There I stood at the back of the Great Hall as the proud parent of Pippin, a production put on by students that are by far not the best singers or dancers in Shantou University. What I realized was that these students may not have the natural talent but they have what it takes because they are risk-takers. Three months ago, they were bold enough to audition. Two weeks ago, they were bold enough to not give up. One day ago, they were bold enough to put themselves out there for the entire school to see.
Their risk paid off, big time. The cast loved and owned every moment on stage. Students and teachers from all of the different departments here are buzzing about a production that blew them away. Hell, people are still buzzing with joy and laughter. It didn’t even matter that at least half the 1800 people in the audience probably didn’t know a third of the English words used in the show. The audience sat there (and 150 stood, despite the auditorium being WAY overcapacity and the fire marshall threatening to shut us down) captivated for upwards of two hours. Only one cell phone went off during the show, a miracle in itself. Under fifty people left sometime during the show, another miracle in a community where all students leave after half an hour of any non-class-required event. To top it off, the audience laughed, a lot. They got the jokes, even some that weren’t even written in. They fell in love with the characters, even the mean ones. They clapped, even after the curtain closed.
The show wasn’t only the first Broadway musical in Shantou, it was an educational first for a lot of things. Supertitles were perhaps the best English as a Second Language (ESL) tool I’ve ever seen. I heard students whispering to one another (during the show) about what certain words meant. They wanted to follow the story so they had to learn from one another. English learning aside, the students were blown away by the edginess of a kiss on stage (a big deal, here) followed by the characters getting in bed with one another (an even bigger deal). The abrupt, non-traditional ending, forced the audience to feel the message of the show in the silence that ends the show.
So, there I stood at the back of the Great Hall as the proud parent of a three month old show that exploded off the stage with enough energy to send the Chinese to the moon. For slightest moment the perfectionist in me ceased to exist, and I was utterly happy.