Today Action Girl asked me a question that lead to another question that led to a show tune. The show was “Oliver”. The tune was “Wouldn’t it be Loverly”. The questions that got us there aren’t terribly important, but the fact that I could summon up small facts about this moldy oldie made Action Girl give me a look that said, “And you know this… why?”. I love knowing obscure and mostly useless facts, and Action Girl knows this, but my ability to pull up character names and individual scenes from a Dickens’ classic come musical was a bit extreme, even for me. The reason I know so much about Oliver, is that I was in a limited, off Broadway production of it. Very off Broadway, in fact. It went for three nights only at St. Joseph’s primary school. Admission was, I believe, free or perhaps a dollar. I was in 5th grade and I got the roll of “Fagin’s boy #6” and “Bystander”. I also had another crucial roll. I was a prop provider.
I won’t go through the whole story. You may or may not know it so I’ll just skim through the characters and setting.
Setting: Victorian era London
Hero: Oliver (duh!)
Anti-hero and father figure: Fagin
Evil Bastard: Bill Sikes
So to cut right to the chase, right at the end of the story after being dragged through so much merriment and mirth like most of Dickens’s writing, Bill Sikes (the evil bastard) is hell bent on killing Oliver for various reasons possibly including stolen… cakes, or jewels or… something. My memory fails me here. It’s not really important. The scene however, I recall. Bill, mad with bastardness, lunges at Oliver with a knife and Nancy, who has been the only really nice person in the story other than Oliver himself, leaps in his path to shield our favorite little street urchin. Nancy skillfully blocks about 5 inches of rubber stage knife with her chest at the moment the police come on the scene and shoot the murderer as he turns to face them. Oliver escapes and becomes Prime Minister… or possibly a super hero.
The run down of of the props needed for the scene goes something like, “Bobby uniform? Check. Rubber knife? Check. Fake gun? Hmmm.” Keep in mind, this is all taking place at a small Catholic school and having a cap gun, if not actively forbidden, was defiantly frowned upon. Even at this age though, I had a thing for firearms. I would never have brought a toy gun to school but this was my chance to save the day! I didn’t have a cap gun that looked like something a 1850’s bobby might have, but I did have a fairly realistic snub nosed .38! I loved it! It looked like the real thing and best of all, it had a cylinder that actually rotated. It took those special caps that looked like little, red plastic cups and fit over a metal bit in the cylinder. It didn’t fit the Dickensian era exactly, but it was the one that would be used for our play. I was so proud.
Back in the dressing room (actually the second grade classroom), they would have the P.A. speaker on and switched to the microphones in the auditorium. As various “actors” got ready for different scenes, we could all listen to the play for our cues and hear how it was going. By the time the final scenes were being played out, most of us were in the dressing room listening and waiting for our chance to go take a bow with all the others. I was listing for my cap gun. Finally, I heard Nancy’s shriek, the police barge in and then nothing… more nothing… BANG! Then stifled laughter from bemused parents. I didn’t know what happened but I knew something unplanned for had transpired.
After our bows and grateful applause, I found out what the deal was. A very unhappy school mate who played the bobby came up to me and reported that there was something wrong with my “stupid gun”. Apparently the cylinder had gotten off time with the alignment of the hammer and it wouldn’t hit the cap. What the audience had witnessed was the murder of Nancy, right on schedule followed buy the police breaking down the door and pulling their gun. Sikes recoils and… click. The bobby advances, aims and… click. He advances again, Sikes is now prone on the floor and… BANG! What the audience saw was in essence, Sikes getting a cap popped in his head Dirty Harry style. Rather changes the flavor of the story a bit. It took a while to live down, but I was still proud of my cap gun. She might not be 100% reliable in a fire fight, but if you need to whack a bad guy, she did the trick. You might just need to get closer than you planned. It also helps if he’s armed with a rubber knife.
Filed under: 70's, Fire Arms, Helpful People, Humor, Kids, Nostalgia, Uncategorized, What the..?, Writing | Tagged: applause, bobby, cap gun. prop. 5th grade, catholic school, Charles Dickens, dickens, Oliver, Play, props, school play |