Thursday, August 03, 2006

Oh, What a Night

Every August my family travels up north for about a week for a little vacation with my detroit relatives in the little village of Charlevoix. It's a relaxing week where we get to spend quality time with each other. And we have many traditions that we share. Among them:

-Where we go to eat.
-Arguing over where we go to eat.
-Taking a long time to decide where we go to eat.
-Arguing over how long it took us to decide where we go to eat.
-The gas we inevitably get from where we go to eat.

You get the picture. But something happened last Monday night. While the rest of the family decided (with some reluctance) to go to dinner at Grey Gables (a tradition that has worn out its welcome with everyone but my grandmother I think), myself, Adam, and my cousin Alex traveled out to Boyne Highlands for a special treat.

Not dinner.
Not theatre.

After spying an ad in a local newpaper while waiting for a table at the Pancake House promising songs from The Color Purple, Rascal Flats, and (OMG!) High School Musical, we traveled with apprehension to the show. It was entitled "Young Americans" and seemed like a cabaret type production. But at 40 bucks a pop this better be worth the price of admission.

You think you know, but you have no idea.

The three of us were worried. Worried that this would be worse than a Julie Stamos American Idol audition. Worried that we would be the only ones there while 25 peppy college kids sang "We Go Together" solely to us. Worried that we might be the youngest people in the audience by 60 years.

Our fears where soon met at 6:30 when 3 "young americans" greeted us with a "Hey guys! Welcome to the show!" as they held the doors open for us with a Mickey Mouse Club smile. Once in the lobby, and met with platters of cheese, vegetables and popcorn shrimp, our apprehension subsided as the uber-friendly staff took our drink order and mingled with ever-increasing audience. Adam hoped that the cash bar wouldn't bleed him dry. Alex hoped that the piano player in the room would play "Dancing through Life". I just hoped they didn't involve me in uncomfortable conversations. Luckily the only thing a "Young American" did ask me was, "Are you through with that plate?"

Still in the lobby, and gathered around the piano the kids began to sing their little hearts out amongst the chicken wings and fondue. Choral versions of "Shenendoah" and "Danny Boy" were followed by a rousing edition of "Circle of Life" from The Lion King. It was phenomenal. One particular Young American, "O", a big black guy wailed hardcore on the "AAAH SEE VEN YAAAHHH!" part in Circle of Life. He was ready for Broadway in my opinion. They then sang a corny song about how it was time for dinner, and they led us into the ballroom complete with 20 tables, stage, soundboard, and spotlights.

We were seated in the "Mango" section, where our waiter was a happy fellow named Andy. Damn! We weren't in O's section. At least we weren't in Brett's section. Brett was the half man, half midget who proceeded to get tossed around by his fellow YA's. He was like thier mascot.

At around 7:15, one of the YA's got on the mic, and asked what time it was. Um, 7:15. No, he said, WHAT TIME IS IT?? And someone shouted: It's Time for Salad!!! And before you could say, what the hell? A chorus formed on stage and starting belting out "TIME FOR SALAD! TIME FOR SALAD!" to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus. Within seconds, bowls of salad were placed in front of our tables along with dinner rolls, which also got their own solo, after being part of a juggling act. Do I really want dinner rolls after they've been balanced on someone's head and been tossed 10 feet in the air?? Answer: Yes. They were delicious. Needless to say, the whole thing was the trippiest 4 minutes of my life. The three of us stared at each other not sure whether to laugh or cry, although basically just thinking: WTF!

After our dinner was complete (Adam and I had the Prime Rib, Alex had the chicken) the show began to start. It was "Best of 2006". And the first act had songs from everything from Jersey Boys to the Curious George movie to the revue show Lennon. And they were all supertalented. They had a band in which they all played, the kids ran the spotlights and soundboard, they did numerous costume changes, and all sang and dance with tremendous energy. The Act One Finale might have been the highlight of the night: Songs from High School Musical. Dressed in Basketball uniforms, cheerleading outfits, and sassy white hats, they 'got their head in the game' with flair. It was a sight to see for sure. Or as Alex put it: "Two words: So good."

The second act was more of the same. They did a Drowsy Chaperone number, a Dreamgirls song, and closed with a Wedding Singer quasi-medley mixing songs from the musical with wedding staples.

The thing that made the evening "so good" were these kids. O was one of the best live singers I have ever heard. Brett the midget might as well try out for American Idol. He would definitely be a fan favorite, way more likeable than Bucky or Ace. And they all had the energy of a pigtailed storyteller on speed. We asumed they were kids from different theater programs across the country that got jobs up here just for the summer. But apparently the "Young Americans" is their school. They travel across the country doing shows for kids programs and schools, while taking performance and education classes on the weekends. Why? We're not sure. They could easily get into normal undergrad programs like U of M or even Julliard. We have a suspicion in might be christian-y. You can check out their website at A side note: The Young Americans aren't even all American. There was one guy from Canada and another from England. False advertising!

For Adam, Alex, and me, it will not be a night soon forgotten. And we raved to the rest of our family. So we may have started a new tradition up north. And this one didn't give us indigestion. However I can never just eat a salad any longer. It will always be "TIME FOR SALAD! TIME FOR SALAD!"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dithu is uber-jealous...and glad you finally told us what all the hype was about.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo Rob, that was a very thorough account of our Younger Americans Dinner Theatre experience. However, you did forget a few things which I will elaborate on now.

1.) There was a girl in the show who was an uncanny lookalike to Lindsay Lohan during her blonde/drug addict phase...truly amazing.

2.) The presentation of dessert was almost as exciting as the salad and dinner rolls. It included a re-vamping of the classic Michigan fight song with "Let's Go Blue!" replaced with "Chocolate Cake!"

3.) Often before a set of songs was introduced one of the YAs made up a queer backstory, which often made us laugh.

I think that's it Rob, keep on writing

Future Young American,


Blogger Unky Rob said...

Thank you Alex. Can't believe I missed all of that, but there was just so much to say. The queer backstories were horrendous. A girl would get on the microphone and say:

"When I was a little girl, my dad loved the beatles. He would always being playing their albums. And even today, when i call back home, if we can't talk about something, we can always talk about the Beatles. Now some songs from the John Lennon musical. 'HEY JUDE...'"

I also forgot the "contest" they had when two YAs had to clear all the spoons from the tables before dessert in less than a minute. And the "winner" got to go back and clear all the knifes!! What an amazing time-killer in order to bus our tables!

Shoot for your dreams, Alex.



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