Humbled to be included, I had the great pleasure of being invited onstage this weekend to play with our Comedy Sportz team. The eight ridiculously talented student comedians, a powerhouse of whimsy, did more than just call my name when it came time for a “volunteer” from the audience (“Is there anyone here named ‘Bjorn?’”); smiling and waving me forward, they made me feel welcome and showed a generosity of spirit that, at least for a few minutes, made this old man feel like the star I never was.
It all happened at Cabaret Night, a marvelous San Dieguito tradition that sees student performers fill an evening with entertainment and good will. It’s a mélange of music, dance, and acting, showcasing students from across our performing arts department.
With music from Hamilton and The Sound of Music, classic brassy horn tunes, and a rousing version of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” the night highlighted musical theater, band, and that “very SDA” idea that adding an electric guitar has the potential to make any arrangement even better.
The evening saw a little Mancini and a lot of Stevie Wonder, a handbell choir performing Adele, and an amazingly brave and talented student performing a solo dance routine to Alabama Shakes.
Actors had the audience laughing with a skit from Monty Python, and when students sang “All of Me” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” it was as if Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald were there on stage.
My invitation to join Comedy Sportz came in the second half of the night and followed a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight” that had the crowd in a frenzy.
I’m not an actor, just a principal, so the walk up to the stage had my heart in my throat. The last time I was in a play I was in third grade. I was a weasel in The Wind in the Willows, and during the weasel dance in Toad Hall the tail of my homemade costume, so thick as to be dangerous, knocked over scenery. I never acted again.
But not being an actor doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to play the fool, and as I stepped onto the stage the students helped me feel as comfortable as I could in this unscripted moment.
Their outstretched arms and easy smiles went a long way to erase the fact that I was unprepared, unshaven, and underdressed (in my usual Saturday outfit of shorts and a hooded sweatshirt). The students absorbed me into their line of comedians and the referee was patient as he included me in the performance.
I may have had more fun than the audience, and I know I jogged back to my seat happier than I’d been all week.
And then, as I settled back into my seat, a student stepped to the stage and delivered a heartbreakingly real cover of “Human” and the crowd wiped their tears to applaud.
The evening ended with some more horns and a medley from Chicago that brought down the house. For everyone who came to the show there was something to remember and a tune to hum all the way home.
Cabaret Night shows the heart and soul of San Dieguito, beautiful, funny, moving beyond belief, and always ready to welcome someone who is a little nervous, but willing to give it a try.
For a peek at the show, here’s a link to a few minutes of fun: