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February 27, 2014
Here’s why I don’t do reviews of theater

Audrie Gillie in the role of Taylor McKessie in Tooele High School’s production of “High School Musical.”   photo courtesy of Garrett Bryant

Audrie Gillie in the role of Taylor McKessie in Tooele High School’s production of “High School Musical.” photo courtesy of Garrett Bryant

I saw my first high school drama production when I was about six years old. I think it was “The Hasty Heart.” All I can remember is a row of beds on the stage, a hospital, a war and sick people.

My father taught English at Shelton High School in Shelton, Wash. One of his colleagues in the English department doubled as the drama teacher, so we made several trips back to that small theater in the large brick building where my father taught.

My early exposure probably explains my love for live theater. My sister and I produced and starred in our own version of the “Night Before Christmas” when I was in fourth grade. We performed in the living room for our family.

In junior high school I was in the drama club and was in several performances, although I can’t remember what they were.

In high school I had an unfortunate run-in with the drama teacher my freshman year before I had the chance to try-out for any productions. That ended my career as an on-stage actor.

So I went to productions in high school and college to see my friends perform.

The love of my life, my wife, Jenine, has been involved in theater as an actress since high school. Before we were married, I saw her in at least six performances of “Oliver,” all from the front row.

Later, after we married, I volunteered to usher and take tickets so I could see every performance of “My Fair Lady,” in which she had a part.

Jenine has been involved locally with the Benson Gristmill production and had a role in the LaForge Ensemble Theater Company’s performance of “Annie.”

For two years, while Jenine served as producer for the Benson Gristmill shows, I shared in the thrill of the stage vicariously by running the sound board.

My daughter has also been bitten by the theater bug.

I slipped into the auditorium at Tooele High School last night and watched her perform in “High School Musical.”

I remember watching the musical when it first came out. At that time all I saw was a typical Disney show with high school kids dancing around singing pop music with Disney happy ending.

‘“High School Musical” is not high drama,” I thought.

Last night as I watched the show, between being proud of my daughter’s awesome performance as she danced, acted, and sang with gusto, I thought about the plot.

This time I saw beneath the glitz and glamour of the shallow high school teen movie a show with real authorial intent.

“High School Musical” deals with inner individual conflict, particularly as Troy Bolton deals with making a choice between loyalty to his team and love for basketball, and his newly discovered repressed love for singing and acting.

In one scene Bolton’s classmates reveal their hidden inner passions.

The whole school goes through a transformation. Originally divided into stereotypical cliques including jocks and nerds, the show ends with the whole student body dancing on stage together and singing “We’re All in This Together.”

“Together, we’re there for each other every time. Together, together, come on let’s do this right. … We’re all in this together and it shows when we stand hand in hand. Make our  dreams come true.”

That’s when it happened, like one of those annoying pop-up windows on a computer screen, a bubble opened in my mind and instead of Troy Bolton in a basketball uniform, there stood Tooele County Treasurer Jeremy Walker in a suit and tie.

In a meeting attended by elected city and county leaders with our state legislators a few weeks ago, Walker stood up while the mid-valley highway was under discussion and made a passionate plea for unity, which he later repeated on a Facebook post.

If we want the mid-valley highway, Walker said our communities and their leaders need to set aside any differences and work together.

“That’s the way we do it. Let’s get to it. Come on everyone,” ended the song as the bubble in my brain popped out of existence.

I don’t know if Walker was breaking a vow of silence; nobody commented on his polite rant.

Walker didn’t name names or point his finger at any specific municipality, but the implication was everybody in this sandbox we call Tooele County is not getting along.

“Oh man, could the secret to Tooele County’s economic future be buried in not only a high school musical, but in the ‘High School Musical,’” I thought.

I then had a somewhat disturbing mental image. In it I saw Grantsville’s Mayor Brent Marshall and city council, joined by Tooele’s Mayor Patrick Dunlavy and city council, dancing on stage with our three county commissioners Bruce Clegg, Jerry Hurst and Shawn Milne.

Other county and city leaders joined in as they sang, “Together, together, together everyone. Together, together everyone. Together, together, come on let’s have some fun.”

This is why I don’t write reviews of dramatic performances.

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