I had something special happen to me a week or so ago.
First, let's rewind to the 90's for a second...
When I was in high school, I got to play the role of Laurey in our school's production of "Oklahoma!"
You can pretend this is me:
It was my first "favorite" role in a musical that I've gotten to do.
I watched Shirley Jones's portrayal of Laurey in the 1955 film over and over as I got ready to play the part. I didn't have any acting training when I was young, so she was my "teacher" -- my ideal for stage dialogue, singing and expression.
That was when I was a junior, in 1998. Shirley came to Mason City to perform at the Surf and serve as Grand Marshal in the Band Festival parade the next summer. I wanted SO badly to meet her...I went to the concert and was the only adoring fan under the age of 70, and watched her from afar at the Band Festival coronation. No chance to get close, though. She was too busy and too surrounded by "official" people.
Now, let's fast forward to adult life. I've been in a few more shows since "Oklahoma!" and I've earned a degree in vocal music. Shirley Jones's voice, to me, is one of those perfect voices that has made a lasting impression and I truly believe her voice helped shape the way I sing.
When I started teaching music in Mason City, I became well-acquainted with The Music Man and its glorious legacy. I got to accompany Harding's fourth grade students to the Meredith Willson house and Music Man Square each spring, and led the kids through a short Music Man singing unit at the end of the school year. I owned a VHS copy of the film and practically wore it out...falling in love with Shirley Jones's Marian the Librarian.
I was employed at Stebens when they performed The Music Man, Jr. and was delighted to teach the wonderful music to the kids in the cast. I felt like I was becoming a small part of a woven fabric of sorts...a special fabric that preserves the show and keeps the people of Mason City enthused about this amazing piece of history.
Recently, Mason City had a production of The Music Man in concert. Shirley Jones was the host, and played the part of Mrs. Paroo. Her (dreamy) son Patrick Cassidy played Harold Hill. I had several friends and former students in the chorus, but hadn't made plans to see the show. At the last minute I decided it was rather stupid that I wasn't going. I even bugged my friends Sarah and Molly, who were in the show, to see if I could get backstage at some point to meet Shirley!
I went to the concert alone, which is definitely not a normal occurrence with my husband and fellow theatre-lover. I treated it as a self-date and rather enjoyed myself.
Did you know that NIACC serves red wine in COFFEE CUPS before the show?! HA!!!
I drank my secret merlot and perused the concert program. I noticed the ad for Darlene Love's concert and the fundraiser for which Betty and the Gents is playing for...
and thoroughly, completely enjoyed the wonderful concert. It was fantastic and I cried through most of it. It was a collection of historical Music Man facts, photos, songs from the show, and bits of the dialogue. It was a perfectly designed memoir. I was so proud of everyone onstage and wanted to give each person involved a big bear hug.
After the show I visited with Sarah and started to tear up when I realized I would probably never meet Shirley Jones, one of my all-time heroes. Sarah quickly said, "let's just walk backstage and see." I am thankful for my friend, because
I GOT TO MEET SHIRLEY JONES.
She was a delight...absolutely friendly and kind! We talked so briefly, but I will never forget it. I shared that I was a music teacher. I thanked her for her singing. I told her I'd been Laurey and that I have dreams of Marian, someday. She told me I was beautiful. (WHAT?!?!)
I even got to shake Patrick Cassidy's hand and chat with him for a bit, and he asked me for advice on keeping his throat healthy after a bout of laryngitis. LOL!!! I told him to hydrate, rest and steam. As if he really needed to know those things. I think he was just being super-kind, just like his mother.
When I posted the photo of Shirley and me on Facebook, my dear friend Michelle told me "Now you just have to meet Julie Andrews."
YES! So, let's get on this, Mason City. Julie Andrews. All my heroes need to be checked off on my bucket list.
And after you bring Julie Andrews to town, you may bring Justin Timberlake.