I first met my husband in a Jackson Civic Theatre production of Annie in Michigan in 1991. I was Miss Hannigan and he played a bunch of bit parts, including a bum in Hooverville and Daddy Warbucks’ chauffeur. The next show we did together was South Pacific, where I got Bloody Mary and he was one of the sailors. So having been spoiled with two lead roles, I was devastated when I didn’t get the role of Maria in our third show, The Sound of Music.
In truth, the role went to exactly who it should have gone to ― my friend Sandy, who was: a) a soprano (I’m a mezzo); b) not chubby; and c) a triple threat: an actress, singer AND dancer. But I knew the entire role of Maria by heart, as did every little girl born around 1962. My mother took me to that movie seven times, and it was on TV every Thanksgiving weekend until well after college. I’d grown up wanting to be Maria, capturing the heart of a young, handsome Christopher Plummer and singing my way through the Alps. But instead of Maria, I got Sister Margaretta ― the only Jewish nun in the cast (they lovingly referred to me as Sister Mary Parri!)
Margaretta was a wonderful part. The Latin choral work of the nuns is challenging and exquisitely beautiful. And How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria was great fun! Still, while I’m not a community theater diva, I enjoyed pretending to to be one. The director of the show, my dear friend Ann, is a woman with a tremendous heart and an unmatched sense of humor. So during rehearsals, I enjoyed cracking her up by raising my hand and saying, “Uh, Ann? Is this where Sister Margaretta does her monologue on what inspired her to become a nun?” or “I know, Ann. This is a perfect place for Sister Margaretta to sing a solo about being so sorry to see Maria leave the abbey.” We’d all have a good laugh and get on with rehearsal.
While I was getting some juicy roles in small theater, though, Jim hadn’t nailed his first lead yet (It would come the following year, when he got the sadistic dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, and he would go on to play Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, too!). But in The Sound of Music, he once again found himself playing a man in uniform, landing the role of Franz, the Von Trapp butler. So for opening night, Jim and I decided to make our director a gift. We found an old album that we never listened to, recovered it, and rewrote the story of The Sound of Music, with our characters as the leads. We included the standard synopsis of the show, along with a list of songs … mostly sung by us, of course. I must say that Jim and I (and our hilarious friend Sandy) laughed until we cried, coming up with the song titles!
On a recent visit to Michigan, Ann reminded us of this antic. It seems timely to write about, since The Sound of Music just aired live on TV with Carrie Underwood. So Ann dug it out of her archives! All typos are original, as this copy was written on a typewriter. For those under 25, those were little machines where you used your fingers to strike keys that hit a ribbon of ink, creating the impression of letters on paper. There was no autocorrect or spellcheck. And if you had no white out, you had to type the entire page all over again.
So this one is for anyone out there who has ever longed for a lead, but gotten a supporting role! Without further ado, I bring you: