I love musicals. Especially when kids are in the cast.
Weekend before last I went to see my friends’ nine year old son perform in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Dallas Theatre Center.
You should be nice to kids in the cast. You never know where they’ll end up.
One summer when I was in college I was in the chorus of Annie, Get Your Gun at our community theatre. It was a production for kids mostly, but they used college students to play the adult roles.
There was this one kid I couldn’t forget.
Richie was just 12 and had more enthusiasm than all the rest of us put together. And one night he proved he had the makings of a real actor.
An actor who stays in character, no matter what.
We had this one scene where all the chorus members dressed up as Native Americans for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. We all sat cross-legged in a circle on the stage while the main characters sang “I’m An Indian, Too.”
Throughout the whole number we had to just sit there, holding our folded arms out in front of us.
One night while we were singing back up for the leads, I watched Richie’s eyes get bigger as they followed a spider crawling up his moccasin and onto his pant leg.
A large hairy spider.
He never flinched. He never budged as that spider kept crawling up his leg.
I watched the spider for the rest of the song, but to be honest, I was watching for purely self-centered reasons. If the spider had been crawling up my leg, I wouldn’t have been sitting there in the circle calmly. At any minute I expected Richie to get up and do a little dance all by himself and I didn’t want the spider landing on me.
But Richie never moved. He whimpered a time or two, and once he glanced at me as if to say, “don’t just sit there, help me!”
We made it through the scene and when we got backstage, he did do a little dance.
Richie Affanato became known as Spiderman long before the movie or the musical.
I wish I could’ve seen Rich years later when he made his Broadway debut as Marius in Les Miserables.
This past year he was nominated for his first Tony award for Peter and the Starcatcher.
But he really deserves a Tony for letting that spider crawl up his leg.