Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hidden talent in the open

You just never know the talent your neighbors have.

Last week my wife and I went to see a musical production of Oz!, sponsored by the Charity League of Lexington and held at the historic Edward C. Smith Center.

This is a 90-minute fac similie version of Frank Baum's classic story of The Wizard of Oz

I love these local productions. I usually know about half the performers in them and it's fun to see them get up on stage and reveal sides of their personalities I never knew existed. One of them, Laurie Briggs, is a neighbor. I'd often been told that she's an excellent singer, but I never heard her perform — until now.

I was blown away.

Well, OK. Maybe singing "The Castle of No Return" as the Wicked Witch isn't exactly the best vehicle to be introduced to her vocal abilities, and yet, one silly song was more than enough to convince me of the range and depth of her talent. Some day I'll have to listen to her solo in church, where I heard she absolutely soars.

Jean Beamer, as Dorothy, was exceptional. I don't believe that I've ever met Jean, but I was in awe of her voice. She was suddenly thrown into the role of Dorothy when the lead actress, Kelly Greathouse, needed an emergency appendectomy. After a 24-hour reprieve to learn her lines, Jean — who was originally supposed to play one of the Guardian of the Gates — stepped up and, ho hum, casually hit a grand slam. Amazing.

On Saturday, we attended a funeral and saw that the soloist was Mickey Sharpe. I believe I heard him sing once before, and thinking then that he was excellent, but I didn't know who he was. This time, I knew of him, and waited eagerly for his songs. I was truly moved by his full, rich baritone as he sang "In the Garden" and "The Lord's Prayer."

I wish I had some YouTube video to show you.

I am in awe of talent, particularly musical talent. This is because I couldn't carry a tune if it was strapped in a knapsack on my back. I love music and can't do anything about it well except listen to it. When I sing my cats run and hide. I can't even play an instrument. My folks tried to force piano lessons on me back in my elementary school days, but it didn't take. I wanted to flip baseball cards instead. Somehow, I ended up as a sportswriter who sings way off key. I have total command of one note. Think Alfalfa on Little Rascals.

I'm so bad that when we sing "Happy Birthday" to our friends, I mouth the words. It's the only considerate thing to do, especially on somebody's birthday.

I've always been baffled by the fickle difference that makes some people megastars bringing down a bazillion dollars a year in recording deals while others end up singing "A Little Bit O' Courage" in local community theater productions. Why is Taylor Swift on tour while Laurie Briggs is taking care of four young children?

But you know, the more I think about it, the more I say Thank God for the difference after all. Without the Laurie Briggs's of the world, I'd be the one on stage singing "I Ain't Got a Brain in My Head."

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