We piled into my car: my daughter at the wheel, then my parents, Blonde Niece, and me. "Isn't this fun?" I said to my daughter. "A road trip with your grandparents, your mother, and your cousin!"
She rolled her eyes, "I guess this means I can't play MY music."
We stopped to get food and drink, and then we were off. It was pretty short, as far as road trips go. We were traveling to Camera City to stay with my brother and his wife, and they live less than 100 miles away.
The highlight of the visit, and really, the point of it, was to see Drama Niece in a play. She goes to Fancy Arts School, an urban high school that draws talented kids from the whole area and puts on the most amazing theater productions. The sets alone, built by kids in the school who take courses in set design, are worth seeing. The set we saw Friday night was a two-story set that looked like a luxury ship and included two curving staircases.
The production was "Anything Goes," a fast-paced play filled with jokes, silly plot twists, and the music of Cole Porter. Drama Niece played Reno, which meant she had a chance to perform numbers like "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Anything Goes" and "Let's Misbehave" and "Blow Gabriel Blow." The school orchestra, 32 musicians in all, backed her up on the songs. The role meant she wore glamorous, glittery outfits — I lost track of how many costume changes she had. The silly plot gave her the chance to get the audience laughing with gestures, expressions, and subtle body movements.
When Drama Niece is on stage, she gets so into character that I forget that it's her and simply get drawn into the play. As my readers (and certainly anyone who knows me in real life) know, I have no musical or acting talent at all — I can't even carry a tune — so the talent of family members just stuns me. It's fascinating to watch how Drama Niece can get a reaction from the whole audience with a simple uplift of a shoulder or raising of an eyebrow.
Drama Niece has had starring roles in just about every musical the school has put on, so we all knew she could sing and act. But this play presented a new challenge: tap dancing! When I saw her after the show, I said, "I didn't know you could tap dance," and she said, "I didn't either, until this show." She'd spend every study hall down in the music studio, practicing. The nine other girls dancing with her in the big tap-dancing scene number were mostly dance majors so they had set the bar pretty high, but she pulled it off.
Plays produced during the 1930s were almost always lively and fun, designed to take people's mind off financial troubles. As we left the play, the music of Cole Porter was still going through my head, and I felt like tap-dancing across the sidewalk in my winter boots. Tap dancing always has that affect on me. Back at my brother's house, the night ended quietly, with tea and coffee and a birthday cake. Drama Niece had just turned seventeen. Dressed in her less glamorous outfit of sweatpants and t-shirt, stage make-up still on, she blew out the candles on her cake.