The Last Show

This coming weekend marks the final musical for my high school musical teacher / director, Susan Porter-Tall, at Tenafly High School.  It’s the great Anything Goes by Cole Porter, and tickets are here.  For alumni, try and come Saturday night, as they’ll be a gathering, but due to a scheduling conflict I’ll be there Thursday.  (Okay, yes, if you’re reading this I’ll try and stop by after the show Saturday.)

This coming weekend (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, at 7:30 pm), Susan Tall will conduct her last show as musical director for Tenafly High School theatre.  Now, in the scheme of the world (health care!  war!  Dancing with the Stars!), that may not be everything, but for me and a whole bunch of students like me, it still feels like it.

I, of course, was a theatre geek in high school.  President of the drama club, acting in the plays and musicals and Madrigals, gobbling up theatre electives and trying to do more.  And in addition to the figurative home it provided, it wasn’t until years later, after college and after I had co-run a theatre company myself, until I realized why I loved it so much:  We were given a place to practice our craft, not just with the safety to fail and the exceptional leadership provided, but with stage, costumes, sets, lights, etc.  (Like much of life it’s only when you have to provide these things yourself do you realize how invaluable they are.)

The stewards of the high school musical (before that became a dirty Disney word) tradition in my hometown of Tenafly High were the drama teacher Mr. Jim Collins and the music teacher, Mrs. Susan (Porter-) Tall.  When Mr. C. retired some years back, a buddy of mine and I spearheaded a successful effort to name the auditorium after them, the Collins-Tall, replete with a memorable evening of song and toasts.  And now, after many, many hours of looped overtures so that the cast may bow again and again, Mrs. Tall is retiring.

Some of my fondest memories from high school are attempting to dance as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, and doing the awesomely-named sitzprobe with her always-on orchestra for Oliver!.  And even when I didn’t quite get the role I wanted for My Fair Lady (rightfully beaten out by said buddy), well the experience of playing a part in that one show taught me far more about how to conduct oneself in life than any experience up to that point.  (I even wrote my college essay about it.  Assuredly, it was brilliant.)  We merry group of actors and oddballs were truly obsessed with theater in those days, thinking performing art the only thing really worth anyone’s life (we’d blow tests, miss early morning class, just in the name of singing and dancing and theatre!), and the glorious tradition of that high school theater program thrusts a lot of us into acting, directing, writing, producing on Broadway, off-Broadway, in the “real” world.

Mrs. Tall and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye in high school (how can anyone, looking back at that age?).  I was, at best, a Rex Harrison-singer (all personality, no chops– shocking!) and at preoccupied by other way cool putrsuits, like the literary magazine and the newspaper.  (Sigh.)  But at the senior awards ceremnoy, while others were picking up kudos for subjects they’d never really use in life, like chemistry and algebra, I got a special one for most imporved, hardest working by her–  and it came with a pair of signed books on Laurence Olivier and the opera that I still cherish today.

Speaking of today, these days I’m honored to consider her not just a teacher, a mentor, but a friend–  she and her husband come to the annual Christmas party, we have lunch when our schedules afford.  Who knows, maybe one day we’ll ever work together again.

So raise the baton over a truly terrific musical theater program one last time, Mrs.  Tall.  Kudos and bravo!  You’ve earned it.

For you fellow alumni who want to contact her: Again, try and make the show this weekend.  Ticket info is here.


2 Responses to “The Last Show”

  1. Center Stage « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] a place I hadn’t been in four or five years, and as my wonderful music teacher conducted her last overture, traipsed onstage with two close friends, a few other alumni, various teachers and administrators […]

  2. True Story (IV) « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] my alma mater, Tenafly High School, and took in their tremendous production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.  In fact, through circumstances of life I went both Thursday and Saturday nights, and was damn […]

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