Hey, Gang! Let’s Put On a Show!

As the end of our junior year in Elco High School approached, the Irregulars were chatting among ourselves and somebody, I know not who it may have been, uttered the immortal words:

“Let’s put on a show!” 

Or words to that effect.

Mary Lou BlissThe idea was that we had accumulated lots of material over the course of the year, enough to put on a half hour or forty-five minute show for the whole student body. Nothing much was happening during the last couple days of school anyway, and it would be a fun thing to do.

Of course, we had to get our advisor, Mrs. Papson, on board, and she had to get the school administration to agree, but I don’t remember there being any big problem. As I said, not much was happening in classrooms during the last day of school.

For material we’d just recycle some of our “greatest hits”, the comic sketches that had gone over well; we’d do them pretty much as we had done them over the PA system but now everyone could see us hunched around the microphone, and if there were sound effects, they could see how we did them. Plus, we’d add maybe a musical interlude or two. We had some great singing talent in Norman Sanger and a few others. We definitely had the material and the enthusiasm.

(Alas, while I have plenty of notes and scripts for the exchange assembly that we did the following year, I haven’t come across any notes for this one, so I’m writing this all from memory.)

Gary WellsI remember there was one skit that we did that would have benefited from a big splash sound effect at the end (I can no longer recall the details of it) so I took my tape recorder to the Richland swimming pool where classmate Scott Uhrich was a lifeguard and had him make a few dives while I recorded. Sadly, the microphone picked up more wind noise, and there was nothing usable.

For the finale, seven of us taped the letters T H E E N D plus a space to our backs, and Debbie Miller taught us a simple step so that we could dance our way across the stage while locked arm in arm without somehow tripping over each other.

We did two shows, or assemblies, one for the junior high kids and one for the senior high students, and both of them went over like gangbusters.

And why not?

We got the kids out of their stuffy classrooms so they were a very receptive audience.

We had very little rehearsal and there were some hitches. I recall that in the second show I ended up on the wrong side of the stage just before the finale and had to sprint across the stage in full view of the audience to get into position, but for the most part things went well enough.

We had tried to get an interview with Carol Channing (and one day I still hope to release (or unleash) those tapes to the world), but as the next best thing we had a taped interview with her that was distributed to radio stations in which she described how the song “Hello, Dolly!” fit into the musical. So for the climax of our show we played that clip. Miss Channing talked about the character Dolly returning to the elegant restaurant after many years and being dressed in red.

Maryann Shelhamer introduced it by briefly explaining the background and then asking the question: “Miss Channing, how does the title song fit into the show Hello, Dolly!?” 

Then we segued into the introductory music of “Hello, Dolly!”, and the curtains opened to reveal Mary Lou Bliss in an approximation of a red get up (maybe it was a red bandana, we had no budget for costumes) with Gary Wells supposedly as a waiter coming out to greet her, so the audience was now primed for a musical number.

Except Gary was carrying a pie—  

—which Mary Lou proceeded to grab and toss directly into Gary’s face.


The crowd went wild.

At least that was how we staged it for the senior high audience. We had done it differently for the junior high assembly. There, in a throwback to “The October Game”, we had Mary Lou periodically run across the stage yelling “Marian!”, while I played the “Batman Theme” on the piano. At the end, Gary appeared with a pie and she tossed it in his face. It still got a big laugh, but it wasn’t as well thought out. I believed that the junior high kids would still remember “The October Game” show but—live and learn.

The pie was actually made of shaving cream, and Gary was in charge of it. I wonder if he was ever compensated for all the cans of shaving cream he must have used up?

It’s occurred to me in thinking back that we missed a chance for an even bigger laugh. After all, throwing a pie in Gary’s face was like hitting Curly with a pie.

What we should have done after Mary Lou threw the pie in Gary’s face was have an Authority Figure come out and chastise Mary Lou. Then, just as Gary was wiping the pie off his face, another pie should have materialized, Mary Lou should have aimed it at Gary again, Gary should have ducked, and it should have hit the Authority Figure square in the kisser.

And who should this Authority Figure have been? Well, Mrs. Papson would be the obvious choice, but she would never in a million years have agreed to do it.

Mrs. Esther Papson

Second choice would be principal Walter Wertz, and I’d say there was perhaps a 10% chance that he might have agreed to do it. If we asked him on a good day.

Walter Wertz

Had it been the following year, when Frank Bergman became a principal, I think he may have been receptive because he was a pretty good egg and knew how to relate to young people.

But most likely, we would have needed to get a teacher, assuming we could have gotten permission at all.

Given that Mrs. Papson had gone to the administration just to get permission to do the pie at all, and they only agreed to it on the condition that it was a shaving cream pie, well, I guess it would have been a hard sell to throw a pie at a teacher. So scratch that 10% chance of Mr. Wertz ever doing it. No way.

And that’s probably why it didn’t occur to us back then, because there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that that school administration would have approved it. Or at least that’s probably what we would have thought.

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