Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Yes. That is Carol Channing: Reigning Queen of Broadway. And yes. That is Bruce Vallanch: Reigning -- well -- he's just one of the most spontaneously funny writers and unique personalities around.
Christmas was very special this year -- even more than it usually is -- because my daughter got to perform with both of them as part of a fundraiser for the Dr. Carol Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts, designed to bring critical awareness and support for the arts in our public schools. The spectacle was directed by David Green of Musical Theatre University. Beyond the song and dance from the kids that night, both Carol and her husband, Harry, delivered impassioned presentations on how necessary the arts are to our society. It was a message of great hope, but a call to arms for all of us to make the arts a thriving part of our kids' development and education.
January 31, 2012 is Carol's 91st birthday. Many of the same MTU students were with Carol last year when she celebrated her 90th birthday -- and they sang her "Happy Birthday" following one of their amazing shows. This year, Carol doesn't have Harry, her childhood sweetheart whom she married 70 years later, by her side. Sadly he passed away the day before his 92nd birthday, a mere week after the Christmas Show. He was, in many ways, more vibrant than anyone else on stage that night.
Harry, like Carol, thrived on life. She miraculously left the hospital where she was recovering from a leg infection just to do the show. She argued with her doctor that she had to be there, front and center, for the audience -- but mostly for the kids. Harry joked backstage during rehearsals, "We told the doctor, haven't you heard: 'The show must go on!'" For the record, Carol never missed a performance during her run in Hello, Dolly!
Though Harry's not here anymore, his sharp and fiery passion continue to light the way. The legacy of their foundation also blazes, thanks to David Green, who is also the Executive Director. And Carol's still got showstoppers to perform! After the slick performances and the standing ovations, the venue booked Carol and the kids for next year.
Oh...one last thing: there was no curtain on the stage.
Carol & Blythe, Christmas 2011