Last night I attended one of the most horrible events known to man: The High School Musical. High School musicals are worse than High School plays because you are forced to experience bad singing in addition to the usual bad acting, cardboard sets and lame costumes. The only positive aspect of the event last night was the fact that the musical accompaniment was provided by an accomplished pianist, not by High School musicians.
Typically, when I am forced to watch a High School musical, I watch carefully for what I call Hilarious Errors. These often occur in amateur productions, and provide me with some relief from the relentless barrage of enthusiastic incompetence that characterizes those productions. I would like to make it clear that not all High School Arts students suck. Occasionally, there is one standout performance that indicates a bright future in Hollywood or New York. But most of them really, really suck.
The richest source of Hilarious Errors is dance recitals. My heart literally races at the possibility of a high-speed collision or a tumble into the orchestra pit. But usually, the mistakes are simpler and not life-threatening. In one memorable recital, a boy and a girl were performing a pas de deux. The boy played the role of a balloon salesman (with a large bunch of helium-filled balloons). The plan was that he would offer a balloon to the girl, who would then dance a solo with the balloon, and then she would be joined by the boy, and they would dance together. But whoever bought the balloons went to a party store, and the balloons had long curly ribbons attached instead of straight strings. The curly ribbons tangled, and the boy was unable to separate one balloon from the bunch. The boy and girl looked at each other desperately as the music swelled for her solo, and they both let go of the balloons simultaneously, which flew up into the lights and disappeared. The girl began her dance without the balloon, while the boy stood miserably on the apron of the stage, pretending to hold a bunch of balloons. It was a priceless moment, more than compensating me for enduring the rest of the show.
Musicals are the next best source of Hilarious Errors. My favorite personal moment was during a High School performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which the starving Caananites are given food by Joseph. In this production, the food was represented cleverly by brown paper shopping bags. These were empty bags, stuffed with wadded-up newspaper, with a few items tucked into the top so they would look as though they were full of groceries. The joyous Caananites ran to the front of the stage, placed the bags by the footlights, and lined up for their song-and-dance number. As the orchestra (composed of High School musicians) went into its opening arpeggio, I noticed one of the bags leaning. It slowly tipped over and dumped the contents into the orchestra pit, right onto the head of the pianist. Once again, I went home happy.
Last night, there were no Hilarious Errors. A couple of forgotten lines, but not the panicky seizure that sometimes accompanies this problem. Instead, it was just a seemingly endless nightmare of poor diction, off-key singing and wooden staging.
I know this makes me sound cynical and unsympathetic. After all, everybody has to get their start somewhere. And I actually don't mind watching a talented young performer developing their raw talent. What I mind is watching all the starry-eyed losers who have no native ability parading across the stage, laboring under the delusion that I am enjoying myself. And of course, I'm obligated to applaud, because I'm surrounded by close personal friends and blood relatives of the performers, who are applauding enthusiastically while watching to make sure that everyone supports their little darling. Some of them might be armed.