My piano bench, and nearby shelves, brim with sheets of music. Most of these are show tunes, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Oliver, Phantom of the Opera, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina … well; the stack of music goes on and on. This morning I am looking for a specific selection, Man of La Mancha, and there I find it neatly stashed away toward the bottom. At the top of the single song page is my dad’s name, Richard L. Saylor.
You do not know my dad, but you do know he taught me to love theater at age 6. You also know how often I write of him and his influence on my life. I was just a kid when he took me to see Man of La Mancha starring Richard Kiley (March 31, 1922 - March 5, 1999). I sat on the edge of my seat and sobbed through most of the show.
So, when Mary Westfall called during my I-have-four-children-for-a-month event, about tickets, I simply said, “Yes, yes.” With the pandemic among us this year, I did not think there was any way to watch any live theater, but Tibbits Opera House revised their summer theater and moved productions to The Ponds, an outdoor event venue.
With my mask securely in place, I picked up Mary and headed up to Coldwater Thursday night. It was going to be an adventure, and it seems as if there are not too many adventures these days. We parked, grabbed our sweaters, and headed down the winding walkway through towering pines until the venue came in site. Tucked away from traffic and any other distraction, the pavilion sat with white gauzy curtains blowing in the breeze, lights and camera ready, and a friendly masked group from the Tibbits.
I have been attending theater productions at Tibbits for years from summer theater to Popcorn Theater to the short films they show in preparation for the Oscars! However, this was so different! The seats were all spread out with perfect social distancing. There was no orchestra, but the brilliant Matthew Everingham on piano. I did not want to start crying from the beginning, but I pulled out my newly ironed hankie just in case.
For this season, the talented Charles Burr plays the lead role of Don Quixote, and it is no easy task with a limited stage, but he is perfect in every way. In case you are not familiar, the play is suggested by the life and adventures of Miguel Cervantes in 16th century Spain. We do not know much about him except his life was parallel to that of William Shakespeare. He was born in 1547 and served three, maybe five, prison terms in which he wrote Don Quixote to make money. He died in 1616 within days of Shakespeare, but his burial place is not marked. Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh took the story to Broadway on Nov. 22, 1965, and played through June 26, 1971.
The Tibbits cast was exceptional, and when “The Impossible Dream” began so did my tears. I was actually sobbing. Perhaps it was a combination of the excellent show, the memories of my dad, and how much I have missed theater during these months.
I know I was first on my feet when it was over. As we began to leave, I thanked everyone and was stopped by Stephanie Burdick. She recognized me and asked me to do a short video for the opera house. I was happy to do it; I just had to wipe down all the tears first.
Twilight filled the air as we began the drive home and I shared these thoughts with Mary. She is a very good listener.
Friday morning I pulled out my piano scores, and traced the signature of my dad. I played a few songs remembering how we once played these songs together, and watched this show.
Maybe you do not have quite the memory of the show that I have, but it does not matter. This show is the perfect choice for a Summer of The Pandemic when we can “Dream the Impossible Dream.” We can sit apart, laugh, cry and for a time, forget.
Thank you, Tibbits Opera House, for a job well done. Thank you, Charles Burr, for a magnificent performance and for your years of service.
There are still a few performances left. Go see the show. You will be transformed to Spain in the 16th century … at least for a while.