It's A Gray Area: Musical shows we're 'Americans All'

September 10, 2011|By James P. Gray

OK, I have a natural bias. But I am encouraging you to go see the musical revue "Americans All," which is the first show of the new season for the Lyceum Theater at Vanguard University. And take your children with you.

What does Vanguard's brochure say about "Americans All"?

"It's a play. It's a musical. It's an inspirational musical revue that is cleverly presented in a high school classroom setting. 'Americans All' stresses the importance of making good choices in life, expanding horizons and having some fun along the way, as it delightfully travels through the cornerstones of American values and illuminates them through music, dialogue and poetry."

I have a bias because I wrote and composed the work, with substantial assistance from my arranger, Susan Boettger, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music.


The motivation for the show came from my several years on the bench in Juvenile Court. From that observation post, it became obvious to me that many children were not receiving instruction and mentoring in ethical values, morals and making good choices.

Much of the reason for that deficiency is that most of the teaching of morality is religious-based, so doing that in public schools runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution. But "Americans All" is not religious-based whatsoever, so that is not a problem.

The show begins with the high school teacher singing, "How Can I Help Them to Be." He understands that most people can teach reading, writing and arithmetic, but he wants to show his students the possibilities of their lives, since we are on this planet for such a comparatively short time.

Then before the class begins, his students engage in a rap song, "Who Cares?" This number is led by a basketball star who sees no value in an education because he is going to make it in the NBA. Personally, I don't like rap songs, but I knew that the student performers would enjoy it, and they do. I think you will too.

Then once the class starts, one of the students throws a piece of paper on the floor without retrieving it. This gets the teacher's attention, and he turns the incident into the song "Pick It Up!" The focus of this song is not only to pick up the trash in your life, but further that all people are in charge of their spirits and the way they approach their lives. So if your "spirits are kind of down and kind of low," well, pick 'em up. And you can do the same thing for your friends.

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