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  • Writer's pictureMarianne Wieland

A Most Unique Musical Experience

I have been on the stage most of my life, either directing or performing. Sometimes doing both. I’ve done shows from famous Broadway plays and musicals. I’ve also written many plays, musicals and variety shows as well over the years. I have not published them because I change them depending on the venue I’m working in and the people that want to participate. You would be surprised how different each experience can be.

I wrote a musical that I called ‘The Christmas Show’. I directed it in three different venues but the one that stands out is the one that I will share in this blog. It is one that a few people in attendance will never forget. And I will for sure never forget it!

Like I said, I did these shows in different venues. Schools. Churches. Hospitals. Senior Care Facilities. Businesses. It was a fun time for most everyone. The venue that always made me the most nervous was when I put on a production in a church. Many people would turn up for the information meeting about the show and audition for what they felt their talent was. After talking to everyone, I would pick the best fit for each character, stage hands, sound, lighting, singers, dancers, etc. But no matter how committed each person claimed to be, I never knew who would actually turn up for each rehearsal. Often, I never had every single person there until the day of the first performance.

I had a hard time casting ‘The Christmas Show’ in this particular church. The stage was set for two different situations to be going on. One side was a family’s living room and they were watching a Christmas show on TV. The other side was of the studio doing the live Christmas show. I had no trouble casting the family side. But the studio side was a little harder. I needed two emcees. I cast them, but after a few practices, one dropped out. It was too many lines for him. So, I had to recast. The same with four others. Any time you have to recast, it puts pressure on getting everyone comfortable working together and learning their lines.

I always had the same man doing my sound and lights. He did a great job, but this time, he said he was too busy to be involved. So, I had to find a lighting and a sound person. The lighting was easy, but the sound was more difficult. I had not worked with this guy before and there were many songs to start at the right time. This guy had to do the cues just right. Then I had another character drop out about half way through rehearsals. I could not find a replacement.

After much pleading and promising he would never have to do another of my musicals, I talked my youngest son, Steven, into being the character. However, he refused to sing or say any lines. So, I rewrote the character into two characters and got a younger boy to take the other role. I made them into farm hands that kept wandering onto the live set, getting them all kinds of attention. It was a comedy situation. Toward the end of the show, the emcee asks them to come out so the audience can meet them. But,  instead of coming out as themselves, they come out dressed like the ‘Men in Black.’

It was a funny, unexpected spot, but it needed some upbeat kind of music. Steven was looking through a box of his older brother’s CDs in the garage and found this interesting CD. He played it for me and it was just what I was looking for. It had a long intro of techno music before anyone started singing. We couldn’t make out the words but Steven and I both agreed they were saying ‘snap my picture’. That kind of fit with the scene in case the sound guy didn’t cut the music at the right spot.

The night of the first performance went really well. Until…the sound guy didn’t cut the techno music in the right place. It ran long, into where the singing started. But not a major problem, because, like I said, ‘snap my picture’ fit with the sequence. The show got a standing ovation, and was great fun. Then…I went to my oldest son, Scott, who was in the audience, to see if he liked the show. He was laughing so hard, he couldn’t catch his breath. So was his wife. I was puzzled. It had a lot of comedy, but it wasn’t that funny. Then the following conversation ensued.

Scott: Mom, I can’t believe you played ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ in a church.

Me: What??!!

Scott: That was my old CD that was in a box I was throwing out. Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up.’

Me: (Silent. At a loss for words and shaking head ‘no!’)

Scott left still laughing and I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me or noticing the song that had played. The sound guy was clueless and I had a discussion about cutting the music before the words start. He promised it would not happen again. No one else said anything, so I relaxed a little.

The next morning at work I asked the physician’s assistant, who had attended the performance, how she like the show. She said it was incredible, but was surprised that I played ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ in a church. We had a good laugh over it. However, I heard through the grapevine that the pastor of the church recognized the song as well. Anyway, the gist of the matter was that I was never asked to direct another play in that church! And every time I walked into Scott’s workplace, people would point at me and laugh, asking me to play ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ for them. No one that was there will ever let me forget that!

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