Elvis has left the Building
There is a whole other story as to how I managed to get involved with musical theatre. It goes back to my final year in high school and a teacher who forced me on stage. Anyway, as a result of that experience, and after my rugby coaching days ended, I went on to direct ten school musicals. Over the years I have also performed with a number of different theatre groups.
During the summer of 2000, I was cast as The Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The Song of the Pharaoh is sung in the style of Elvis Presley and I appeared on stage complete with the pompadour and sideburns (a wig). The Kennebecasis Players had established a reputation for quality shows with outstanding choreography and costumes. That summer we performed eight shows and most were sold-out. The whole experience was so enjoyable and exciting.
Now, it should be noted that on the closing night of a show it is not uncommon for cast members to play practical jokes on each other. The rule is simple, any jokes are not to take away from the show or distract the audience.
On the final night, I was in the dressing room when one of the cast approached me.
“If something a little different took place during your scene tonight would you be upset?”
“What, like a closing night practical joke? Not at all – bring it on.”
“Are you sure? The people involved don’t want to do anything that might upset you.”
I should point out that I was one of the oldest members of the cast. Most of them were in their 20’s. I suspect that it was respect for my age that the question was being asked.
“I would be disappointed if nothing unusual took place.”
During the second verse of my song, I would step off the stage and walk along the front row of the audience. In the style of Elvis I would feature my best hip gyrations and offer scarves to a few of the women. As I was making my way across the row, a pair of red panties were thrown and hit me in the chest (apparently, it was not uncommon for women to throw undergarments at The King). The panties fell to the floor but another audience member picked them up and handed them to me. I carried them back up on the stage and, in the spirit of improv, I actually used them later in the scene. It worked out really well. Weeks later I was presented with a video of the show and this incident was captured perfectly. I now have a neat keepsake to show my grandchildren and, hopefully, great-grandchildren.
The show ended and we struck the set. I recall feeling washed out the next day. We did eight shows over two weeks. The adrenaline rush was over.
That morning was a Saturday and my wife suggested that I go to the local farmer’s market to pick up some bread. I jumped on my bike and off I went. I thought to myself, just last night I was the King of Egypt (and of Rock ‘n Roll) and am now a simple gatherer of bread. Oh well.
I hopped off my bike and proceeded to make my way to the market’s entrance. As I was approaching the steps I looked up to see two women coming down the stairs. I instantly recognized the nearest one as the person who threw the panties at me, and she recognized me.
She explained that it was her nephew, the fellow who approached me prior to the show, who put her up to it. She wanted me to confirm that I didn’t mind, and I assured her that I thought it was hilarious; in fact, it really added to the scene. We then talked generally about the show and about summer plans. When our conversation ended I climbed the steps and she and her friend made their way towards the parking lot.
When I reached the top step I turned to her and said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by those near the entrance, “Excuse me ma’am.”
She turned to look at me. I then said, “Would you like your panties back?”
I wish I had a photograph of her expression. She didn’t say a word but turned and quickly moved away.
I hope she appreciated my prank as much as I appreciated hers.
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