Sunday, January 6, 2008

Spells Cast on Broadway 2: Spell Harder

If this is your first time on my blog, check this out first.

If you missed the first part of this post, it's right after this one, which is counterintuitive, but what are you going to do?

After the opening musical number, the "principal" called the four audience volunteers up on stage. We got to wear yellow placards, just like the socially backward super geniuses in the National Spelling Bee. We sat down on the bleachers with the other spellers (the actors).

Then the vice principal came out to serve as the 2nd judge. I found out later (by reading the blog of the actress who plays the principal) that over the summer, this part was played by Darrell Hammond of Saturday Night Live. The guy we had was really good, but I would've loved to have my word read to me, ask for the definition, and have Darrell bust out his Bill Clinton and say it "depends on what your definition of 'is' is".

A couple of the actors went first, and then my name was called, the first of the audience spellers. As each speller, whether professional or amateur, makes their way to the microphone, a tidbit of "background information" is given about them.

"Jeff ran for class president using the slogan, 'When you think white guys, think me.'"

I'm pretty sure I didn't write that on my volunteer form, which means that parts of the show are improvised, which I can certainly relate to and appreciate.

My first word was "jihad", and I nailed it. I was very pleased not to have been eliminated on the first word, and was hoping that I wouldn't be the first audience member forced to return to their regular seat.

My "biography" and first word should give you an indication of the tone of the musical. It was much more political and much more adult-oriented than I had expected it to be. There's some political, racial, religious, and sexual references that might make some people uncomfortable, so keep that in mind if you're planning on checking it out (if you are, you'd better do it quick; it closes in less than two weeks).

A lot happened between my first and second words. Little Kevin/Kyle walked up to the mic ("Kevin/Kyle intimidates her opponents by beating the crap out of them") and got the word "cow". The actor-spellers flipped out because of the simplicity of the word, but K/K was unflappable, and asked for the definition.

"It's a cow," deadpanned the vice principal.

"Can you use it in a sentence please?"

"Spell cow."

And she did.

The other spellers were ticked, though, and began rioting. That rioting involved us volunteers sitting on the bleachers while the actors quickly spun them around, then getting up and linking arms with the actors and dancing around the stage. At the end of the song, they had the four of us just spinning in a circle as fast as we could. I imagine we looked pretty ridiculous.

(I had my camera there, and Julianne was there and could've used it, but unfortunately you're not allowed to take pictures inside any theater in New York.)

Eventually, everything calmed down, and we were back to spelling. One of the other guys missed his first word--thank goodness! Soon it was my turn again.

"When Jeff grows up, he wants to sell Subway sandwiches with his older brother Jared."

Remember in part 1 when I said I couldn't spell crap? My 2nd word was something related to camel dung, which when pronounced sounded like the last name of my former roommate Hardy Kuebitz, so I tried spelling it that way. It was wrong. Thanks for nothing, Hardy.

(I can't remember exactly what the word was or how it was spelled, no matter how many letter combinations I Google. Does anyone know what the word might be? It might've been made up; they certainly used some fake words later on.)

Being eliminated was disappointing, but my sendoff was probably the highlight of the night for me. When a speller spells incorrectly, the bell rings, and the actors serenade you with their "Goodbye, goodbye" song as "grief counselor" Mitch Mahoney (a burly 6'5" black guy with dreds going all the way down his back (a wig)) comes out and takes your placard, gives you a hug and a juice box, and sends you back to your seat as everyone cheers. It was great.

As I expected, the actors take steps to insure the last audience member is eliminated just before intermission, then the 2nd half (likely) proceeds in the same way in every performance, with the nerd coming out on top in the end (oh wait, they're all nerds).

The singers and musicians were talented, but there were only a couple of songs that stood out, but it was still very funny and entertaining, in spite of the aforementioned PG-13/borderline-R content. I plan on seeing several more Broadway shows before I leave New York, but I doubt any will be as memorable as this one.

Hundreds of people move to New York every year with dreams of a career in showbiz. A career might be hard to come by, but, for me at least, amateur showbiz gigs come pretty easy. I've already done comedy, acting, singing, and dancing. There's only one thing left: I think I'll get me a spot in some kind of orchestra. Fortunately, I already know how to get to Carnegie Hall.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are having the time of your life! You should definitely go into showbiz! They seem to love you! I definitely believe in you!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until David & I come visit & we all cast our spells on Broadway together. It's going to be awesome!

Thanks for the link about Carnegie Hall. Very Informative.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is Marlene by the way.

Larissa said...

Wow, Jeff! You keep starring on Broadway and maybe you will rival Clooney for SMA! I enjoy your writing so much! AND, I was with Natalie in noticing your incorrect date of 2004 for our internships in NYC. AND, I wanted to point out that I won my 5th grade spelling bee also and got second in 8th grade (There wasn't one in 7th)!!! Do you hear the twilight zone music playing?

jeff said...

Actually, I FEEL the Twilight Zone music, and that's spooky in and of itself!

lori said...

as empress of the nerds, i must defend my reign: i won the school spelling bees in fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. that is all.