Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, February 1, 2018


We went to the beautiful IU auditorium last night to see a Broadway touring company production of “The Sound of Music.”

We have seen the movie many times. Isn’t that a great movie? Or “picture show,” as we used to call it. You can’t beat Julie Andrews, and that whole cast.

But there is something special about a live performance, especially if it includes the late Florence Henderson.

Florence grew up in Dale, IN. She was a little older than I, but our high school years overlapped. She might well have been in the crowd in the Dale gym when my Oakland City Acorns played basketball there. I imagine she said to the girl beside her, “Who’s that good-looking guy talking with Bob Knott?” Bob was the star of the Dale team, and we had met at Boys State, so we took a little time to catch up before he unleashed his hook shot on us. [1]

When I was at Garrett Theological Seminary, at Northwestern University, trying to get my career started, Florence was already a star in hers. She was the head-liner as Maria-the one who was a problem that could not be solved-in “Sound of Music” at the Shubert Theater in Chicago.

We lived in Cedar Lake, Indiana, only 45 or so miles from The Loop. Helen was pregnant with our first child, and we figured-correctly-that our days of riotous youthful living would soon be over. It was our anniversary, and although as poor as church mice [the preacher variety of church mice], decided to do one last “something special.” We went into Chicago to see “Sound of Music.”

It was Florence’s last performance, so we knew tickets would be hard to come by. I walked up to the window and said, in my most worldly manner, “Give me the two best tickets you have left.” The ticket woman said, “You’re in luck. We have two left in the sixth row center. That will be all the money you have, please.” She didn’t say it quite that way, but that was the reality. Whoda thunk? I was sure the best tickets left would be in the row just behind the balcony. We went to dinner before the show. We each had a hamburger but had to share the little cardboard container of fries. [2]

It was worth it. Every Richard Rodgers note was pure. [3] Every Oscar Hammerstein II word was perfect. Every movement by that girl from Dale was magic.

Last night the greatest applause went to the Mother Abbess, Lauren Kidwell, rather than to the principal actors. Bloomington audiences are musically astute and recognize a great voice when they hear it.

We are so familiar with the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein by now that we forget what geniuses they were, not just for their music, but for their message. In these days of burgeoning fascism, tribalistic mentalities, and nationalistic religions, the message of “The Sound of Music” needs to be sung everywhere.


1] Bob was about 5’10”, a reasonable height for a small-town basketball center-what we call a “5” now-in those days. His hook shot was the old-fashioned sweeping type. He looked so surprised when Acorn Don Falls, the tallest boy in the world [6’4”] blocked it. I don’t think that had ever happened to him before.

2] Like many people, I assumed that “Edelweiss” was an old folk song, so I used its tune as one of my anti-cancer songs in my book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE. When I was at HarperCollins in NYC, though, recording the audio version of the book, the engineers went crazy when I started singing it. “You can’t use that,” they cried. “That song is copyrighted by Richard Rodgers.” So I had to choose a new tune on the spot. If, however, you come across the place in the book where I say, “Sing this to the tune of Edelweiss,” I don’t think Mr. Rodgers would mind.

3] This time we were smart enough to invite Marsha and Tom Huberty to supper before TSOM. Marsha brought her famous chocolate cheesecake, and we each got a whole slice to ourselves.

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