friend of mine) was leaving post show for Virginia. So, during a good bye scene – he headed my way, and I cried like a newborn: It was my friend saying goodbye, it was the end of the show, it was the character Jesus headed off for a crucifixion = and it was powerful.

And that’s as it should be. Post show at Big River, we headed out for a pint, and we laughed. And the cast sang, and danced, and laughed some more. And, despite being new, despite making a lot of mistakes – I was in. Not just "we’ll tolerate you", but really in. I left that night with the sense that I could call any or all of them for help and they would.

That’s pretty good. As a matter of fact – I’d say that was a great return on my sweat equity. I’d learned guitar, bass, banjo for the show -and – every second was worth it.


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