Kitchen Musical Theater by
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Prompted By Theater

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Growing up, my mother and I shared a love of musical theater. Despite the fact that we also shared a voice capable of carrying a tune and not much more (think alto in my high school choir), we belted out tunes from The King and I, South Pacific, Damn Yankees, Oklahoma, Carousel, Gigi, Peter Pan, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and many more classic musicals while we cleared, washed, and dried the dishes.

I guess I ended up with the wrong set of genes for my theatrical fantasies, but I’m really enjoying watching my granddaughter perform.

In retrospect, this was a pretty clever way on her part to get me to help her with this boring task in our home that lacked a dishwasher. By the time I started high school, however, I had figured out that kitchen musical theater was a trap. I longed for the real thing. Unfortunately, after trying out for a few plays and musicals, I realized that I would never be cast in more than the chorus or crowd. The one possible exception was being selected to sing to Honey Bun with a friend in a talent show, complete with Mary Martin’s costume but sorely lacking her talent. I still loved musical theater and plays, but realized my talents were more suited to backstage work.

One of my daughters and one of her daughters are actually good performers. My daughter has a lovely singing voice and can dance well enough to be cast in local summer theater productions. Her daughter is an amazing ballet dancer. Both of them benefitted from lessons, which my parents never believed were necessary, but the truth is that the performance gene skipped my generation.

My maternal grandmother’s lineage contained Klezmer performers. On my father’s side, everyone was tone deaf. My mother branded my father a terrible dancer, while she was pretty good. I guess I ended up with the wrong set of genes for my theatrical fantasies, but I’m really enjoying watching my granddaughter perform.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I love that you and your mother sang show tunes while you washed the dishes, Laurie. My mother sang those songs to me in the bathtub, so I sang them (as a young child) on my swing set, very early in the morning, to call my neighbor/best friend out to play. I usually wound up in the chorus of the musicals too.

    This is not the first photo you’ve shared of your lovely and talented granddaughter, but a remarkable one. She is a wonder! Please share lots of photos!

  2. Suzy says:

    Laurie, I have to object to your parenthetical diss of altos in choirs. Although I was a soprano in my high school choir, I switched to alto in college and actually found those harmonizing parts much more fun (and more challenging) than singing the melody.

    I do love the image of you and your mother belting out show tunes while doing the dishes. I sang a lot with my mother too, and learned the words to all the songs in Broadway shows of the ’50s and early ’60s, including the ones you mention. Amazingly, I can still remember them now, even if I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night. Music is powerful that way.

  3. Wow Laurie, my folks had that South Pacific original cast album! And what a lovely shot of your granddaughter, brava!

    I missed the singing gene but I did have a short run in college theater, and now love nothing more than being in the audience for that anticipatory hush before the curtain goes up!

  4. What a thrilling photo of your granddaughter! Wow!
    Kudos to your mother for daring to fool around and sing (and get you to sing and help out) in the kitchen. That is a sweet scene to contemplate even if you eventually “wised up” and opted out of it.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    If that is your granddaughter gracefully leaping, wow. Good on her. She looks beautiful. Regardless of whether we were blessed with performance talent, we can still enjoy singing in the kitchen or shower, and happily provide enthusiastic support in the audience. Joy is not necessarily related to talent.

  6. Laurie, my surmise is that with a couple of good lessons and a decent break you could have been flying through the air, like your granddaughter, or backing up Mary Martin when she got a sore throat and your number got called and a star was born!
    And also, like others before me, the image of you and your mother belting out show tunes over dishes gets my Tony vote.

  7. Jim Willis says:

    Laurie, I loved your kitchen musical tale and it reminded me of how innovative mothers can be in finding ways to get children to help with household chores. I was also with you as you dreamed about being a part of the live theater experience as an actor and singer. I flirted with it in high school but never got beyond being case as one of the Dogpatch men who experimented with the Kickapoo Joy Juice, which instantly transformed them into muscle men. The musical was, of course, Li’l Abner, and II was one of eight guys tapped for the part. No acting skills were required. Just brawn. We were all either offensive or defensive linemen from our school football team. i still have a photo of that scene and rib the other guys with it occasionally. Thanks for sharing your fun experiences!

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    That is an impressive photo. Nice that you can see the theatrical lineage as it moves on through time.

    I have a particular fondness for Damn Yankees, mainly because I have a particular fondness for Gwen Verdon!

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