Last night I paid $10 to sit in a cramped seat and be entertained for a couple of hours. Did I got to a movie? No. I went to a high school musical. The musical was "Footloose" which, as many of you know is the stage adaptation of the wonderful 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon.
I'd never seen the musical version of this story, but my daughter, who worked behind the scenes in props and stage crew, assured me it was wonderful.
And it was.
No, the acting wasn't professional, and yes, the music drowned out some of the singing, as it always seems to do in live performances. And a couple of times someone forgot a line or missed a step.
Across town, a number of new movies were opening this Friday, movies that, for $10, I could have sat down and watched and either liked or disliked. As someone who loves movies, and wishes to one day be a movie critic, that would have been a good choice for my Friday night.
But I believe I far more enjoyed the school musical, and here's why:
Actors in school musicals tend to work really, really hard for their parts. They are so very earnest in doing it right. Sometimes that translates into stiffness on stage, but so what? Everyone watching knows that most of these kids are balancing practice with classes, other activities, and jobs. The amount of effort it takes to be involved in a school play is tremendous...and there are no understudies to back you up if you're sick and no teamsters to drive you places and no food table at every rehearsal. Some mom might kick in to pick up pizza if a practice runs late.
Everything in a school play is done by the students from the staging to the music to make up and props. The final scene of "Footloose" where everyone in wearing formal gear (I hope that's not a spoiler...seriously, the movie came out in 1984...if you don't know how it ends, you should probably fill in the gaps in your movie watching right now.) many of the dresses clearly came from the closets of the actress's moms who held on to their 1980's era promo dresses because "You never know if you're going to need it."
And let's not forget the director, a teacher, and the music director, also a teacher, who didn't get paid one extra cent to stay at school late into the night to rehearse for the past how many weeks.
Oh sure, there were no CGI effects, the sound was at times dreadful, and face it, certain members of the football team were recruited for this play mostly because they could lift a girl over their heads and not because they could dance. And no, there wasn't a ton of chemistry between the leads, but come on...they're kids. How much sexual tension do you really want to see on stage between classmates?
These are kids who aren't getting paid millions to show up for filming. These are kids who have to overcome a lot of shyness and insecurity just to get dressed in the morning, and there they are, on stage, singing, and dancing, and saying lines in front of parents, teachers, and adults they don't know. And they are doing it well.
What I'm saying it that I feel my $10 was brilliantly spent last night. Had I gone to a movie for the same price, I probably would not have felt the same way. After the play, I got to shake hands with the entire cast and much of the crew. You never get that at the movies.
So friends, if you've got $10 and you want to be entertained...check out what your local high school are doing on stage before you hit the cineplex. Face it, it's a crapshoot either way, and if you go to a high school play, you'll at least get to cheer and clap for the hard work the kids put into it. And who knows? You might be, as I was last night, really surprised at just how much talent high school kids have.
Doubtful you'll even cheer at the movies.
PS. If you are in the Waukesha, WI area tonight (may 5) Waukesha North High school is putting on Footloose at 7 tonight and tomorrow (May 6) at 2. IT's a lot of fun. Come on and support some great kids doing a really good musical.