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The Show Business – The Dazzling Dinner Theatre Years
Once I had moved to Delaware there were plenty of nights when I woke up screaming wondering what I had done to myself. Although where I lived in Delaware was only a half an hour away from Philadelphia and two hours from New York, the people of Delaware that I encountered seemed as though those metropolises were millions of miles away. I was thrust into a land where people bought license plates to see who could get the lowest number possible. Where a red scarf from Talbot’s was considered daring and the all important housing development you lived in was more important than anything. I didn’t get it. I had never been exposed to these types of people and they certainly had never been exposed to me so it was a hate/hate relationship from the start. However as with most towns with small minds, the larger minds worked in the local theatre so at least when I went to the theatre at night the people there who worked at DuPont during the day were a bit more progressive in their thoughts at night when they would put on their makeup and tights. This would be the start of my eleven plus years in Delaware and more to the point eleven plus years of Dinner Theatre, God bless ME, EVERYONE! The Show Business – The Dazzling Dinner Theatre Years – Don’t Get Me Started!
The first show I was cast in was A Chorus Line. I was horribly miscast as the male part of the one couple in the show. He was supposed to be a tough guy from New York with his wife who couldn’t sing. I think I was pretty lousy in that production but come on, it was Delaware so no one saw it but my parents. The girl who played my wife was still in high school does that give you any indication of the level of talent? Toward the end of the run I was making plans to go back to Arizona. I had a friend there who asked me to come and help her with her yearly dance production at my old high school. I would teach alongside her and assistant choreograph the show with her which included a finale of all 150 students in the dance program on stage dancing at the same time.
Before I was to leave for Arizona some of the kids at the dinner theatre were talking about another dinner theatre in the area that was auditioning for a musical revue. I heard all the stories about how it was very cliquish at this other theatre and that no one from the outside would ever get into the shows. Here I was with both my union (stage and film) cards and I thought, “In Delaware? Not cast me? I’ve gotta see this!” And so I went to the other theatre’s audition and after a couple of callbacks they called to tell me I had gotten the show. The problem was I had to go to Arizona for a month. They agreed that I could be gone for that period of time and still be in the show. So off to Arizona I went that March with a roundtrip ticket back to Delaware in April. While in Arizona I had booked a job for the fall of that year to act in a series of shows that would tour the school system in Arizona. I don’t know if I was doing it to get back to someplace where people seemed more normal or if somewhere in my head I was thinking that it was a way back to my original goal of being the number one gay theatre couple in Arizona so that I could get back with my ex, the well-known director in Phoenix.
Upon my return to Delaware I have to say that where the first dinner theatre I worked in Delaware looked like some summer stock theatre/barn in a wooded community, this new dinner theatre was a palace atop a country club that looked like a Vegas show room. I enjoyed the people there and with a six show a week schedule, it seemed perfect. The show after the revue was Singin’ In The Rain. I had watched this movie so many times as a youth I could do every scene (including choreography) without even thinking about it. I auditioned for the role of “Cosmo” the Donald O’Connor role under the stipulation that I could only do half of the run as I was due in Phoenix to start the touring show. The day of the audition there was another auditioner who everyone knew at the theatre that I was quickly introduced to by my current cast mates. He was a six foot black man who had a smile like I had never seen before in my life. As he left the theatre that day and I got ready for the evening show, I looked at him as he stood in the doorway of my dressing room. For a split second there seemed to be a fuzzy glow about him. It was like in the movies when they used a special filter to film the star. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight but in my heart I knew at that moment that this person was going to be in my life for the rest of my life on some level. We were friends for six months until we realized how much we loved one another and it’s been over twenty years now that we’ve been together as a couple. And although there are times I wake up and wonder who the hell this is sleeping in my bed, more often than not when I look at him I see that aura about him I saw that first day and it still makes my heart beat a little faster.
The producers told me they would only give me the part of “Cosmo” in Singin’ In The Rain if I did the entire run and so I called the Arizona theatre and told them I was staying in Delaware. They threatened to sue but didn’t and thus began my full time career as a dinner theatre performer and then eventually a director, choreographer, marketing, sales and everything else for the theatre. During our eleven years of working at the dinner theatre together, my guy and I would be performing one show while rehearsing the next show with only a ten day break four times a year (I would play the role of “Cosmo” five times during our tenure at the theatre, including a tenth anniversary production of the first time we ever did it). My guy and I were together 24/7 and if you want to really test a relationship by all means, work together!
In between working at the theatre I found time to teach dance classes at local studios, coach Olympic skaters on performance rink side at the University of Delaware, create and direct educational outreach operas for Virginia Opera and at one point was an assistant choreographer on a show at Disneyland in California that my ex was directing. When he called to ask me to do the show I thought he wanted my talent and to make amends for him now living in LA where I had once begged him to live with me. It wasn’t until the last day there at Disneyland that he admitted he had brought me onto the creative team in hopes we would get back together. I don’t know if I was naïve or just so much in love with my guy in Delaware that I never noticed the hidden agenda of my ex but as I left California to return to Delaware my ex and I understood that the time for us to be together had passed long ago and would never return.
I don’t exactly know why but my guy and I went to visit my parents who were now living in Las Vegas and decided to move there. Neither of us had jobs or even job prospects but a month later we were on our way to Las Vegas. Almost immediately the theatre began calling to ask my guy to come back and do some shows. He was so well known at the theatre by audiences that people would literally call and ask if he was in the show as the criteria as to whether or not they would buy tickets to come see the show. As anyone learns who “moves away” you suddenly become much more valuable. Here I had been directing, choreographing, performing in and maintaining the shows and suddenly he was being offered more money than I made doing all those jobs just to perform. So often he would go back east to do a show or two at the theatre. Meanwhile a friend I had met at Disney was working on a project in Vegas and he got me an interview with the producer so my first job in Las Vegas was to be the show director for the grand opening of the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Las Vegas. The list of celebrities I would be telling where to stand on the stage included Wayne Newton, Siegfried and Roy, Neil Sedaka, Don King, Wolfgang Puck, etc. But as this was a one night gig it meant four weeks of pre-production and when the event was done so was my job. One of the other producers on the project was going to work for a company out of LA and asked if I would do some consulting work for him. Thus began my life in Corporate America. Sure I was still dabbling by choreographing the annual holiday show at the Fashion Show mall here in Vegas which included a 100 foot runway, ten showgirls and Santa appearing out of the floor in a vintage cherry red Cadillac convertible but for the most part my theatre days were over.
It’s been over ten years now since I’ve been on stage. I still miss it. I had groomed myself from the age of six to be on stage. I didn’t know I could do anything else, I still wish it was all I was doing. Sure, a few years ago I started my website, blog and the video blog which are creative outlets to a certain extent but it’s really not the same. It’s not the same as having an audience laugh or applaud for you. It’s not the same as working with a cast who don’t think the show will ever be ready but you help them make a success of themselves on opening night. There’s a large part of me that thinks my theatre life is just lying dormant in my system and that it will resurface some day. I hope it’s soon because it’s where my heart is and it has been too long since I felt my heart beat to an orchestra playing the strains of the overture as I’m in the wings waiting for my cue to go on.
When I started writing this five episodic blog I was just doing it to do something different. And now that it’s complete, what I found was that even though this barely scratches the surface of my life experiences, I discovered that although I have always believed I was the Greatest Never Was Been There Ever Was that I have accomplished quite a bit in my life so far that others may only dream about. I encourage you to write about your life in hopes you find out what I did, that you’re an interesting character study and that you’ve touched the lives of many.
Read More Scott @ www.somelikeitscott.com